One of the most daunting tasks an Executive Director can undertake is implementing a new program. One must consider the board's opinions, the community impact, the overall reach, and the program's ultimate goal. Often, it's challenging to gauge public view until the program is fully launched. Coordination and cooperation are huge keys to success when implementing programs. However, I am fortunate to say we have ALL of the above with our new Steers for Students program.
The ' Steers for Students ' program was born as we brainstormed new ways to reach our younger audience. As we discussed the idea with staff, directors, and a few key players, I realized this program's astronomical impact on the beef industry's future right here in the Sandhills. I thought about my time in FFA. We'd have to buy the meats for judging practice, which was economically challenging, or study meats from photos that often look nothing like the real meat on the plates when evaluating. Then I thought back to when I picked up our meat from the locker and wondered how they could ensure all of it was mine.
The Steers for Students program allows Sandhills youth to learn meats evaluation from calves grown in our Educational, Performance & Carcass Contest from local Sandhills ranchers. It opens the door, literally, to the Husker Meats locker for them to see precisely how the calves are hung and then packaged. They will listen to industry experts from the University of Nebraska as they walk through the process of judging and evaluating careers in the meat industry. After completing the evaluation, the ground portion of the meat will be distributed to four Sandhills schools - Valentine, Thedford, Gordon & West Holt. The premium cuts will be split between the calf donor and the Sandhills Cattle Association.
Four local ranchers generously donated a calf for the Steers for Students program: Craig & Katie O'Kief of the Walking X Ranch near Wood Lake (meat donated to Valentine Public Schools), the Blackford Ranch near Brownlee (meat donated to Thedford Public Schools), Greg & Jolee Nielsen of Gordon (meat donated to Gordon Public Schools), and Atkinson Livestock in Atkinson meat donated West Holt Public Schools). Since this is our pilot year, the schools selected were based on the calf donor's location.
Not only did we have calves donated to the program, but we also received a tremendous boost thanks to Jason & Katie Jagels. Jason & Katie purchased a custom Henry Goldenboy .22 rifle to be auctioned off at their Cattlemen's Cut Bull Sale on February 24th near Brewster, Nebraska. They then promised to match up to $2,500 of the funds raised at the rifle auction. Thanks to Zoetis, The Home Agency, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Broken Bow Animal Hospital, Summit Contracting, Inc, M&S Livestock, The ARC Group / Heather Ramsey, and Jeff & Peg Freudenburg for pooling their money to purchase the rifle once for $3,250 and then donating it back be auctioned off a second time. Dave & Brenda Masek of Thedford then bought it for $1,750. (Dave says stop by his office to check it out!) In total, we received $7,500 that day! That news is HUGE as it means we can pay for the feed and processing of the calves, so the schools get the meat 100% FREE!
The next and final step to the program will happen at the end of June. Students will visit Husker Meats in Ainsworth, Nebraska, to learn from meat industry professionals about their role and how the students interested could pursue careers in the meat industry. The carcasses and meat will be evaluated and packaged to be sent to the participating schools. (Stay tuned for more about this in the next newsletter!)
A HUGE HEARTFELT THANK YOU FROM MYSELF AND THE SANDHILLS CATTLE ASSOCIATION to all who have donated to make the program's first year a success so far!
If you are interested in donating to keep Sandhills beef in the hands of Sandhills students, check out the website at SandhillsCattle.com/Steers-4-Students. You can find a donation button and contact info for the SCA office.