Monday, November 21, 2011

Clearwater Uncorked Food & Wine Festival

As a BEEF industry representative and advocate, I love being able to go to events that not only give us a chance to reach out to consumers, but also to have a blast!

I was invited by Ashley Hughes, the director of promotions and marketing for the Florida Beef Council to attend the Clearwater Uncorked food and wine festival. The cattlemen who joined us cooked up some amazing flat-iron steak, and it was a crowd favorite. We had so many people tell us how tender and delicious it was, and everyone was given a recipe card so they could make it at home! Everyone said they wanted to make it, so I hope that there will be a huge amount of beef served this holiday season!

The recipe, along with many others, can be found online at, and I suggest you check it out!

Not only did I get to hang out with Ashley and some of our awesome cattlemen, I also got to spend some time with the new FCA Sweetheart, Kaitlyn Gill and her mom! I love fellow cattlewomen, because there is never a dull moment!

I wanted to blog about this event, and I wanted to share a story that cracked me up. I was handing out the recipe cards, and people were taking extra cards to share with their friends. One woman in particular came up to sample the steak and I said, "Here's a recipe card." She replied with a disapproving look and said, "My husbands a chef. I think he can figure this out." I told her to enjoy her day, and watched her walk away, eat the sample, and turn around, walk back to the booth, grab a recipe card, and say, "I think I will take this home to my husband. He needs this recipe."

I laughed for ten minutes after that happened, because it just goes to show how people can walk up with one idea, and leave with another. We were able to talk to so many people about Florida's BEEF industry, and it was such an informal setting that people are willing to stop and talk, and share stories.

These are positive lines of communication that need to be opened between producers and consumers. I love my life, and I love the people in it. A special shout-out to my parents, without whom I wouldn't be able to travel back and forth to these events. They are keeping my dreams alive, and I love them for it.

Here are some pictures of the event. Enjoy! Thanks for reading, Have a great holiday!!

The Beef Queen

Myself, Carl M, and Kaitlyn Gill outside of the event trying to avoid helping clean up. :)

There were some interesting characters at the event!

Fellow state Sweethearts - Kaitlyn Gill, FCA Sweetheart 2011 - 2012, Me, Sweetheart 2010 - 2011

Had a blast!!! Hopefully there will be a second annual Uncorked festival!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Farm City Week: Farm Tours!

One of my favorite things about Farm City Week in Manatee County is the farm tour. I want to be a tour guide one year, because they are probably the coolest tours anyone will ever invent, and I’d love to be a part of it! This year was really exciting, because we had so many people come out and participate! I arrived at SMR, one of the ranches on the tour, super early to help set up with some of the other volunteers (some from our local FFA Alumni chapters, some from our Cattlemen Association, and we even had a UF/IFAS extension agent from Ona!)
The ranches and farms on the tour are carefully selected by county extension agents who pick locations based on success and relevance to the lessons we are trying to educate the consumers in our county about. We take people in and around the community around the county and show them what farmers and ranchers do on a daily basis. The point of the tours is to show people the county and its true beauty and heritage. I had to show off a little, and pop the whip after one of my fellow cattlemen showed off before me.
The next day, when I spoke at the Kiwanis club meeting in our county, (they help plan the Farm City Week tours and put everything together), several of the members commented on my whip-popping skills, and it was nice to be remembered!
The tours are an awesome tool to educate, and a way to have a lot of fun in your own community. I love encouraging farmers and ranchers to offer tours and have people out to their facilities. I know that it isn’t as easy as putting a sign up that says something like, “Farm tours here, come on in,” but it can be such a neat thing to do!
I hope that you have all enjoyed this short post, and I look forward to many more Farm City Weeks to come!
God Bless,
The Beef Queen

Farm City Week: Kiwanis Club Meeting Keynote Speaker!

 I was asked to speak at our county Kiwanis club at their monthly meeting yesterday, November 15th, 2011 in honor of Farm City Week. My topic was Rodeo: A rancher’s way of life! I wanted to put the speech that I gave on my blog, for anyone interested who couldn't attend the meeting. It was a lot of fun, and everyone was very warm and welcoming! I was even given the "Golden Rule", an actual "Golden Ruler", since I was the keynote speaker. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I was able to be the keynote speaker, as I'm only 21, and I really enjoyed myself!

I have taken out the introduction, as you probably already know me, so enjoy the rest!

Rodeo: A Rancher's way of life.

Many people do not realize that events that are featured at rodeos around the country and state are actually based on day-to-day practices that occur on the ranch.

Growing up, we always had a few cows roaming around in the pasture. My goal is to have a herd of my own, which I plan on continuing to build after I graduate next fall. Ranching is both an art and a science, and if you ever get a chance to visit a ranch or a farm, I highly suggest that you do. One of the most effective ways to teach people about ranch life is through rodeos that are put on by Cattlemen across the nation. I love to go to local ranch rodeos and see men and women in the community, and from around the state, taking part in showmanship and sport, all the while educating the people attending about our way of life.

The Manatee County Cattlemen’s Association has an annual rodeo, and I enjoy attending and seeing how people react when the events are competed in. Public perception is always taken into account when choosing events for the lineup and program of the rodeo, and we are always careful to point out that the people participating are trained and skilled at what they do. Animals are always well taken care of, and every situation that can be planned for, is carefully thought out.

Rodeos are a fun way to see exciting and sometimes humorous events, but they also teach a lot about ranch life. Even though some events seem like they are purely for the crowd’s enjoyment, every event has a rhyme and a reason behind it.

Some interesting facts: Florida was the first state to have cattle, and 63 of the counties in Florida have cattle today. We are a growing industry, and we have many farmers and ranchers in the community today. By being the first place in North America to have cattle, we are also the birthplace of the cowboy! We aren’t just talking boots and hats; we are talking about the real deal! Ranchers represent the largest single segment of American Agriculture!

Florida cowboys were called “Crackers” because of the sound they made popping their whips in the old days, and many still carry on the term today. Whip popping contests are often held at rodeo events, and this is one of my personal favorites. My dad taught me how to pop a whip at an early age, and it is not as easy as it looks! People take this useful tool, and make it an art form. It remains an effective way to herd cattle, and helps cowboys and cowgirls run their ranches. The whips never touch the cattle or horses, and are used purely for sound. Cowdogs are also a useful tool, and they tend to be a crowd favorite. Who doesn’t enjoy two small dogs with the ability to lead and direct a herd of large cows? It is very entertaining, but extremely helpful!

Bronc riding is a rodeo favorite. This event is somewhat dangerous, and left to the skilled cowboys who showcase the ability to stay on a horse who is riled up for a small period of time. There are several variations of this event; sometimes, wild ponies are used, and the teams of cowboys and cowgirls have to try and saddle the pony and ride them for a bit. These ponies are usually taken straight out of a herd of horses that are fairly wild. It is a very entertaining portion of the rodeo, and such a real situation. In ranching life, you never know when you might come across a wild horse, and preparing for that can make the most out of a very dangerous situation.

Two of the most common and sought after events, true to real life ranch situations, are calf roping and team roping. One event showcases two riders working together, and the other event has a team working to rope the calf, to show how it is handled in the event that it needs to be doctored or given medicine. This is a prime example of how a real rancher handles cattle. It is a skill of precision, aim, timing, and patience. The calf is roped by one member around the head, and by the other around the leg. They will either pull the calf down or tie the legs if there is any potential for danger or injury to either party involved. This is a crucial skill so they can administer antibiotics, bandage up a leg, or just make sure the calf is healthy and safe.

Wild cow milking is one of my other personal favorite events. You never know when you need to milk a cow, and it may just be away from the barn, and other useful equipment. This is another exciting event, because the cows are standing up with the team members beside them, trying to fill up a bucket. We had a cow who wouldn’t nurse her baby, and if they aren’t milked within a certain time, it can be very harmful to the cow and the calf. Events like this are entertaining, yes, but they are also a symbol of something that actually happens on a working ranch.

The stampede race is a county event that is true to the name. Cowgirls lie in sleeping bags, with their horses at the other end of the arena. After someone yells, “Stampede”, to symbolize a herd of cattle who are either running away, or towards the group, the girls have to get up, put on their boots and hats, roll up their sleeping bags, carry their saddle and saddle pads to their horse, saddle them up, and ride the horse to the other end of the arena. Stampede is probably one of the most feared words in the rancher vocabulary, because it could either result in injury, death, or a loss of cattle. This event is a true testament to cowgirl skill and speed and gives them a chance to show what they’re made of.

Cow sorting and branding are two events that rely on the team working together. In sorting, three or four cattle are called out by the judges, and the team has to get only those cattle separated from the rest of the herd. This is made more difficult as other cattle can’t go past the team, and it is all about team planning and strategy. In the branding event, the team has to get a calf safely to the ground while the female team member runs over and puts a chalk mark on the calf’s hip. I enjoy the team events, and you can tell what teams work well together. Staying calm and cooperation are vital to successful ranching.

Many individual events, such as barrel racing or cutting, showcase a rider and their pure talent and ability to connect with their horse. I love watching people who really know how to ride and ranch, and it is truly beautiful when someone has that connection.

Any Farm city week speech would be incomplete without honoring Faye and Vic Blackstone, one of the most influential cowboy couples who ever lived. They lived right here in Manatee County, and Mrs. Faye was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1982. She is credited with inventing several trick riding maneuvers, and she married Vic Blackstone and together, they helped influence Florida’s rodeo traditions since moving here from Nebraska in 1951. She even helped jumpstart the career of the famous singer Reba McEntire, when she got her to perform at our county fair in 1978! It was an honor to meet Mrs. Faye, and I along with everyone miss her since she passed earlier this year. Mrs. Faye and Mr. Vic had a huge impact on cattle ranching and rodeo, and we owe a lot to these examples of what cowboys and cowgirls should be like.

Ranching is still a vital part of the Agriculture industry. Over 90% of American farms and ranches are family owned and operated, with an average size of 40 head of cattle. We are feeding and providing for our communities, country and the world. Today’s beef industry is highly efficient, and we are producing more while using less. Farmers and Ranchers are the original environmentalists, because we are stewards of the land. We believe in preserving land for future generations. We know the value of good business, a healthy and safe product, and we love what we do.

I hope that you all walk away with a little more appreciation for those who are feeding the world, and I encourage you all to get out there and support those in your community who are keeping the traditions alive. There are many local places to visit, and I love to encourage families and businessmen and women alike to look up activities like “Florida Ag Venture”. This is a group of local farms and ranches in Manatee County who got together to offer services for people to come and visit their establishments. I highly recommend it.

This week is Farm City Week, and I hope that you all have enjoyed hearing about Rodeo: The rancher’s way of life. The next time you see a rodeo, you may want to stop in and get a taste of some of the traditions that keep Florida alive and thriving.

As with all of my blogs, I hope that you have enjoyed this blog, and I hope that you all have a great week! Thanks for stopping by, and I appreciate all of your support!

The Beef Queen

Follow me on Twitter! (@the_beef_queen)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Little Off-Topic, but On Point!

I had an awesome day, and I had to blog about it!! Please enjoy!  J
As many of you may know, I am a student at the University of South Florida currently majoring in Mass Communications. My focus is Public Relations, and I could not be happier. I am taking a moment today to not just blog about BEEF, but just to touch on the subject of college for a bit.
I was asked to speak at a middle school recently, and I had an absolute blast. I LOVE speaking in public, and this topic was right up my alley! As I gave my presentation about Florida’s Legacy and about cattle ranching and the Cowboy (and Cowgirl) way of life, I also decided that I would add in some information about college and choosing a career.
While some might think that middle school is too soon to start making plans, I think that depending on the maturity level of the audience, it is never too early to start entertaining ideas. There is something out there for everyone. Usually, children around 12 and 13 years of age start to develop passions and interests in certain areas, and it is up to us to encourage that love and interest.
 I could not be more excited with my major, and I really believe that when someone is enthusiastic about what they are doing and what they are involved in, that passion and enthusiasm will spread. That being said, I hope that the group of middle school students have been encouraged and are excited about fulfilling all of the potential and talents they possess.
The reason I chose to blog about this topic today has a lot to do with my major, and why I love Public Relations and the concepts behind it. My PR Issues teacher invited a guest speaker who was nothing short of AWESOME. (I’m leaving the names to the imagination, as I didn’t obtain their permission, and I want to respect privacy and cover my own tail). J
The guest speaker was a 25 year old ball of fire. I was so encouraged when I left class today, and I can’t wait to embark on my career. It is days like this when I thank God for letting me find such an awesome school, such an amazing support group of friends and family, and such a wonderful major that I fit, and that fits me.
Learning about social media and networking fascinates me, and that was a main part of the topic today. I encourage all of you to find something you LOVE, and blog about it. Start a twitter, and follow people with the same interests. I am on twitter @the_beef_queen, and I am also on LinkedIn.
I realize that this blog is a little more scattered than some of my last posts, maybe it is the fact that I don’t usually drink coffee and that I had some today; maybe it is the fact that I get so excited when typing on topics like this that I can’t hold back!  
I can’t wait to start my career as an agriculture advocate, and I plan on using all of these amazing tools that I am learning to accomplish my goals and dreams. Thank you all so much for reading my blog, your support means the world!!! As always, if I can be of any assistance, feel free to follow me on twitter and tweet me or email me at
God Bless,
The Beef Queen