Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Farmers and Ranchers, a challenge to tell your stories - #fromtheoneandahalfpercent

Are you in the 1.5%?

I am.  Many of my neighbors are too.  We are the small minority of the American population that produces food to feed 330 million Americans, as well as a lot of folks in other counties that the United States exports to.

I am super proud of what we do, how we do it, and why we do the things we do.  Most of the 1.5% share this pride.  However, we have made some critical errors in our proud 'doing'.  Those errors have led to some serious unintended consequences in the recent history of American agriculture.  In our business of 'doing' we have failed to 'tell' and 'explain' what and why.

My challenge to you today if you are part of the 1.5%, start telling your story.  Tell your farming and ranching story.  Start listening to and understanding concerns.  Start finding conversations in areas of common ground.  Start communicating.  Productively.  Our prolonged silence in agriculture has created a communication void resulting in distrust from our consumers.  The only way to restore trust and gain understanding is to communicate.

The host blog of this challenge to farmers and ranchers was established six years ago and has all but become a digit Christmas newsletter the last three years, a failure on my part.  In the first three years, when it was actively published, it brought 30,000 readers to Elkhorn Creek Ranch.  It allowed readers the opportunity to see what a day in the life of a typical rancher looks like and explains why we do many of the things that we do.  Understanding 'what', 'how', and 'why' is essential to building back trust.

So what I am asking:

1 - share your stories
2 - hashtag your sharing to a common hashtag


I'm also going to share a webpage from our website.  It contains some recommended reading and a couple videos.  I encourage you to help build the communication void in a productive way!


Now, lets get to building trust by telling our stories and lets hashtag them for ease of finding!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Our Best of 2017!

CHRISTmas greetings from our home to yours!

2017 - Our Best!

We have been truly blessed in 2017 with many things, the most notable, the opportunity for spiritual growth and to feel God's love and comfort.

The Lord has offered up many opportunities to seek Him.  By simply opening up space in our hearts for Him to work, 2017 has truly been one of the BEST years yet!  AMEN!

The Ranch - It continues to provide for us and allows us a lifestyle of flexibility and risk taking.  Enough flexibility to both be involved on numerous community and organization boards locally and on a state level (where I have found joy again in this work in 2017) and to have quality family time.  Enough risk taking (with unpredictable weather and cattle and crop markets) to keep our noses to the grind and our souls remembering He is always enough.

The Girls - Our cows, mares and the "Good Dog, Rayna", continue to be a source of pride and they bring joy to the arena of 'work' for us.  I look back on our little journeys of 'animal husbandry'.  It started for me as a child, generationally feeding cows, horses and chicken with my parents on days when I didn't have school.  It started for Pete as a very deliberate decision to have 4-H livestock projects and to purchase his first McCumber Angus heifer in 1986.  Over 40 and 30 years later I am just so very, very thankful that those opportunities existed and that they fostered lasting dreams and left lasting passion and opportunities for 'growing and raising things'.

Home - It's where the heart is.  Our hearts and our ranch are both here. 
After showing Kyle this recently released 'Voices of Watford City', he told me this:  "Mom, I am so thankful we live here.  I love everything about living here.  I never want to live any place else."  The community is making a home for our future.  I'm so proud to be from this place.  It's people are God fearing, blue and white collar professional, get it done, take care of your neighbor folks.  They are amazing.

Speaking of our future, Kyle is all things wonderful and brings us more blessings and joy than we could ever imagine possible.  From 4-H pigs, steers, horses, photography; to football, basketball, baseball, ninjaz; to third grade music, PE, math, reading, science (his favorites in no particular order) - he is the great encourager, collaborator, stirrer of the goofy pot, and diplomatic keeper of the peace.  He says his prayers every night and as of late has been especially vigilant requesting fast and complete healing of Carson Wentz's knee and our good friend and local community leader, Gene Veeder (who among many other things helped him pick out his first puppy, Rayna). 

During this CHRISTmas season, may you find stillness with Him and peace knowing HE is always enough.

Best Wishes in 2018 - Pete, Vawnita & Kyle Best

Kyle's last day of 2nd grade at WCES
2nd grade Valentine box - X wing fighter

First day of 3rd grade WCES

3rd grade flag football

Summer baseball

9th birthday party - Nerf gun wars!
Climbing buttes and checking spring pairs

Jaden and Kyle's first fall roundup - pasture 9-1

Riding to gather, fall of 2017 in pasture 9-2

Fall roundup riding to gather pairs

Tracy and Richard filming sale bulls, April 2017

Jaden and Kyle with their first 4-H steers, November 2017, Coal and Beefy

Winter grazing on the Kelly place, December 2017

Fall gather, pasture 9-2

Rayna and a fall sunrise in the beautiful badlands

Tracy and Maddy

Rayna and fresh cut grass, summer 2017 (irrigated grass I might add)

The boys watching their steers eat

Walking the 4-H pigs during one of the only rains we had in the months of May, June or July.  We were thankful to be walking in the rain!

We had a couple trips this year.  One was a road trip out to Seattle for Lyle's Aunt Naomi's 90th Birthday party.  We drove out and stopped along the way to visit several Angus ranches, meet numerous cousins and hike and raft Gracier Park.  It was really great to see LOTS of family from the Marsten, Dahl, Best and Tang sides, some for the first time!

The other was a trip of a lifetime, the Best family's Grandma Mercedes Trip.  This year Sue and Lyle hosted the family to Quepos, Costa Rica (on the Pacific side) at a resort that is world renowned for its eco-friendly design.  It supports a rainforest canopy that hosts Squirrel monkeys (which are endangered) and many other tropical mammals, reptiles and birds.  The Costa Rican people are an amazing people as well.  Truly, a trip of a lifetime.

Kyle meeting his Maley (Dahl) cousins in Seattle for the first time.  He also met Marsten, Tang, and Best cousins for the first time!

Hiking Glacier park

The monkeys of Manuel Antonio, Quepos, Costa Rica

Cousins - Sara, Lindsay and Kyle loving the catamaran tour in Costa Rica

Tulemar Resort - AWESOME!

The Best siblings - Kevin, Carmen, Pete.  Whatever it was, it was clearly profound!

Kyle with the San Jose, Costa Rica International Airport Toucan!
Thanksgiving, 2017... Home again.  Home again.  Jiggity Jig!

The Squirrel monkey.

The white faced Capuchin monkey.

On our way home from Costa Rica, we took in the Fort Worth historic Stockyards.  Kyle didn't really get all the 'to-do' driving the steers.  He thought there were a lot of riders considering the size of the herd!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 - Reflecting on the many blessing bestowed on us.


Holiday Greetings from Elkhorn Creek Ranch!  
As I sit hear tonight reflecting, the snow calmly falling on the buttes and barns, and my boys lying next to me in bed watching old Star Wars movies, I am absolutely in awe of the blessings that 2015 has brought to us.

Kyle - age 7.  Miss Brengman's WCES 1st grade class.

One Mr. Kyle Best pictured above this December on the eve of his WCES Christmas music program.  Our one and only intrigues me every day with his kindness, thoughtfulness, his curiosity of the world, and his enthusiasm for learning.  He truly is our greatest blessing!

Best Angus and Quarter Horses at Elkhorn Creek Ranch, where tender beef and blue collar horses are our business!

Outside of a dry spring which stunted our grass / alfalfa hay crop, the ranch had an exceptional year.  The fall of 2014 saw feeder calf prices at an all-time high, which provided for strong replacement female and bull markets in early 2015.  We have since come down off that high and settled into a bit of a rocky market this fall, but still a decent one.  We count those financial blessings of 2015 and continue to pray for favorable moisture, which means everything to future success in this typically dry part of county.

Pete sorting pairs the fall of 2015 on his 3 year old, Nick.

Supper on the trail, fall of 2015 with my 3 year old, Rusty.  My dad would have loved this little horse (which makes me that much more fond of him).

So, as I write tonight, our record weaning weights have been logged and reported to the AAA, the calves have been weaned and on feed for 70 + days now, the cows and horses are out on range grazing, and we continue to be able to conserve our hay stockpile.  Life is Good on the ranch!

We took a family trip of a lifetime the week of Thanksgiving.  We cruised the west Caribbean on the NCL ship, the Breakaway, which was built in 2014 for families with children.  All the photos below were from the ports of that trip.

Mayans of Cozumel with their North Dakota captives!
FRESH coconut water
Critters of the Grand Cayman's at Dolphin Cove
Jamaica Mon...

Other 'mentionables' of 2015:

In February we visited Aunt Marcia and Uncle Myron and friends Mike and Mary Zimmerman in AZ and swam.  And swam.  And swam. 

In August we had a Best family trip to Banff and Drumheller and were treated to a VIP / behind the screens tour of the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum by Uncle Andy and cousin Eric.

Pete took several Angus trips.

Brad and Kaley Hagen (Brad worked for the ranch for three summers and two years) moved back home (Minnesota) in April.  Kent and Laura Johnsrud helped us out quite a lot this summer and fall.  Justin Bartholomay, a graduate of NDSU, Animal Science started with us in September.  These folks have all been blessings which we are thankful for, as is our family and our local community. 

The last blessing to reflect on this beautiful evening (before the bustle resumes tomorrow morning), the reason for the season!

Merry CHRISTmas... 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Blue Buttes Fun Day on Throwback Today- remembering the 'Why' of it all.

We attended the 86th North Dakota Stockmen's Association Annual Convention and Membership meeting in Bismarck this past weekend.  North Dakota Stockmen's Association

On Thursday (9/24/15) prior to the start of the NDSA Cattlemen's College there was a marketing workshop.  One of the questions posed by the presenter was "How many of you have a blog?".  I was honest (although I didn't really want to talk about my lack of commitment to telling our Ranch's story the last couple years) when she asked how many followers it had.  "I'm not sure, but I do know since starting it in 2011 there have been over 24,000 page visits with between 200 and 1,500 page views per post".  To be clear, this blog is no Pioneer Woman and neither the topics nor writing quality will draw folks out of the woodwork to loyally follow it.  That being said, I do think that it is important to tell the story of our little lives out here and the story of why we care for the animals and land the way we do.

Ya know, life happens and things get busy.  Priorities shift and in our effort to keep hope alive in an uncertain place in our history things get a little blurry and the signs hard to read (likely due to the number of them and the speed at which life clips along).  We sometimes find ourselves backtracking the navigated path looking for other routes and hoping for a simpler way to get to our destination... and then sometimes our destination disappears or become unrecognizable.

HOME has always been the destination for me.  Providing this 'way of life' for future generations has always been the mission (let's face it, this way of life builds pretty darn good folks).  Being good stewards of the livestock and land and leaving a legacy to be proud of have always been the goals.  So what if the destination disappears, the mission impossible, and the goals meaningless for lack of a 'why'?  And what if consumers don't believe us when we do try to bridge the existing gap with them?  I'm not saying that one little blog can change the future, but I am saying that I refuse to quit trying to bridge the gap and to frame the 'why', which builds understanding.  I want people to continue to be able to keep visiting our ranch and understanding why we do what we do without having to leave the comfort of their lives where ever that may be.

So I will keep posting and hoping for followers and sharers who help spread the word about ranching life and rural ag communities... 'cause like I said before, this way of life builds pretty darn good folks who want to bridge the gap with the folk who aren't out here at the end of the road with us.

In the meantime, let me share a little story about 'folk-building'.  When I was a twelve year old girl and my little sister was seven, the family loaded up a couple of our ranch horses on a crisp fall morning and headed down the road toward Keene County.  Our destination was the Blue Buttes Fun Day at the Willard Kieson arena.  BBFD has a long history and tradition in McKenzie County.  The games were fun.  The kids tough, friendly and competitive.  Shivers, my mom's horse that I got to ride that day was fast.  The H hanging L (my Dad's brand) Ranch brought home hardware that day.

1986 and 1987 All Around Cowgirl buckles which I proudly display in our Ranch House living room still to this day.

The 2015 Blue Buttes Fun Day (BBFD) at the Wesley and Tina Leppell arena.  Jaden hamming it up after the Boot Race.

The 2015 BBFD.  Kyle and Zoey taking a spin around the arena on Taxi.

The 2015 BBFD.  Kyle hanging with Hoss between games. 

2015 BBFD.  Look REALLY close... Morgan climbing through the barrel during the barrel race.  Notice the big boys in pink.  That's right.  They are tough enough to do so.  They were great mentors to the younger 'folk' that day and are always examples of good sportsmanship and 'try'.

2015 BBFD.  Jaden all smiles and Chance struggling to stay awake!
This was a needed day for me.  9/27/15 was a throwback to that crisp fall morning in 1986 headed to the Keison arena.  It was a reminder that HOME does still exist in more than just my mind and that 'good folks are still grown out here at the end of the road'.  AND this is challenge to all the folks out there to keep working to bridge the gap and tell the 'why' of our story.

To the Keison's and the Leppell's, thank you so much for this annual event that celebrates Good Folks, Great Fun, Good Sportsmanship, Tough Competition, Fast Horses, AND FAMILY!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

From our Outfit to yours - Peace, Joy and Love this Blessed Christmas Season.

From our outfit to yours - peace, joy and love.

I find the flipping of the calendar moving faster and faster with each passing year and the burden of the world's concerns and complexities with the fatigue of it all, sometimes more than I want to bare.

Then, comes the opportunity each December to remember the reason for the Christmas season and it brings a bit of ease to those burdens.  Christmas is the most precious time of the year to reflect on the numerous blessing that that fall on the rapidly flipping calendar and allows us the time to share them with you, our friends.

For everything there is a season and it seems that although I think of him often, the second of each 'season' (in 2014) without Dad has been easier than the first of each (2013).  That's not to say we don't still miss his kindness, calmness, wisdom, support and sense of humor, but truly 2014 was less of an emotional strain than 2013 for the ranch and the family.

2014 has brought record beef prices to the rural ranching communities, record oil prices to our booming energy region and ample moisture to our western North Dakota badlands creating a most 'bully' attitude through most of this calendar year.  The recent fall in crop prices and crude has softened that a bit, but all in all Watford City and McKenzie County have much to be thankful for this year and lots of catching up to do.

The cows are in good condition.  There is enough hay to sustain for the upcoming year.  The horses are fit and plentiful in numbers (that's my shameless plug if anyone is looking for a horse ;).  The K-kid (the Kyle-kid, the Kindergarten-kid) is a joy and blessing beyond anything we deserve.  Our neighbors and family continue to be our greatest support.  The ever changing landscape around here has become the new 'norm' which certainly brings a mixed bag... Or is it baggage?  It is all of the above.

The Chronological highlights of 2014:
  • March - We hosted our ranch's first ever production Bull Sale in Watford City after 25 years of private treaty and consignment marketing.  It was well received by our ranching community and the support from our local and regional customers was overwhelming.
  • June - Watford City turned 100 years old.  After much preparation, there was a 4 day celebration, all school reunions, reminiscing and reacquainting! There truly is NO PLACE LIKE THIS HOME.
  • July - We traveled to San Francisco and Sonoma Valley to celebrate the wedding of Carmen (Pete's sister) to Steve Kromer.  It was a wonderful celebration and a great time with friends and family.  We are very excited to welcome Steve to the family!
  • August - Kyle started Kindergarten.  He LOVES his teacher, Mrs. Moen and is one of 120 to 140 kindergartners at WCES (that number bounces around with the days and I truly wonder how that 15% will do in life).  We said goodbye to our 'Tyra Dog'.
  • September - Brad Hagen (who works for the ranch) married Kaley Schmidt in Chaska MN.  Kyle was their ring bearer.  It was a beautiful ceremony, lovely reception and a great opportunity to meet and better get to know their friends and family.  Pete attended several regional Cattle tours connecting with industry folks and visiting reputation herds in Montana and North Dakota.
  • October - Grandma Olga (my Dad's mom) turned 95 years young!  She is amazing!  Her children hosted a delightful Birthday Party and Open House for her.  I turned '40' and my very thoughtful family threw a 'Median' party... I was the median and the range was 35 to 45.  It was a really wonderful time with friends.
  • November - After a full ballot requiring intense campaigning, I was elected by the people of McKenzie County to a four year seat as County Commissioner (of the fastest growing County in the United States).  My incredibly supportive husband proclaims periodically, "Be careful what you wish for.  Your greatest dream might become your worst nightmare".  Words of wisdom from a wise, incredibly sarcastic guy!  There is important work to be done and more than enough of it to go around.  It is truly a humble honor and all I can do is my best possible effort with decisions supported by research and payers asking for wisdom...   
  • December - We traveled to Las Vegas for the first time in either of our lives with Kim and Lee to attend the National Finals Rodeo (the 10 day Super Bowl event of the Professional Rodeo Association).  For a lifelong ranch kid and the daughter of a team roper, that was a wonderful 2014 vacation in 'Sin City'.
The folks that make the ranch 'go round'...

The reasons that we care so much about the future of this place.
Take it all in and then pause one more moment.  Frame your perspective thoughtfully.
Needed:  A unified plan with a unified front... AND respect and consideration for each person's insight while developing that plan.

BCF's (Best or Boy - depends on the day)

Our Outfit!

Almighty God, we thank you for all the gifts You have given us: our lives, our loved
ones, all that we have and all that we are. Most of all, we thank You for Jesus, your
Son and our Redeemer, who came among us to show us the way to eternal life. Jesus
was the perfect steward of your gifts, showing that complete trust in You is necessary,
and that giving of self is a most important part of following Him. May the offerings of our
time, our talents, and our material resources be made in the same spirit of sacrifice that
Jesus taught us by His life and death for us. Amen.

Last week, Kyle came home from school singing, "Feliz Navidad.  Feliz Navidad.  I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart!"

From the bottom of the heart of our Outfit - Best wished for peace, joy and love this holiday season and for 2015.


Pete, Vawnita & Kyle (6)