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Gaining a behind the scenes look

Last week I attended the annual Cattlemen's Choice Loomix National Dealer business meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo. I was truly impressed with the Loomix family and everything they have to offer to livestock agriculture.

There is just one quick fact that, particularly in today's political climate, I believe all of us need to be able to spout off at any time in any place: 85 percent of this nation's land mass is not suitable for tillage. It is only good for growing cellulose material that, if not consumed by a ruminant, will be fuel for one of the greatest fires you have ever seen.

Obviously, I stress the vital importance of using ruminants to consume and convert this cellulose material into human consumable products. I am told that with Loomix products, you can improve ruminant efficiency by 34 percent. That is another great story as we seek to feed a growing population.

The one thing from this conference that will stick with me for quite some time was my introduction to Jim Keen. Jim just happened to show up at this meeting because he lives in Colorado Springs and has authored a book called Great Ranches of the West. Now if you take a quick glance at this book, the breathtaking photos tell the story of life on a modern day ranch. But it wasn't until I got to visit with Jim that it got really interesting.

I whipped out my handy microphone and recorder to conduct a radio interview with a man that I soon learned was not a cowboy but, rather, a landscape photographer. His first book apparently shows his true bias for nature and everything God's creation has to offer.

It is called Rocky Mountain Wide. He then told me about his current book Great Ranches of the West. He found 29 ranches in the 17 western states and visited each of them in all four seasons over a five-year period to get a real feel for what day-to-day life in these operations was all about.

In the context of telling me why he started to do this, I heard him say, in a roundabout way, that he had a concern that ranchers and cattle were damaging the very nature that he loved and admired his whole life. I questioned him on this and he didn't deny it. He noted that the environmental groups so regularly put forth this type of information that he didn't have a choice but to believe that the destruction of the land was just another product of the beef industry.

I take my hat off to Mr. Keen because he wrote a book that tells the importance of the rancher to a healthy environment when his original plan was just the opposite. I think there is a tremendous lesson about telling the real story outside of our small agricultural community. Today, this book and Jim Keen himself have become tremendous advocates for what we do. We need to endorse him and tell every person we know about his book and his work.

In fact, Jim told me about a recent Sierra Club meeting he attended to talk about the book. While he was telling the group about a book on great ranches, a guy in the back of the room stood up and hollered, "We need to get the cattle and the ranchers off the public lands." Jim quickly informed him that such a move would be the worst thing we could ever do. He also shared his beliefs regarding the importance of the rancher not only on federal lands but on private lands as well.

Honestly, it is not often that I meet a person who has a plan, sets out on a mission and, upon learning that what he previously believed was incorrect, does a complete 360-degree turn-about and becomes an advocate for the truth. But, I did meet that person in Colorado Springs last week, and I encourage all of us to reach out to him because he is a true friend of agriculture and promotes the facts about the environmental stewardship we provide.

The mere fact that he has invested five years of his life, and visited these ranches so many times, truly shares quite a bit about Jim Keen. What better way is there to share our story with millions of folks who may never take the opportunity to experience these ranches first hand?

The best part might be that the nearly 600 photos that he has included in this beautiful coffee table book will give anyone, in just a few glances, a window into the true soul and beauty of our industry.

Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or e-mail Trent at trent@loostales.com.



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