Author Archives: blackinkmiranda

blackinkmiranda Visit Website
I love God, my kids, my hubby, rural life, agriculture and working for CAB. I’m officially the director of producer communications, which basically means I get to learn from lots of smart people and pass that information along to lots of other smart people: you. I’m so lucky to work with cattle producers and other folks in this great industry. (Oh, and one more job perk? I get to eat lots of really yummy beef.)
2017_03_mr_Kualoa Ranch-9
On the ranch, On the road
0

Behind the scenes: the ranch from the movie scenes

It was the first time I’d waited for a cattleman in a gift shop and visitor center.

Ryan Schultz, at Kuoloa Ranch, was just getting back from his first chores of the day as tour buses started to roll in. Those travelers came to see where dozens and dozens of movies and TV shows—from Jurassic Park to Lost—were filmed on the 4,000 acres of Hawaiian countryside. Others had booked the ATV tour, horseback riding or a trip out to the private island.

2017_03_mr_Kualoa Ranch-144

The restaurant, visitor’s center and gift shop was bustling with people from the moment I arrived until I left several hours later.

I was probably the only one interested in how Angus cattle fit into the mix.

But the remaining Godzilla rocks scattered in the pasture didn’t fool me. The herd that started in the 1870s, shortly after the sugar mill folded because the soil isn’t conducive to cane, is still an important enterprise.

“Cattle do the natural landscaping. You could never hire a full-time landscaper to do what they do,” Ryan says, motioning toward the foreground that sets off the dramatic Ko’olau Mountains.

He may have to move cattle to a different pasture from time to time, but mostly the animals just coexist with the commotion that they’ve come to regard as normal.

2017_03_mr_Kualoa Ranch-122

Ryan Schultz, a third generation Hawaiian cattleman, showed me around the ranch. Just over his left shoulder is evidence of a movie in progress. They’re usually sworn to secrecy while something is being filmed.

While I was there, the row of cars lined up near a catering tent gave it away: they were filming that day. What I assume might be a bit of a pain, Ryan shrugs off. The people are accommodating enough and it’s just part of the everyday “routine.”

I guess ranching around Show Biz isn’t much of a challenge, compared to the logistics of sending calves to the mainland or trying to remain profitable when you start at something like a 40-cent/pound discount due to shipping costs.

Angus genetics help.

“We’ve just found they do really well for the program,” Ryan says, noting docility, birthweight and carcass quality top his selection criteria. “To produce a consistent product, genetics are the key.”

At weaning, the heavier end are sorted into their own grass-fattening program, where eight head per month are finished at the ranch and processed at the only beef facility left on the island.

2017_03_mr_Kualoa Ranch-134

Trail rides and ATV tours come right alongside the herd several times a day, but they pay the extra visitors no mind.

Ryan and his crew of two measure the calves against the chute, and if they’re under 49 inches, they’ll be preconditioned for at least two weeks before boarding a boat for California. The cattlemen set up a four-compartment, 40-foot container with alfalfa pellets, and ship the animals and one lonely stocktender off on a weeklong journey.

The breed helps them when they get there, too. “Because Angus are so popular on the mainland, we get more for them,” he says.

Even though they have rich grazing (1 to 2 pair per acre) year round (just think, no putting up winter feed!) they have tightened breeding down to two seasons. It helps them get like-sized cattle to market.

Once upon a time, there was a registered Angus herd on the ranch. The team wants to get back to that. They do rely heavily on AI, but there aren’t many bull suppliers left in the state.

Ryan is no longer full-time with the ranch but works on a consulting basis. He wants to keep the herd moving forward.

He’s as quick to help out as he is to flash a smile. When Ryan walked into the gift shop that morning, I knew it’d be a great day. He’d already saddled an extra horse so I could tag along (and basically try to stay out of the way) as we pulled bulls from a nearby pasture.

2017_03_mr_Kualoa Ranch-1

They still use horses for much of the cow work, because they make it easier to navigate the diverse terrain.

From my vantage point, being around the cattle, the land, the work….it suited him.

Later I discovered why: Ryan grew up on The Big Island, where his grandfather traded a background in training polo horses for ranch management.

“I was always looking for an excuse to stay home from school and help out,” Ryan says. “You learned pretty young that it was a lifestyle and there were sacrifices you had to make.”

Personal histories combine with the legacy of the ranch and the Judd (now Morgan) family, who have owned the land since purchasing it from King Kamehameha III.

Even their “33” brand tells a story.

“When you drove around the island from Honolulu, we were the 33rd ranch,” Ryan says. “Now we’re one of three main ones left.”

2017-03-13 09.39.32

See that smile? It’s one that says, “I’ll work any day of vacation, if it’s a day like this.”

My husband was is in Hawaii on business, and I could have spent my days reading a book on the beach. But I feel pretty lucky. Instead, I got a “behind the scenes” scoop on the ranch that is so often in the scenes.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

Read More
2017_05_mr_Stomprud-24
On the ranch, On the road
0

The green-hand, fourth-generation rancher

“That was a close one.”

You might say that as you narrowly miss a car accident, or when a cow runs by and not over you, but for cattleman Jay Stomprud, it’s the first expression that comes to mind when thinking of his pre-rancher life compared to today.

Growing up an “Army brat,” Jay lived everywhere from Wall, S.D., and Germany to Virginia and Hawaii before settling in Bozeman, Mont., where he and wife Jen started a family. When his dad, Larry,  retired from the service, he came back to the family ranch in western South Dakota, and Jay’s family would visit on holidays.

Traveling down the winding, 3-mile driveway after one such visit, the couple made a decision that would change everything. “Before we hit the mailbox,” Jay says, they’d decided they wanted to give ranching a shot.

2017_05_mr_Stomprud-37

When Stompruds moved to the ranch, the family included two toddlers and an infant. A decade later, those kids have known grown up working alongside their parents, grandparents and siblings.

“God was really speaking to us. We pulled roots and put the house up for sale and started moving; it was crazy. We sold the house in three weeks for the asking price.”

Shortly after closing, the local housing market and the global economy tanked.

“Our life in Bozeman would have been a real struggle with what happened next,” Jay says frankly. “I worked for an RV company and you know what people don’t buy when a depression hits? They had to lay off a bunch of people. We walked away from the house, paid it off. We moved out here owning our vehicles, with almost zero debt.”

By April, they were living out of his parents’ basement, figuring out ranching and rural life in tandem.

More than ten years had gone by when I was at Jay’s kitchen table this summer, learning about all that he’s learned in that time.

From the musical instruments set up in the living room to the leatherwork shop off to the side, it was easy to see they brought pieces of their “old life” with them to the ranch.

2017_05_mr_Stomprud-1

Jay Stomprud didn’t give up all of his old life when he moved to his family’s ranch. His leatherwork shop, set up in the living room, gives him a creative outlet.

They also brought a different perspective.

“Being’s I didn’t grow up on the ranch, I lived in the regular world, I guess you’d say. Also, being a people person myself,” Jay says, “when it comes to viewing our industry, I do try to look at it through the eyes of what a beef consumer would say.”

Low-stress handling has become a major focus, while Larry, the data-focused one of the pair, selects cattle that will work for every segment.

2017_05_mr_Stomprud-2

“I was shocked,” Larry Stomprud admits, but he didn’t have to think twice when his son and their young family wanted to return to the ranch a decade ago.

Both father and son would like to retain ownership some year, but this wasn’t the right one. With less than 10 inches of moisture, something like 60% of normal, cows moved to leased pastures further east after weaning.

Financially, it will be a tough year, but Jay doesn’t second guess the decision to move.

“We came out to the ranch later in life, and we have really come to love the lifestyle and what goes with it,” the rancher says. “In the process, we’ve learned a lot about conserving the land, taking care of the grass and how to try to make a living doing it and raising kids at the same time.”   

2017_05_mr_Stomprud-28

Mud Butte far off on the horizon, the Angus cattle thrive on the hard grass prairie that’s native to Stomprud’s South Dakota ranch.

Faith and a little experience assures them, it’ll all work out.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

PS- Look for the rest of the story in an upcoming issue of the Angus Journal.

Read More
DSC_3493small
Hot topics
0

As big as a barn

Nebraska history books talk about it, barn aficionados know about it, and for something like 75 years, the 18-sided barn that stood along the Niobrara River sat on land that my in-laws now operate near Butte, Neb.

It was originally built by a local who had a contract to supply horses to the army. With 24 stalls and a 60-foot-high hayloft, it fit that bill.

File Nov 14, 12 35 54 PM

My husband’s grandpa submitted this picture of the 18-sided barn for inclusion in the “Barns in the U.S.A.” book by Wilson L. Wells.

 

Long before I became a Reiman, a bad windstorm (possibly a tornado?) took down what was left of the structure that had been in disrepair for years. You see, the generation before my father-in-law saw it as an old relic, a rather dysfunctional structure too far from the main farming operations.

Such is the way of many barns across America, really. I can appreciate the old structures, but that’s probably because I never had to put hay into them. As a young kid, I’d watch the high school boys my dad hired throw bales as the John Deere elevator brought them to the second story of our own barn. We switched to round bales shortly after. I get why many have replaced these worn buildings with new metal calving sheds and better feed storage options, but I love the nostalgia of them just the same.

Turns out, I’m not the only one.

When our Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) team started talking about ways to celebrate our upcoming 40th Anniversary in a big way, somebody brought up the idea of a barn painting tour, similar to the Mail Pouch Tobacco advertising and others of yesteryear.

We got to know Ohio native Scott Hagan, who claims the title “The Barn Artist,” and a plan was hatched.

Scott Hagan, The Barn Artist embarks on a journey of painting 40 barns across the country featuring the CAB® logo to celebrate the brand's 40th anniversary.

Harley Warrick, one of the original Mail Pouch barn artists, was a neighbor and mentor to Scott Hagan (pictured here), who has more than 20 years experience in his own right. Hagan will start painting barns with the CAB logo as early as January.

This is where you come in.

Since our very beginning back in 1978, we’ve relied on farmers and ranchers who have focused their high-quality Angus genetics to supply the CAB brand with greater and greater success. Over those decades, the logo, product and breed have been making a mark on the beef industry. A big mark.

Now we want to leave our mark on 40 communities across the country. We’re taking nominations for barns that will be painted throughout 2018, and we plan to touch each community we visit by giving back in a unique way.

So how does your barn or your neighbors’ get on the list? We’ve got a simple application process that asks a few questions and requires photo submissions.

CAB-Logo-Barn

Proud CAB supporter? This could be your barn.

If you’ve got one in mind, hurry! Nominations close Dec. 1.

Then the selection committee will review all options, giving priority to those in high traffic areas, close to well-traveled roads and to wooden structures with ideal surfaces.

If your barn is chosen, we’ll look forward to getting to know you better.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what gems we uncover.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

P.S. The lead photo of my husband pulling a bunch of Reimans on sleds a few years back shows their current barn in the background. It’s used to warm up a new pair during the coldest of winter nights or to house the occasional orphan calf. It’s most permanent residents are the barn cats that call it home.

Read More
DSC_5674
Award/contest winners, Hot topics, On the road
0

Sold: An auction tale worth retelling

There is something about an auction, no matter where or why, that evokes good memories of the energy at a community sale barn. I can almost taste the café’s homemade pie.

The Colvin Scholarship fundraiser at our CAB annual conference was no different. I was in a cocktail dress and enjoyed a fancy four-course meal, but the excitement ran as high as a South Dakota feeder calf auction.

File Oct 24, 11 22 22 PM

Mark, Justin and I weren’t dressed in our typical auction duds, but the Nashville ballroom had a familiar energy about it.

The cattlemen board members served as ring men and the audience bid on seven items to raise money for ag scholarships. (We have given out $214,000 to undergraduates and graduate students since 2002.)

The final offering? Naming rights to the 2018 Mick Colvin Scholarship Classic, the golf outing that will help partners celebrate our 40Th Anniversary in Hawaii.

The numbers climbed as the auctioneer said, “Who’ll give me 25,000?,” and, “I’ll give thirty” came in reply. The total quickly escalated. I searched my memory bank, trying to remember the previous record.

It got beyond $50,000 and the bidders started to thin out. When there were just two left, I’d say the mood had almost turned tense.

That’s even before I knew the backstory.

Sean Hyslop, president of SYSCO Atlanta, and Kip Palmer, president of Palmer Food Services, were sitting just a couple of tables apart. When the final bid of $87,000 won the sponsorship, the room was full of excitement. Sysco Corporation set a new record in the scholarship funding and returned as the title sponsor, yet Kip admittedly felt a little defeated.

“Was I impassioned about losing it? Sure, a little bit. We didn’t do it to lose. We did it to win,” Kip told me later.

The “we” meant the independent specialty meat companies, who pooled their money with the intent of purchasing that sponsorship. “The group wanted to show their support for Mick and the scholarship.”

DSC_5750

Our founding executive director Mick Colvin and his wife Virginia pose with the 2017 graduate scholarship winner Clay Eastwood (left) and the first place undergraduate winner Sierra Jepsen.

John Stika was giving his closing remarks when Kip asked to take the mic. He had all the independent and family-owned meat companies stand up. I wondered what was coming next.

“I’m not really used to addressing crowds,” Kip said later. “At the risk of some people not believing it, I have to say I think the words came from above.”

He told about the pooling of money, the group’s original intent, and the quick decision to change directions.

You see, earlier that day, Kansas Angus breeder Mark Gardiner took the stage, sharing his family’s experience with the wildfires this spring. Producers across the country have endured hurricanes, drought and more wildfires, and he put a face on all of those tragedies for the attendees.

“I still to this day—seeing those dead cows—think I should’ve done better. I should’ve saved them,” he said, emotion clear to those in the room. “God was good to us because of the relationships—people. Now we have the greatest opportunity in our history to make things better.”

DSC_5218

Kansas Angus breeder Mark Gardiner recounted the tense moments leading up to and during the spring wildfires that destroyed most of his family’s ranch.

There were few dry eyes in the room.

Later, the independent group causally tossed around the idea of donating the “left over” pool to the Ashland Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund.

But they never expected it would all be left over. The most the golf sponsorship had ever gone for in the past was $43,000.

Back at the auction, in a matter of minutes, they consulted at nearby tables. Kip recalled, “We all got together and said, ‘Don’t you think we should just give it to the wildfire relief fund?’ Everybody said, ‘Yes.’”

So the entire $65,000 is headed to the fund, in addition to $20,000 raised by Del Monte Meat Company, who purchased the “From the Ashes” framed print, offered specifically for this charity.

Kip’s announcement earned a standing ovation.

And then? Sean came and put an arm half around his competitor—and volunteered that Sysco would split the golf outing sponsorship. Both his company and the Independent group will have their names and logos on the pins, without the independents paying a dime toward that, because they put it all to wildfire relief.

DSC_5720

In a few minutes, the almost tense mood gave way to overwhelming pride that we do business with such amazing people.

“It really reiterates that we’re all in this together,” Mark said when I recounted the evening to him afterward.

“The first few days, the intensity of the situation, I said, ‘In a week, we’re going to be on our own.’ But people keep coming and keep helping,” the rancher says now. “It doesn’t matter what color you are or where you come from, people are people and good people are good people.”

The needs are great: 4,100 miles of burned fences, 30 homes lost, along with buildings, stored feed, animals.

“This money will go toward helping people who still need help. It’ll go to beef cattle producers who are still struggling and need that cash to rebuild everything that they’ve lost,” Mark says. “Thank you seems so inadequate, but those are the right words.”

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

P.S. The Independent Group that made this donation possible is composed of companies from across the United States and Canada. Maybe one of them supplies your favorite CAB-licensed restaurant? A huge thank you to the full list:

  • Neesvig’s, Inc.
  • Evans Meats Inc.
  • To-Le-Do Foodservice
  • Buzz Food Service
  • Sierra Meat & Seafood
  • Macgregors Meat & Seafood
  • Palmer Food Services
  • Blue Ribbon Meats Inc
  • Lone Star Meats
  • Quality Meats & Seafood
  • DeBragga, New York’s Butcher®
  • Provimi de Puerto Rico Inc
  • Miami Purveyors, Inc.
  • Purely Meat Company
  • Southern Foods Meat & Seafood Solutions
  • Lombardi Brothers Meats

 

 

Read More
DSC_4154
Hot topics, On the road
0

All about the beef…or is it?

 “This is more than a celebration of marbling.”

President John Stika said that as he kicked off the CAB brand annual conference in Nashville.

The event was dubbed #BeefBash17 and the street barbecue the night before featured more high-quality beef than I’d ever seen in one place before. It was delicious and photogenic—I watched food bloggers gathering photos and taking notes.

DSC_3954

Pitmasters from Texas and North Carolina delighted conference attendees with their best in a street barbecue that showcased the brand on opening night.

It was clear that it was, in part, about the marbling.

But I’d already seen the brand in action, educating partners during a tour of Deer Valley Farms.

“The more comfortable we keep the animal, the harder she works for us,” general manager Jonathan Perry said. It was just the first of many educational highlights.

It was also apparent that it was indeed a celebration. There was a lot to celebrate.

JohnStika

Fiscal year 2017 set an 11th consecutive annual sales record, continuing a 13-year-streak of year-over-year growth, President John Stika told the crowd, while wearing his Porter Wagoner-inspired jacket in the Music City.

Starting with fiscal year sales record of 1.12 billion pounds, a 25% increase in two years and growth in every division from retail to foodservice to international.

Then there was the room full of people who helped us get there. More than 600 partners gathered, representing a cross-section of the 19,000 across 50 countries who are licensed to sell the brand.

[After meeting several of these people I should note that “licensed to sell” is a pretty weak description. They are fired up, motivated, ambassadors of high-quality beef.]

But for all the awards and fanfare, it wasn’t so much a conference about looking back as it was about looking forward.

Our team wants to make sure everybody in the beef community has the tools they need to go out and market more.

“We’re all going to have an opportunity to get better, to improve,” Stika said.

DSC_4354

“You just had a great 12 months, but we have to stay agile and hungry,” said futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson.

When I packed up my notebook from Nashville, here were a few nuggets I had tucked inside:

  • “Claiming that your business is customer centric will be impossible unless you’re data centric,” said futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson. “We have to connect with digital minds and analog hearts.”

He wasn’t speaking directly to cattlemen, but I think that makes sense for this side of the business, too. You can use genetics, carcass and performance data to improve your herd, but then still need to connect with consumers on why you care about their eating experience enough to do all that.

  • The business has been profitable from one end to the other from the cattleman to the feedyard to the packer.” Randy Blach, CattleFax president, had lots of interesting comments on the numbers and markets (as always), but his most compelling had to do with the uphill battle beef must fight (increased production in all proteins, volatility in the futures market, etc.) and how the only way to win will be to work together. CAB has been an example. Nearly 30% of the A-stamp cattle were accepted into the brand this year, making more than a 10% increase in tonnage.

“It’s pretty incredible to grow supply that much and keep an upward trend in value. Consumers want quality and they’re willing to pay for it,” Blach said.

  • A brand inspires you. There is loyalty and it can bring you into their family,” said Steve Battista, former Under Armor executive. He talked of how good brands are built with people, telling their stories. “There is power in building a community.” I couldn’t help but cheer a little inside, thinking about why I do what I do: Writing stories about and for the cattlemen and women who raise high-quality beef. I want you to be more successful by raising the brand, by being part of our community. I want to share your story with the world, because it’s a good one, but Battista told us it’s also the way to grow. Seems like a win all the way around.

Stika’s opening address was on target—our annual conference was about so much more.

DSC_5143

It wasn’t all about the beef, but conference attendees did eat well.

“It’s a celebration of the relationships and the people that have allowed this brand to become a brand of impact over so many years,” Stika said. “It’s a celebration of each and every one of you and countless others who, throughout this past year, have elevated the relevance of this brand in the eyes of consumers and individuals across our entire industry.”

And what a good “Beef Bash” it was….but now, on to another year of setting our sights even higher!

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

Read More
1 2 3 55