Whether she is on the family ranch in Idaho, attending the USDA Outlook Forum in Washington D.C. or in the Cattlemen’s Beef Board’s offices in Denver, Kim Brackett works toward the advancement of beef and beef producers.
Brackett, whose family runs Brackett Ranches based in Castleford, Idaho, also is a mother of four, a blogger and this year, chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB). Prior to taking over as chair in January, Brackett served on the CBB for five years, including time as secretary, treasurer and vice chairman.
Last December, Vance Publishing, the parent company of Drovers/CattleNetwork, named Brackett as an honoree in the inaugural year of the “40 under Forty” program. The program recognizes and promotes young leaders from across the U.S. agricultural community, who will help agriculture meet the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. Over 250 young innovators were nominated by their peers, and seven independent judges selected the final 40.
Brackett grew up on her family’s ranch in Wyoming and now resides on her husband Ira’s family’s operation in Idaho. Kim and Ira help manage the family’s fifth-generation Angus-based cow-calf operation with Ira’s father and brothers, and they run their own ranching operation with Red Angus cow-calf herds in Idaho, Nevada and California. Bracket says she and Ira have in recent years also run a stocker enterprise but currently have put that business on hold due to the severe extended drought in the region.
As parents, Brackett says she and her husband work hard to instill a love of ranching among their three sons and one daughter, who range in age from 5 to 12. “We want them to have a passion for the industry and that starts on our ranch,” she says. They all love to ride horses, and the family typically saddles up about three or four days each week to check cattle. The oldest boy, she says, is studying bull catalogs and is interested in genetic-selection decisions.
Serving as CBB chair, Brackett helps guide checkoff-funded research and promotional efforts to build demand for U.S. beef. Promoting beef is nothing new for her though, as she regularly reaches out to the public through her blog at BeefMatters.com, which for five years has provided “a glimpse of life on a working ranch.”
She says she gears the blog toward consumers, showing them the human side of life on a ranch. She started with two areas of focus, with the first being to give other mothers a glimpse of family life on a ranch. “I’m a mom, I have four kids and I have to put dinner on the table every night,” she says. “And also how it’s a family operation — my kids are out there, we’re cowboying together, we’re working together.”
The other initial objective was to inform the public about beef production. At the time she started the blog, she was serving as chair of Idaho’s Beef Quality Assurance advisory board and wanted to show how her family, and other ranchers, care for their animals. “I’ve put pictures of our newborn calves in the bathroom of my house,” she says, along with others illustrating how the family serves as stewards of their land and showing day-to-day operations on the ranch that most people never experience.
She also includes a cooking section on the blog, with a goal of dispelling myths about beef’s role in a nutritious diet. “I put a lot of recipes on there and talk about lean beef. I have to admit I’m a bit of a health nut with myself and my kids and I think that comes across on the blog.”
As CBB chair this year, Brackett plans to focus on unity. In her inaugural address to the 103-member board at the Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, she spoke about embracing differences and respecting different points of view. Members come from across the country, representing different segments of the industry and sometimes with divergent opinions on industry issues.
Brackett wants to foster a spirit of cooperation and compromise within the board, toward a common goal of building beef demand. “I really value all of the Board members’ input, their voice; I want to hear from all of them, and we represent all of the stakeholders in this country,” she says. “Whether we agree on political issues or not, we have a lot of differences. But the one thing that does unite us is that we care about this cattle industry. We care enough — my CBB Board members care enough —to be on the board, to be involved, to attend these meetings and make decisions that make a strong checkoff program. And I want to embrace that; that’s what I want us to focus on — what we have in common and not so much our differences — and try to move our board forward and make it a stronger board for the future.”
The “millennial” generation — those consumers between the ages of 20 and 34 — are a priority for CBB promotional efforts this year. By 2020, CBB estimates their spending will hit $1.4 trillion dollars a year, and millennials will make beef-buying decisions for the next 40-plus years. Millennials also receive and share information differently compared with older generations, making extensive use of digital media accessed through phones and tablets, and using social networking to share virtually all their experiences. To reach people of that age, the CBB promotion strategy has shifted from traditional media to primarily digital this year. “We need to be where they are,” Brackett says.
Her time serving on the Beef Board, and especially this year as chair, has kept Brackett on the road much of the time. She’s made sacrifices spending that much time away from her family and the ranch, but she says her husband and kids have been totally supportive. She looks forward to spending more time on the ranch once her term ends but, for now, sees her service as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and plans to make the most of it.