Loading Out Day Layers

Here I am; pasture empty, pants dotted with cow manure and a hoof imprint on my calf, standing in an empty pen wondering about my life’s effort as a grass farmer nourishing the land and people. It’s an emotional time pondering whether there is a genuine appreciation for the hours of work caring for animals that will someday provide organic milk or grassfed beef to families. 

Loading out is an agricultural term used to describe moving whole sets of animals to another location or to a processing facility. For over 30 years working as a custom grazier, I have nurtured countless generations of cows on pristine pastures giving them the best life possible while also making personal sacrifices for them.

For me, there is symbolism in load-out day that gives me pause to look at the bigger picture of life as the truck rolls out of site. How will my holistic work be perceived?  How many more load-outs do I have left?  What will be my legacy?  I wonder how God will perceive my stewardship; for someday I will be loaded out, returned to the earth and put to rest in green pastures.

I wanna know it matters. I gotta believe it matters what I do and that my community cares what farmers do 24/7.  I/we owe these animals a tremendous amount of respect and sheer gratitude for turning sunshine, soil, water and grass into milk and meat to feed hungry microbes and a planet.

This year’s load-out seems especially poignant as sorrowful events have tested the resolve of my family, friends and a nation. In mourning, food and memories are a comfort, a reminder and a connector.  John 6:27 proclaims, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

As I dismantle the portable catch pen once again, it reminds me of resilience with the ability to recover, change and keep moving forward despite the obstacles. “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds.” ~ FFA Creed.

Published in Coffee Break Section of Country Folks Newspaper