Gun fights, boots and bling

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Last weekend I attended the Old West Fest, an fundraising event for the Kansas Agricultural Rural Leadership program, or KARL for short. The program trains fledgling Kansas leaders to go on and do great things within the state. I was in Class VI. I’ve yet to do go on and do any “great things” but the experience I had was second to none. Much like my Young Cattlemen’s Conference trip earlier this year, the interaction of class members taught me more than I could have hoped for.

When you believe in a program, you want to do what you can to help keep it alive and growing. A few years back, I co-chaired the Old West Fest. But this year it was my co-worker’s turn. Jennifer Latzke was suckered in asked to be the chair for the event and she did a fabulous job. The event had it all – gun fights at Boot Hill, can-can dancers, barbecue, drinks in a mason jar, cowboy boots and even a little sequins here and there.

Photos courtesy of Kylene Scott.

For those of us who live Dodge City, the whole cheezy cowboy thing can be a little much. And let’s be honest, the gunfight was exactly that. But hey, it’s who we are in Dodge City and there’s something to be said for that. It’s our history and we wear it proudly. Truly, it was a great combination – rural Kansas leaders and Dodge City.

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The last about YCC, or not.

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As you might remember, I went on this really, really great trip called Young Cattlemen’s Conference. In case you missed the 5,284 posts about it, you can read about it here. That is, if you have an hour or two. That’s me, up on the rooftop of a building in Washington, D.C., overlooking the White House. Have I mentioned recently that my job is pretty cool? With me are Frank Krentz (on the left), a cattleman from Arizona who literally ranches on the Mexican border and Mike Deering, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association trade media contact. Mike is the one who asked me to go on this trip. I probably owe him a drink. Thanks Mike!

My full story ran in the High Plains Journal this week. Since you followed along, I thought you might like to see it. Here’s an excerpt:

Young Cattlemen’s Conference trains future leaders

By Holly Martin

What do you get when you throw 60 cowboys and cowgirls in to a bus? Throw in some feedlot dust, give them hairnet hair and a briefcase and you’ve got the makings of the Young Cattlemen’s Conference.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s YCC is a program designed for leadership development. Since 1980 when the program began, over 1,000 young cattlemen and women completed the program. Today’s participants are nominated by NCBA affiliates and the program serves as a training ground to expose and educate future leaders to every segment of the beef industry, said Mavin Kokes, vice president of association marketing for NCBA.

In 2012, YCC was a 10-day experience beginning in Denver, stopping in Chicago and finally ending up in Washington, D.C. The success of the program is due to the people who participate, said Kokes. “This industry is full of leaders from all over the United States. Each year, participants experience things that they wouldn’t ever get to experience on their own,” he said. “YCC participants share a special bond that is difficult to replicate. The program creates lifelong friendships and business relationships, all the while preparing them for leading the industry in the future.” <more>

And here’s the photo gallery, that’s also posted over on my Photo Gallery page.

And so now, you might be saying, “Geez, I hope she’s done talking about the YCC thing.” And I am, only an experience like that lasts with you your entire life so I imagine the subject might pop up again a time or two or ten.

Ag politics junkies unite

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So if you care nothing about politics, you should probably just go ahead and quit reading right now. It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s just that you’ll get bored and that’s not my goal here at The Country Chick.

If, however, you get the least bit fired up over what happens in Washington, then this post is for you. Especially if you are also are an aggie. The last few days have been sensation overload for ag policy nuts. The Senate is debating the farm bill. High Plains Journal’s farm policy editor Larry Dreiling may need a new eyeglass prescription after the last couple of days. He’s been glued to C-SPAN watching the farm bill debate unfold on the Senate floor. Amendments are flying. Votes are happening. These are the days that farm policy gurus live for.

Now, I’ll just come right out and say studying farm policy doesn’t make my heart flutter. But when you see it first-hand? That’s a whole new ballgame. You may remember that I was fortunate enough to see my very own Senator Pat Roberts, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow introduce the bill to the Senate floor. I was there – sitting in the gallery, looking down, watching arguably the most important piece of legislation for the agriculture industry for the next several years be introduced. It was pretty cool. And I’m just enough of an ag policy junkie to get a pretty big kick out of it. I wrote about it again for my High Plains Journal column, because as I realized – more than watching the process, it’s important to be a part of the process.

In the halls of Congress

Here I am in Dodge City, Kan. I sit at my desk, putting together words into a column about agriculture issues. But exactly one week ago I was about 1,400 miles to the east in a city where they, too, were discussing agriculture issues–Washington, D.C.

I was in Washington as a part of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Young Cattlemen’s Conference. This same morning a week ago, nearly 60 cattlemen from all across the country were fanning out making congressional visits to their various elected officials. There were boots and cowboy hats in nearly every hall of the House and Senate office buildings.

Two fellow Kansans and I had appointments with our Senators and Representative. Our first appointment was with Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). As luck would have it, Sen. Roberts had something very important to do just a few minutes after he shook our hands: He and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the farm bill to the Senate floor. And we were there, literally, sitting in the gallery. Roberts’ staff member asked us if we would like to watch. Watch the major farm policy legislation for the next several years introduced into the Senate? Sign me up.

As we sat there, the importance of those “boots on the Hill” hit me.  <more>

Happy trails

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It’s a little hard to explain this experience called YCC. After 10 days of spending literally every waking moment with the folks in that picture, you would think that I would be ready to say, “Sayonara,, baby.” Instead, my heart is heavy as I head home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be ecstatic to see my family when I walk in the door. But those folks? They are the cream of the crop. They are intelligent and sincere. They are passionate about what they do. They strive to better the beef industry each and every day. The drive they possess rubs off on you and I’m better today because I know them.

Regardless of what segment of the beef industry we come from, we’ve spent the week learning from each other. We shared our perspectives. We didn’t always agree and that was good. We listened to each other and had honest discussions.

The experiences we’ve had are second to none. Marin Kokes and the crew at National Cattlemen’s Beef Association put on a top-notch program. Whether it was touring the JBS Greely plant, seeing the opening bell at CBOT or converging on the Hill in Washington, D.C., learning through experience can not be duplicated. Many members of this trip had never had those opportunities before, and might not have the chance again. It’s safe to say this is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

And there’s the cowboys. There’s nothing like being a lady when there is a cowboy around. He opens doors for you. He says, “Yes, ma’am.” He carries your bags. He treats you to cab rides and drinks. Multiply that times 43 and that’s what it has been like for the 16 women on this trip. There’s a reason that we watched women swoon as our cowboy friends walked past them on the city street.

Friends who are former YCCers told me that the experience was like none other. And they were right. It’s the people, the learning opportunities, the industry relationships – all crammed into 10 days.

So while I’m in full-on exhaustion mode, I still wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything.

Happy trails, YCC ’12. Until we meet again.

Boots on the Hill

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Yesterday was a full day of boots on the Hill. Young Caattlemen’s Conference class members tested their skills by making congressional visits with their Representatives and Senators.

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The group told their story to the folks in Washington that are representing them. And, they made sure those Congressmen knew the most important issues to the beef industry – including the Death Tax, Farm bill issues and regulations.

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For me, the highlight of the day was being able to watch Senator Stabenow and Senator Roberts introduce the Farm Bill to the Senate floor. I’d like to say we had it all set up, but by chance, we were in Senator Roberts office just minutes before he was scheduled to be on the floor introducing the bill. His and Senator Moran’s staff quickly changed their plans to allow us to observe from the gallery.

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What resonated with me is that these “boots on the hill” really do make a difference. Contents of the Senate’s proposed Farm Bill are there because farmers and ranchers took the time to visit the Hill. Sure, there will be lots of debate between now and the final version, but making our voices heard makes a difference. Afterall, these Senators and Representatives work for us. Listening to what we have to say is their job.

A visit to Whitestone Farm

Yesterday evening the Young Cattlemen’s Conference class took a trip to Aldie, Virginia to beautiful Whitestone Farm. For the last 30 years, Whitestone has been offering premium Angus genetics to cattlemen all over the world. But most imporantly to the … Continue reading

Getting briefed on the issues

We’ve made it to Washington, D.C.

Members of the Young Cattlemen’s Conference all know the important issues to them back home on their ranches. They have real stories and part of the goal of the stop in Washington D.C. is for them to share their stories with members of Congress.

Issues
Kristina Butts briefs the YCC class.

This morning, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association staff members briefed the group on the status of key legislation relating to the the issues that will affect the beef industry. The top priority is the Farm Bill and specifically the Livestock Title. The Farm Bill included the Livestock Title for the first time in 2008.

YCC class members also recently completed their training for Master’s of Beef Advocacy. The program was started in 2009 and now has 3,500 graduates who are beef producers trained to be advocates for the industry. Daren Williams helped class members form their message and be prepared to make consumer contacts.

Masters of beef advocacy
Daren Williams tells producers to tell their story.

YCC hits Chicago

Yesterday the Young Cattlemen’s Conference class flew into Chicago for a quick couple of stops.

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We ate a famous Chicago Dog and Italian beef sandwiches at Portillos.

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And then stopped at the top of the John Hancock Building on the 96th floor in the Signature Room for photo opps and a drink.

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Bright and early this morning we headed out for the Chicago Board of Trade.

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We watched the opening bell. No photos were allowed, or I would show you the pits crowded with traders in bright colored jackets. Do you remember the Eddie Murphy movie, “Trading Places?” It’s like that. Only today, with the advent of online trading, some of the pits were not nearly as full as they used to be. Founded in 1848, the CBOT is the world’s oldest futures and options exchange.

Most of us think a traffic jam is when a couple of neighbors stop on the road and talk through pickup windows. But today, city traffic held up the bus. While we waited, we saw some interesting city sites.

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I didn’t get a picture of the guy protesting capitalism across the street from CBOT. If he was trying create a spectacle, he was sadly disappointed. He was outshadowed by the 58 cowboys and girls on a city street. If I’ve learned one thing so far this week, this group attacts a lot of attention.

Processing a patty

This afternoon the Young Cattlemen’s Conference toured OSI in West Chicago.
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The company, founded by German immigrants, was first a local butcher shop. But when Ray Kroc, joined McDonald’s the company started supplying the hamburger chain with its hamburgers.

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Today, 85 percent of McDonald’s U.S. restaurants will have at least one protein item that was supplied by OSI. They are McDonald’s largest protein supplier.

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Again, no photos were allowed in the plant but I did get this one of us styling in our hard hats, hairnets and smocks.

We watched them making regular hamburger patties, as well as quarter-pounds patties. This facility, one of the 13 OSI facilities in the United States, can produce up to 6 million patties per day. Now that’s a lot of cheeseburgers.