“I had to reach out.” That is how Debbie Lyons-Blythe describes her motivation to create her blog, “Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch.” And reach out she has, connecting with both ranch mothers and urban consumers through her blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Her goal is to be an advocate for agriculture, educating consumers about how their food makes it from farm to table, and offering some great recipes that encourage consumer choices at the grocery store.
Lyons-Blythe and her husband Duane are raising five children along with Angus cattle on their Flint Hills ranch near White City, Kan. The blog is written about her daily life juggling the kids’ activities and caring for 500 head of cattle, and it has become a popular site for many in the ag community. But she targets a much larger audience.
“We need to tell the farmer and rancher story (to consumers), but we can’t let other people tell our story for us. Many people are interested in our story but don’t know anything about being a rancher, and they often miscommunicate the facts,” Lyons-Blythe says.
After a visit from relatives whose children are the first generation off of the farm, Lyons-Blythe was motivated to start blogging. The children were inquisitive about things on the farm that any rancher would automatically know the answers to, she says. Because the children were raised in an urban area, however, they did not understand the many practices involved in ranching and why things were done in certain ways. The visit from the relatives inspired her, Lyons-Blythe says, but she also indicated she needed a “creative outlet,” and the visit from the relatives gave her a push to get the blog started.
Lyons-Blythe was raised on a well-known Angus ranch in the Flint Hills and her mother, Jan Lyons, also devoted much of her time to supporting agriculture and the beef industry. Jan and her husband Frank operate Lyons Angus Ranch, Manhattan, Kan., and Jan has served as president of both the Kansas Livestock Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. She also served as national chairperson of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
Following her mother’s path, Lyons-Blythe now serves on the board of directors for the Kansas Livestock Association and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and is an active member of the American Angus Association. She readily admits that her parents instilled in her traditional farm values and a love for the farm lifestyle, characteristics she’s passing on to her children. She attended Kansas State University where she earned a degree in ag journalism, and while at K-State, she met her future husband.
Duane, Debbie and their children now run Blythe Angus, near White City, Kan., where Duane’s family homesteaded in 1890. Duane works in town and Debbie says she is “blessed” to have a husband supportive of her passion for ranching. The couple have two daughters and three sons: Meghan, 21; Allie, 18; Trent, 17; and twins Tyler and Eric, 16. Beginning this fall the three older children will all be attending Kansas State.
Lyons-Blythe says she is inspired by the attention her blog receives from within the agriculture community. “I’m gratified and I appreciate the support, but I’m not writing for them. I’m writing for young mothers, one or more generations off of the farm, who want to know what I do all day and why I do it.”
It is extremely hard to “connect” with the non-ag community she says. To reach her goals she had to be willing to accept the challenge of tasks with which she wasn’t necessarily comfortable. When she began tweeting she gained followers by first reaching out on a mother-to-mother level but then transitioned to the agriculture aspect of her life.
The blog is specifically intended to reach people who are unaware and misinformed about the agriculture industry and to provide a glimpse into the daily life of a cattle rancher. The blog is written in simple terms to help the target audience better understand daily chores. Lyons-Blythe claims the No. 1 post on her site is about a heifer giving birth, then softly calling to the calf and licking it during the first moments of the calf’s life. The pictures and video are, she says, “old cell phone quality,” but it is still one of the most viewed posts on her site. “It’s the things you don’t realize people don’t know about that really make this a rewarding experience.”
Lyons-Blythe’s passion for agriculture is evident in her efforts to inform the mass non-ag community about farm life. She is a self-described “agvocate” and believes the only way agriculture’s story will be accurately told is if “we get off the tractor and tell them ourselves.”
Raising 'kids and cows' as mom of the year
Named Monsanto’s America’s Farmers Mom of the Year just before Mother’s Day, Debbie Lyons-Blythe says she was, “Flying high with the support I’ve been given from people who matter the most to me. I love to say I raise kids and cows — and I really love both.”
Lyons-Blythe was nominated by her children (Meghan, Allie, Trenton, Tyler and Eric), and also by her aunt, Mary Ferguson.
Both nominations summarized in 300 words what makes Lyons-Blythe so special to her family, farm, community and the agricultural industry. She was selected as the Southwest Region’s Farm Mom of the Year by a panel of judges from American Agri-Women and Monsanto.
Her nomination was then posted to AmericasFarmers.com, along with those of the four other regional winners. Online voting determined Lyons-Blythe the national winner.
“What an honor that my children and my aunt, who is also a busy rancher, would nominate me for America’s Farmers Mom of the Year,” Lyons-Blythe says, “especially this time of year when we are often working until 9:30 at night and focused full-time on getting cattle bred, fences fixed and cows to grass.”
Lyons-Blythe says she is proud to accept the award in recognition of farm moms everywhere who work long hours for little recognition. “I’m humbled to be singled out because there are so many farm moms who work each day to build a legacy for their children,” she says. “I am thankful for everyone who supports farm wives and moms in general.”
“Debbie Lyons-Blythe has a work ethic and a passion for agriculture that is truly inspirational,” says Consuelo Madere, America’s Farmers Mom of the Year spokesperson.
“She devotes time and energy to teaching consumers the source of their food, and she does it while raising five children, participating in key industry organizations and running a successful business. I don’t know how she finds enough hours in the day to accomplish all that she does.”
Monsanto’s America’s Farmers Mom of the Year is an extension of the America’s Farmers program, which celebrates the contributions of America’s farmers, who provide food, energy and clothing for a growing planet. Visit AmericasFarmers.com.
Lisa Henderson is a junior in ag economics and ag communications at Kansas State University