Debbie Lyons-Blythe is a woman in agriculture that grew up near Manhattan, Kansas and currently ranches near White City, Kansas. She is the daily, hands-on labor and manager on the family beef ranch, with soon all five children gone from home and her husband during the day works in a nearby town. Their son, Tyler is starting college this January at Kansas State University. Tyler’s life is a powerful testament to prayer, new life and the need for organ donors. Below, Debbie shares it.
Debbie and I started connecting on Twitter five and a half years ago. She was one of my first agriculture advocate mentors. Since then I have met her in real life on a few occasions. We hit it off. I was with her this past summer at Blogher. During that time she shared how their family was searching and praying for answers for why son, Tyler, was sick. Just weeks later, Tyler was fighting for his life. Again, you need to read her below story AND BECOME AN ORGAN DONOR.
A purposeful, mind over matters woman, Debbie has helped me focused on my purpose in social media, who my audiences really are and to not get stuck in the mud with negative people and haters. I admire how Debbie is a confident, vocal and proud woman of agriculture. She is a mom that puts her cattle business, family, marriage and community as top priorities. And in between those top priorities, she shares on her blog, Facebook page, Twitter as well as event speaking from time to time.
It is easy to get lost in the sea of social media. But it is important to have mentors to learn from how not to lose focus and get lost. Debbie does social media right and if you want a woman in agriculture to look up to and learn all about where your beef comes from while you are at it, Debbie is a woman you need to connect to today.
Meet Debbie Lyons-Blythe from White City, Kansas, in her own words.
What is your role in agriculture today? We have a cattle ranch and I am lucky to be the daily labor for the ranch. My husband works in town, and our five children are nearly all grown and gone. I am currently feeding nearly 500 head of weaned calves, selling registered Angus bulls to cattlemen, and keeping track of 300 cows. Very soon we will be empty nesters as our youngest son will head off to college in less than 2 months. We rely heavily on family labor for our operation, and it will be very different to not have at least one of them around to help! At the same time, I try to keep up with blogging. I blog about what we do day-to-day on the ranch. I find that I write about three main topics, my kids, my cows and the grass that we take care of. We live in the native prairie of Kansas. There is not much of this prairie left, and it is ranchers who have protected it and kept it. So I have recently renamed my blog “Kids, Cows and Grass!”
How has agriculture shaped your life? The best thing about the agriculture community is the sense of neighborliness and community in a small town. I loved raising my kids in a community that cares about them and helps to teach them what they need to know. Our neighbors also support us and help us through the rough times, and cheer us on in good times. Agriculture people aren’t the only ones who live in small towns, but a large percentage of people who live in little towns are involved in agriculture.
This past year, we had a pretty rough scare with my son. He had acute liver failure at age 18. It was probably due to an auto-immune disease and he had a liver transplant that saved his life just three months ago. Our little town, and the broader agriculture community across the country, rallied to support us and help us through.
I truly felt the confidence and comfort that only God can give, in the messages and cards from friends and family. I knew everything was going to be okay and we have been afforded the chance to put things in perspective now. This Thanksgiving season is especially poignant for me. I cry at least twice that day—my kids watch and they tease me about how sensitive I am and how I cry easily. But the tears are tears of joy and humility, as well as thankfulness that we are surrounded by such caring and wonderful people.
Can you share with us about your son and the organ donation he received? As I watched my son get sick this summer, at a loss as to what was causing his symptoms, I came to realize that God is in control. I don’t believe he gave Tyler this disease that ruined his bile ducts and made his liver fail. I also don’t believe he caused an accident to happen that allowed someone to die and therefore be able to donate their liver to Tyler. I believe that God kept us strong and confident as we dealt with the illness and the difficulties of the symptoms of liver failure. Tyler never worried that he was dying. I always knew he would live. I prayed that during a time of unthinkable tragedy, someone would want to share their loved one’s organs so that my son would live. Organ donation is truly the Gift of Life. We received the call that they matched a liver to my son on August 27, 2014 at 7:18 pm. The first thing I did was pray for the family of the person who died and who wanted their loved ones legacy to include saving my son’s life!
I can’t imagine facing that decision when you are in the midst of such a horrible time. So I want people to think about it now, and register to become an organ donor online now. So that if the unthinkable ever happens, your family will not be faced with that decision while they struggle with such loss. It is very easy…go online and fill out the form at http://www.organdonor.gov. Each donor can save up to 8 lives though major organ donation, and enhance the lives of up to 100 people from tissue and bone donations.
Every day I give thanks for Tyler’s donor and for their family who wanted my son to live. I look forward to meeting them one day and thanking them and watching them with my son, who lives the life he originally intended and honors their loved one every day!
What excites you about your community? “Community” has changed in the past few years. It used to be such a small geographic location, now I call people from across the country my “neighbors” or “co-workers!” The agriculture community is more than just people who live next to each other. They are people who connect on a regular basis through any form of communication—face-to-face or even social media. What excites me is that no matter where you live, if you are a member of the community, you have something in common. The members of the ag community each has their own specialty, their own way to raise their crops or livestock, based on geographic area or natural resources. But we are all tied together with the same common thread—a love for hard work, being outside and caring for the land and the animals.
What do you do to encourage others? Who/what serves as a source of encouragement for you? I grew up knowing that I should be myself. I should do whatever I wanted to do and that was enough. I try to give that same message to others, including my kids as well as other agvocates. I think that there is room for many kinds of agvocates. We need each individual advocating in their own unique way to reach the variety of audiences that are consumers. I also think that you don’t have to be “The Best” anything to be good at it and to reach people. Bottom line…I believe it is important to find common ground and to make connections. Instead of arguing about our differences, we should be applauding our similarities, while celebrating our unique personalities!
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be? That we are all more alike than different. I get very frustrated when agvocates get defensive. People who don’t live on a farm have questions about what we do. How can they find out about it if they don’t ask questions? I have no idea what it is like inside a coal mine, but who should I ask about it? Not the activists who are campaigning to close the mines. Not the owners who have never been inside a mine, but who have all the right things to say. I would ask a miner who works in the mine five days a week, earning money to live. That is what I encourage people to do when they have questions about how food is raised. Ask a real farmer—the people who are out there doing the work, day in and day out. We are all trying to do the right thing, and make the best choices for our own family.
What makes you smile? My family. If there is one thing that is the most important in my life it would be my family. My five kids and husband are all different individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses. But together they are the greatest! It doesn’t have to be a holiday for us to all get together and enjoy each other. Working on the ranch together is a joy for me and we have always tried to make it fun, along with getting the work done. That makes me smile.
Thank you, Debbie, for sharing the emotional road of Tyler’s new liver through organ donation and your strong role as a woman in agriculture! 123,934 people right now are waiting for an organ donation. What are you waiting for? Sign up HERE to become an organ donor. I have been an organ donor since I was old enough to drive and hope you choose the same.
As this Women in Agriculture series soon comes to a close this month, I want to thank each of you who have come along for the daily look into a different women in agriculture. I plan to continue this series for as long as women in agriculture are willing to share their stories and glimpses into their unique roles. Below are links to this month’s featured ladies. As my blog “refresh” is complete in the coming months I will dedicate a page to all features over the past two years and continue to grow this effort hopefully to larger platforms than this little ol’ blog.
Each of you have a fabulous story that you can define. Don’t be afraid to live it and share it.