A Legacy Built For The Future

02:44PM Dec 12, 2019
Debbie Lyons-Blythe
Kansas rancher advocates for cows and family.
( Curt Dennison Photography )

Sustainability is something members of the Blythe Family Farm know firsthand. Their diversified, crop-and-beef-cattle operation has been a fixture in the Kansas Flint Hills, near White City, since 1890.

“Sustainability really has gotten a bad rap, in my opinion, and that word is really not liked by cattle ranchers and farmers, as well as consumers frankly,” notes Debbie Lyons-Blythe, family matriarch.

As an advocate for the industry, Lyons-Blythe blogs about ranch life at KidsCowsandGrass.com. Much of her perspective on sustainability comes from personal experiences and her readers, which include urban consumers.

Concern about the outlook for beef production, the Flint Hills’ native tallgrass prairies and her family’s future led this Kansas rancher, wife and mother to participate in the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB). The multistakeholder organization involves 116 members who represent 30% of the nation’s cattle herd.

Lead, Engage, Educate

Lyons-Blythe says the organization’s inclusive approach quickly resonated with her.

“It brought together cattle ranchers and feedyards, who comprise the majority of the membership in USRSB, along with retailers like McDonald’s, Arby’s, Wendy’s and others, as well as beef packers and processors, non-governmental organizations and universities,” Lyons-Blythe told members of the U.S. Senate during testimony on climate change and the agriculture sector this past May.

Lyons-Blythe says the roundtable is an example of ranchers leading the sustainability conversation.

The desire to improve led USRSB to release its Framework for Beef Sustainability. It encourages operations to measure their impact against six metrics: water resources, land resources, air and greenhouse gas emissions, efficiency and yield, animal health, and employee safety.

“Farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalists. But I can’t just say that, I have to prove it,” Lyons-Blythe says of the framework’s objectives. “So we need data to prove we’re doing this right.”

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