Therapeutic healing found on the farm |

Therapeutic healing found on the farm

Cowgirl Perspective
Amanda Radke
Mitchell, S.D.

The past year will be cemented in our memories for many reasons; 2019 was a difficult one, marred with the challenges of extreme temperatures, late season blizzards, spring and fall flooding, ongoing trade wars, market uncertainties and the highest rates of farm bankruptcies on record in the last decade.

This year will also be remembered as the time when my open letter to Ellen DeGeneres went viral, prompting a media storm that kept me busy sharing the truth about cattle and climate change and debunking those pesky rumors about cow farts destroying the planet.

The last 12 months are also notable as I released my second children’s book, “Can-Do Cowkids” and am deep in the process of penning two more titles to release in 2020.

We’ll also remember 2019 as the year we drove across the state in a record-breaking cold spell to take bulls to the Black Hills Stock Show. We’ll remember the long detours we had to take to get to town to get around the flooded river roads. And we’ll remember the mud; oh my, there’s been mud! If there was an Olympic sport in running through mud, I would be a gold medalist, of that I’m sure!

But perhaps what we’ll remember most about 2019 is how we are growing our family through foster care. My husband Tyler and I did our 30 hours of training last spring; completed a home study in July; and were officially licensed as foster parents by Aug. 1, 2019. By Aug. 2, we had our first sibling set come to stay with us, and in 2019, we welcomed seven kids into our home and our hearts.

Let me be frank. I don’t share this news to be self-righteous or to somehow earn praise and glory with readers or my followers on social media. I share this because I feel there is a great need in this arena, and by highlighting how we have gotten involved in foster care, it will hopefully spur others to think about filling the void in their own communities.

This help could come in the form of fostering, serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer, mentoring youth as they age out of the system or stocking up on essentials like school supplies, tooth brushes and tooth paste and clothes for foster families to help the precious youth who come into their care.

Because the fact of the matter is this — in the United States today, there are 400,000-plus foster youth who are in need of a safe, secure and loving home. They, of course, have experienced great trauma in their lives, not only through neglect or abuse, but also by the sad reality that they have been separated from their families as they become wards of the state.

And I feel the agricultural community is perfectly positioned to help these innocent children. I have found that much healing can be done on the farm. These kids come to our house, and for the first time, they get to see livestock up close. They get to feed them grass through the fence, and they squeal in surprise if a cow’s scratchy tongue touches their chubby little toddler hands.

They absolutely love four-wheeler rides, digging in the sandbox, running wild through mud puddles, playing with the barn cats and the trusty cattle dog and exploring the great outdoors with our own children.

These foster kids also get to learn where their food comes from; they love helping me in the garden. And each child gets a tree planted in their name on our farm. They get to dig the hole and water a tree and be part of our story, even if they are only with us for a short time.

Perhaps most surprising of all is how foster care hasn’t just provided a safe haven for these kids, but it has taught me about what’s most important of all — family, farming, faith, love and grace. This year may have been tough for many reasons, but when we focus on our true priorities, the challenges we face pale in comparison to what really matters. Happy New Year to you all; may your 2020 be very blessed indeed!

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Amanda Radke

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