Anne Burkholder, who is perhaps best known as The Feed Yard Foodie, will be the featured speaker at the Oklahoma State University’s 25th annual Totusek Lectureship on Nov. 2 at the Student Union Ballroom.
Burkholder describes herself as an Ivy League athlete fueled by beef for many years before she truly “understood where beef came from.” She is now a mother of three and living in Nebraska, where she and her husband run a cattle feedyard and farming operation.
“Feed Yard Foodie is a site where people can come to read about the real story of beef, written by someone who actually gets [her] hands dirty,” Burkholder tells visitors to her popular blog and website. “I greet each day’s challenges with a smile knowing that I am using the gifts and talents that were bestowed upon me to improve the welfare of the U.S. cattle herd and the safety of beef.”
Burkholder was voted to Vance Publishing’s “40-under-40 in Agriculture” in 2013 and was awarded Beef Magazine’s Trailblazer Award in 2014. The National Beef Checkoff presented her its Advocate of the Year award in 2017.
Anyone wishing to attend the 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. event should contact the OSU Animal Science Graduate Student Association’s Kelsey Bruno by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will issue an invitation.
“We require participants to pre-register as we are offering a delicious, catered dinner to everyone attending this year’s historic 25th anniversary landmark and need to ensure we have the correct number of meals provided,” Bruno said. “We’re very excited to host Ms. Burkholder. She has great insights about the beef industry and has something to say to all audiences, young and old.”
The night will begin with a social hour, allowing everyone to visit with old friends and new acquaintances, then dinner, culminating with the lectureship featuring Burkholder. The ASGSA organizes the annual event, which always sat well with “Dr. Tot” as he was often affectionately called by students, staff, faculty and alumni.
“Dr. Tot and his wife Nellie were tireless advocates for students, the department and university, and animal agriculture throughout Oklahoma and beyond,” said Blake Wilson, ASGSA faculty adviser and an assistant professor in the OSU department of animal and food sciences.
“The lectureship was named in his honor but he always stressed it was first and foremost a learning experience for our graduate students, helping them hone their leadership and organizational skills while promoting engagement with alumni, industry professionals and university stakeholders,” said Wilson, himself a former ASGSA member as a graduate student in the department. “To Dr. Tot, those things and being a mechanism to foster increased support for graduate students were the big benefits.”
Oklahoma’s ‘Mr. Animal Science’
A Cowboy alumnus as well as a faculty member, Totusek earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science from then Oklahoma A&M College in 1949, after serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He then earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in animal nutrition from Purdue University before returning to Stillwater in 1952 and embarking on a storied career of teaching, research, public service and administration that lasted for 38 years as an OSU faculty member.
“For me, what comes to mind first is Bob’s reputation as a coach of OSU’s livestock judging teams, which was a particular passion of his,” said Dennis White, a friend, colleague and former student of Totusek’s. The OSU Livestock Judging Team won 10 national and international livestock judging competitions while Totusek was the coach.
“More than that,” White said,” Bob changed the face of both livestock judging and the industry. As a coach, scholar and researcher, he pushed for raising larger-framed cattle that were bigger than those seen in the 1950s, but not too big; he was a key figure in proving the right size made all the difference when it came to feed efficiency and maximizing input costs in terms of acres it took to raise a cow most profitably.”
A member of the Totusek Lectureship Advisory Committee since its inception, White lauds Totusek’s many achievements as administrative head of what was then called the OSU department of animal science for 14 years.
“Bob was responsible for bringing together what had been three separate academic departments into one and led the unit to national renown as a producer of great scholars and industry leaders,” White said. “That is an extraordinary challenge and quite an achievement.”
Totusek was instrumental in the development and construction of the OSU Animal Science Arena, which was built in 1988 to replace the arena that was part of the old Animal Husbandry Building when it was torn down to make way for the OSU Noble Research Center. In 2015, the arena was renamed in his honor.
Upon his retirement from OSU in 1990, Totusek barely slowed down, serving as an ambassador and distinguished elder statesman for both the department and OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. He was initiated into the Saddle and Sirloin Club at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1997, the most prestigious honor awarded to an animal agriculturist.
In addition to the animal science arena, Totusek was instrumental in the construction of the OSU Animal Science Building. He also helped lay the groundwork for the development and construction of OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center, the OSU Willard Sparks Beef Cattle Center and the OSU Swine Teaching and Research Center.
Totusek was responsible for record-setting donation campaigns, and became a driving force behind the OSU Animal Science Alumni Association. One of his final leadership contributions was helping the ASAA establish five purebred-teaching-center endowments.
“Dr. Tot and Nellie both passed in 2014, but their presence continues to be felt today,” Wilson said. “He and Nellie deserve credit for starting the movement that helped improve the financial situation and well-being of our graduate students. In 2006, we had three graduate scholarships totaling $2,600. In 2018, we have 14 graduate scholarships totaling $27,350.”
Advocate for Agriculture
A native Oklahoman, Totusek was born on a farm between Kingfisher and Garber to Aloise Karbusicky Totusek and Emil Totusek. Both of his parents’ families were immigrants from Czechoslovakia and were active in the local Czech communities.
Growing up during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, he often recalled that his parents were poor but had a large garden and plenty of milk, meat and eggs. They delivered food to a number of Garber-area families in need every Saturday. Totusek often explained those early experiences impacted his life’s direction to become an advocate for the power of agriculture.
After his passing, the way “Dr. Tot” was fondly remembered by so many made a lasting impression on the Totusek family. For many years the lectureship was funded by industry sponsors and people who personally knew Totusek. This past summer, his three children – Darla Flanagan, Don Totusek and Diane Stearman – endowed the lectureship with a gift of $125,000.
“The family has asked we not make a big deal out of it but we’re all hopeful others with an interest in animal agriculture and student excellence will be encouraged to help the fund grow to $200,000 or more,” Wilson said. “Dr. Tot gave so much to Oklahoma and the region’s animal science industries, and this is a way to ensure he can keep championing agriculture, which would have appealed to him.”
Burkholder, another champion of agriculture who is looking forward to being the 2018 Totusek Lectureship speaker, explains there has been a shift from previous generations in that today the majority of Americans likely spend more time worrying about “where their food comes from” and “how is it raised” than whether or not they will have adequate access to food.
“At the same time, there is still a significant portion of the American population that is food insecure,” she said. “The combination of these two facts is worrisome and drives my continued passion for spreading the story of American agriculture. Farmers and ranchers are good people who need good technology and science to continue to improve how we produce food, and that will play a huge role in winning the war on food insecurity.”
Burkholder said the combination of good people and good technology also is key to promoting environmental sustainability, citing that those involved in agriculture remain stewards of the land.
“It is people who grow food,” she said, “therefore sharing our collective story provides a critical component in building the trust of [consumers] as they ask the question, ‘where does my food come from?’”
Anyone seeking additional information about the 2018 Totusek Lectureship should contact ASGA President Morgan Pfeiffer by email at email@example.com or Bruno by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those interested in learning how they or an organization to which they belong can support the Totusek Lectureship should contact Heidi Griswold of the OSU Foundation by email at email@example.com or by phone at 405-385-5656.