Heart of Ag: Start Where You Are. Use What You Have. Do What You Can.
See these kids right here? We were newly married and had just signed the dotted line on the mortgage for the ranch we were blessed to find and purchase close to home.
I couldn’t believe the bank had even agreed on the note, and to be honest, I didn’t even know if we would be able to make it work.
Fresh out of college with entry level jobs in the middle of a nationwide recession, it looked like an uphill battle.
It was time to dig in and give it our best shot though. And, this meant getting creative and working our butts off.
In the early days, we rented out every building onsite for storage, and we even rented out the basement to tech students to help pay the bills.
The only equipment we had to use was grandpa’s old M tractor we pulled out of the trees, which Tyler spent hours getting back into running shape. I took on every writing job I could find, and every dollar we made went back into the ranch.
I’ll never forget the day this picture was taken. It was the first day we put cattle in our lots. It felt symbolic. Big. Monumental. Dreams coming to fruition. And yet, I knew our journey was only beginning.
A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into this business, and we’ve said “no” to a lot of fun and extras over the years to make it all go. Thankfully, Tyler and I have a shared passion for this business, so even though date nights or away trips are few and far between, there’s really not much we would rather be doing than this right here.
Thirteen years of chasing this dream of ours, and looking back on the journey, we’ve sure come a long ways. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, we are just getting started.
And even though this picture feels like a lifetime ago, I still have the same fire for this industry I had in those early days when we were first getting started. I know Tyler feels the same way.
I’m probably feeling nostalgic as I browse through old photos during my flight home from a speaking engagement, but as I look at the young couple in this picture, this is exactly who I’m thinking about when I speak to crowds, especially multi-generation ag families and young producers.
And, if I could give anybody advice as they enter this business it would be this.
Don’t quit. Give it all you’ve got, and then do a little more than you think is possible.
Be a constant learner. Attend the meetings. Learn from others. Find a mentor. Network. Make connections. Build relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Everybody starts somewhere. Stay humble. Get scrappy. Go the extra mile. Pay attention to details. And enjoy the journey, including all of the ups and downs along the way.
Learn from mistakes. Ideally, learn the lesson BEFORE you make the mistakes and save yourself thousands of dollars in the process. Ha!
Don’t listen to the critics, the naysayers and the people who are quick to list off the reasons why “you can’t” make it work. Surround yourself with dreamers, builders, entrepreneurs and people who push you to be your best.
When everyone is going one way, find a new path. Be different. Set yourself a part. Identity your ideal customer and the folks you want to serve and then deliver a product the customer wants.
Then, keep showing up and telling your story.
Have a vision for what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Create a pathway to get there, and work on this goal a little bit every single day.
Celebrate the victories. Give grace to one another. Brush off the bad days, and just keep going.
Know what you stand for, and never, ever back down.
Most importantly, pray to God to make straight your path. Pray for discernment in businesses, relationships and dealings. Because each day we have a choice of who we will follow and which master we will serve, and if you’re committing your work to the Lord, truly, what better purpose in life can there be?
What other advice to young producers would you give? I would love to hear stories of lessons learned in the early days. First tractor. First cattle purchase. First hard road block. First victory.
May we pass along the knowledge to help the next young kid with fire in their belly and passion in their bones. We need them in this cattle business we all love.
God bless the American beef cattle rancher.
Amanda Radke is a rancher, author, motivational speaker and podcast host. For more from Radke, visit amandaradke.com.