By Kerry Hoffschneider
When Randy Warnken and Annie Madsen started dating, Randy had mostly Angus cattle, but love can change things.
“My dad raised registered polled Herefords,” Madsen said. “Most women want a fancy house and fancy jewelry . . . I just wanted a cow, specifically Herefords. So, about eight years ago, Randy bought me five!”
At first, the couple didn’t keep any of the cows back because they were paying for farmland, but in 2020 they did keep one back and named her – 2020! This year, they celebrated the birth of her calf. It is very apparent that Randy and Annie find a lot of joy in agriculture and each other.
Before they were married, Annie had three daughters and also has nine grandchildren, she said, “Although Randy had no biological children of his own, he loves them like his own.”
A love for agriculture and family is a strong, unifying attribute for the couple. The couple was also both raised in the ag industry. Randy said his ag career began on a farm east of Hildreth, Neb. where he often helped his Uncle Les and Uncle Fred farm – everything from milking cows, to raising hogs, hay, and milo. After high school, Randy graduated from Kearney State College in 1974 with a Double Major in Accounting and Business.
“I purchased my Uncle Fred’s farmstead in 1972 and in 1974, I purchased farm ground consisting of 320 acres, including the homestead where I grew up,” he explained. “Later we purchased 160 acres of pastureland and in 2018 we bought another quarter near our current farmstead.”
Throughout his years of farming, Randy has raised hogs, hay, corn, soybeans and has a cow/calf operation. His wife Annie grew up on a farm too, where they raised registered Polled Herefords as well as various crops, but it was sold in the early 1970s. She said their marriage has truly fulfilled her dream of being a farmer and rancher.
“We really enjoy the cow/calf operation as well as the hay operation,” Annie noted. “The beautiful experience of calving continues to remind us of the miracle of life. The enjoyment one gains from watching the baby calves play with each other like children and their mother’s fussing over them can’t help but give us satisfaction.”
“Randy also has a great reputation for raising some of the best alfalfa and orchard grass in the area and I enjoy baling small bales. We use the hay for our own cattle as well as sell them to others,” she added. “We also receive a great sense of fulfillment from planting seeds and harvesting the corn and soybeans.”
In addition to working with her husband on the farm, Annie also serves as an administrative assistant at a public school, helps occasionally at a local bed and breakfast, and also serves as an instructor for driver’s ed, defensive driving classes, and motorcycle classes.
With all the joys of farming and balancing other jobs off the farm, there are also other challenges and of course keeping up with the demanding work. Randy and Annie agreed that raising crops and cattle is not for the “faint of heart.” There’s everything from dealing with harsh weather and equally harsh rising input costs.
“Especially as one ages, we have come to the realization that the body can’t do what it used to do,” Randy admitted.
That’s why Randy and Annie appreciated hearing about the Nebraska AgrAbility program from a friend. Randy had been dealing with multiple myeloma, as well as back issues that began to impact his ability to do some of the work on the farm. The couple was encouraged to reach out and see the resources that were available to help them continue pursuing their farm and ranch dreams.
Since 1995, the Nebraska AgrAbility program has helped individuals with disabilities overcome barriers to continue in their chosen agricultural profession. Nebraska AgrAbility is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded opportunity that is free to clients and delivered in tandem by staff of Easterseals Nebraska and Nebraska Extension.
Through resource coordination from Nebraska AgrAbility, Randy was able to secure an electric power livestock trailer jack and will also be getting a tractor seat modified.
“We are very grateful for the insight presented to us through this program,” Annie said. “We appreciate getting help with something as simple as getting easier access to your tractor and gaining more comfort when sitting in the tractor seat and not being jostled around so much that it causes pain.”
“Even using an electric lift assist jack for hooking and unhooking a stock trailer may not seem like it could make a huge difference,” Randy added. “We are grateful beyond words for these devices.”
“Anyone who is facing challenges with age and disabilities should be encouraged to look into this program,” Annie said adamantly. “Nebraska AgrAbility is a very positive program, and they are very willing to help in different areas.”