[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” hundred_percent_height=”no” hundred_percent_height_scroll=”no” hundred_percent_height_center_content=”yes” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” margin_top=”-30″ margin_bottom=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” dimension_margin=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text]By Aly McClure, Contributing Editor

Beef Empire Days (BED) Has been a celebration of Kansas’ cattle industry since 1968. Held in Garden City each year, new events have been added since its inception, but BED still offers the timeless classics like the Live Cattle and Carcass Show.

Made in the USAEvery season the BED Board of Directors spends countless hours developing the schedule of events in a manner that honors our Great American Beef Story and celebrates the communities that have grown up around beef raised in the U.S. There are cattle growers, cowboys, processing crews, children, families – anyone and everyone who enjoys a good time and, of course, great protein.

As we wrapped up the 49th annual festival in June, something struck a chord with me. Although it seems like a number of participants in the cattle industry are leaving for greener pastures, it also feels as though the comradery and community surrounding it is increasing. With fewer growers we still represent the same number of cattle or more that we always have.

Of the 16 events held during the 12-day fiesta, each was full of laughter, thought-provoking conversation and undeniable kinsmanship. Don’t get me wrong; the competition is still stiff in the Live Cattle and Carcass Show, but the spirit was just that of good old friends celebrating what we do best, raise beef.

It wasn’t just the cattle raisers I noticed enjoying this year’s events. The southwest Kansas community showed up in droves to learn more about beef and have fun. Beef Empire Days has made it a point since its inception to increase community awareness about modern beef production, and you can tell the events are heading in the right direction.

With the Chuck Wagons in the Zoo, visitors enjoy an entire beef meal for just $1 per plate while also having the opportunity to learn more about the different segments of the beef industry. Don’t forget the live music floating in the early summer breeze. Hand me a lawn chair with lemonade and I can’t picture a better day.

Another great community event is A Day on the Farm held at the Finney County Library for kids of all ages. Children have the opportunity to learn about agriculture through hands-on activities and live-animal exhibits that teach them more about what farmers and ranchers do. There are also a parade, pancake feeds, live cattle and carcass judging, cattle working contests, a ranch rodeo and so much more.

The Cattle Working Contest is one of my favorite events. Teams from multiple area feedyards compete in processing groups of six cattle. The event was held at Finney County Feedyard and judged each team on time, efficiency, safety and overall calf handling as they made their way through the processing corral. It was amazing to watch the four-man groups show off what they do each day.  A huge hat tip goes to Beef Quality Assurance training and the standards upheld by their respective facilities.

One of the best comments regarding the annual BED festival I heard was from Patti Strauss of Garden City. “Beef Empire Days is such an enjoyable event,” she said. “I like that there’s something for everyone, and a lot of it’s free. It’s also nice that the events are held over a period of several days, so you don’t feel rushed from one thing to another.”

The Live Cattle and Carcass Show is a time-honored tradition dating all the way back to the beginning Beef Empire Days. Area feedyards and cattle growers enter steers and heifers to compete against one another for bragging rights and awards. Some say determining the winner can be a crapshoot, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that you can tell who takes the time to make sure they enter the best they have, as well as those with a keen eye for cattle development. It’s a talent.

Another great aspect of this organization is its continued dedication to youth development within the beef industry. BED offers a yearly intern opportunity within agriculture communications and business, allowing a student the opportunity for hands-on experience in running a community event celebrating beef. The internship offers a paid salary as well as a scholarship for the following year of college.

They also offer numerous $500 scholarships to high school seniors in southwest Kansas, and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle areas who plan to further their educations fulltime in an agriculturally related field. Career fields include education, communications, production, research, engineering or any other area involved with the beef industry.

As the personal connection to farms and ranches continues to fade among the general public, it’s even more important to increase and continue our outreach opportunities. Events such as Beef Empire Days help close this gap a little more each year by bringing cattle raisers together with urban dwellers.

Raising cattle is about more than just ranchers and cowboys. It’s also about small town communities that depend on agriculture to survive. We can’t continue without the support of one another. As we work our way toward the Beef Empire Days 50th anniversary, look forward to new events and the resurrection of those from years past; it’s going to be one heck of party next summer. Let’s carry on the celebration and spread the word about The Great American Beef Story.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]