Texas, the Lone Star State, is home to the most cattle in the U.S. But Nebraska, commonly nicknamed the Cornhusker State, also claims to be the Beef State, and for good reason: The state economy produces some 6.5 million cattle, and beef production is among the its largest industries, generating billions of dollars and accounting for a over 50 percent the state’s agricultural output every year.
Anne Burkholder, a cattle farmer in Nebraska, married into the farming business. She met her husband in college, and after graduation the pair got married and moved to the rural Cozad, Nebraska, to run a farm near her husband’s family. She’s now an enthusiast of all things beef, and tells stories about keeping cattle on her blog, Feedyard Foodie.
For The Atlantic’s series of interviews with American workers, I spoke with Burkholder about running a cattle feed yard for 20 years, the challenges of being in beef production, and whether she sees her children taking over the farm when she retires. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Bourree Lam: What do you do for work and how did you get into it?
Anne Burkholder: I am originally from West Palm Beach, Florida. I did not grow up in agriculture at all. I met my husband at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He is a farm kid from Cozad, Nebraska, who decided he wanted to see a different part of the country, so he played football at Dartmouth. I was a swimmer there, and we met on Halloween of my freshman year, fell in love, and got married. We spent a year on the East Coast before deciding to move back to the farm.