Jodene “Jodi” Shaw is an artist in agriculture. Her multi-media art captivates and tells a story from her White Owl, South Dakota family ranch. She shares her talents through classes and by selling her work. I met Jodi in 2013 while stranded in Storm Atlas in western South Dakota during the South Dakota Rural Women’s conference. She had her artwork set up in the back of our no electricity, chilly conference room. We shared laughs and stories together. But what she did after the storm was another standout moment for me from that devastating storm. She shares her below insightful words about the heart-break and sacrifice.
Originally from Piedmont, South Dakota and now a pillar of the Shaw Ranch with husband Jim and three kids, Tom, Sydney and Erin, Jodi celebrates rural life as a woman of agriculture. You’ll read it in her soulful words and see it in her photos shared. She has a new website, WhiteOwlWings where you can learn more about her art, an “Opened Door” blog, Facebook page, Etsy and Pinterest pages and a Twitter account, all connecting you to an artist in agriculture.
Jodi doesn’t live in the middle of nowhere. She resides right where God has planted her and celebrates her family ranch as “the center of my life.” Comment below on where your center of your life is for entry into a surprise giveaway. First, meet Jodi Shaw and learn about her perspective on agri-culture. Be prepared to “Work. Grow. Sacrifice. Nourish. Give life.”
How has agriculture shaped your life? My parents, Phil & Linda VanDervoort, raised purebred Gelbvieh cattle and were active members of the American Gelbvieh Association. In addition, they owned and operated VanDervoort A.I. Inc. as I grew up near Piedmont, SD, shipping bull semen all over the United States via liquid nitrogen tanks. I learned to drive with a semen tank in the back of the vehicle making deliveries to the bus depot in Rapid City. Therefore I learned to take corners slow enough not to tip over a tank with thousands of dollars of microscopic merchandise inside that my teen friends from town just did not quite understand—nor did I try to explain. What teen girl learning to drive wants to explain that kind of cargo? My dad was an artificial insemination technician each summer for ranches in east-central South Dakota throughout my childhood, and taught artificial insemination through Western Dakota Tech. My first words, as well as my brother’s, spoke about cattle reproduction as we helped “heat-detect” by watching for “bullin’ cows”.
My goals as a teen never focused on building a life in agriculture. I did not participate in 4-H or FFA or even take home economics. I had what I snobbishly thought were “higher aspirations.” However, I fell smitten to a Wrangler-wearing, blue-eyed rancher with a kind and hard-working spirit. So, I did what any girl in love with a rancher from “the middle of nowhere” would do, I graduated from college with a degree in elementary and special education to be a teacher in a rural school like so many women before me. And so, I married my Jim, who was and still is a fourth generation cattle rancher with his parents and brother. We raise commercial cattle on the prairie in western South Dakota. I have lived my entire life surrounded by the cattle business in one shape or another. Life has revolved around growing, nourishing, and sacrifice.. Now, what most people, and what I did, call “the middle of nowhere”, I call “the center of my life.” I am so grateful that God blessed me with this man and this lifestyle of working and raising our family by faith.
This frees me up to follow my passion of creating art and classes for encouraging the soul. How is agriculture a part of art and classes that I teach?
Agri – culture. Just look at the word. I grew up in a culture. A culture focused on growing life, to nurture and nourish life. We feed people. All food – true, nourishing food – comes from the cycle of life – healthy life, and then sacrifice. Plants and animals are sacrificed, so that we, as God’s children, can eat and live. It is a physical cycle, which to me, represents the greater spiritual cycle of life and death, and life again. I did not grow up thinking about that cycle. In fact, the depth of this cycle of life and sacrifice as it relates to our agricultural life did not really settle into my heart until after the blizzard named Atlas devastated our community in October of 2013.
It came to me in the days immediately following the storm as I picked ripe, red apples from icy, blizzard-wind broken tree limbs. I thought about the sacrifice of this tree. How the broken limbs heavily bore fruit that would nourish my family and others. I thought about how the limbs that broke would strengthen the tree next spring. I thought about how pruning strengthens and pruning is a sacrifice.
Apples on broken branches turned my thoughts to all of those cows and calves that lay dead in the ravines, and ditches, dams and fence lines because of the storm that ravaged our area. I thought about how that senseless death cut so deep into the hearts of our community. I thought about how people might wonder why we were so saddened at their death when they are raised for beef for people to eat. Would the world outside of agri-culture think that it is all about the money? This grief is not simply about economics.
When the livestock died from the storm, we know they suffered. They had been well-fed, nurtured, cared for. Life in our region revolves around their care. Wasted life equals pain and heartbreak. There is respect for those ol’ cows and their calves, and there is respect for the sacrifice. Their storm-caused death would not carry on the life-giving cycle, and somehow, deep down in the heart, that loss hurts inexplicably. Sometimes we cannot put words to why it hurts, but I believe it is connected to a divine seed of true, pure, sacredness of life planted deep within us.
Death stings. Always. Death is not the way life was meant to be. However, deep-rooted in my belief about life, is sacrifice. Death for life. Jesus died that we might live. Through Him, death ultimately loses its sting. Sacrifice has meaning. Sacrifice is life-giving.
My life has been shaped by this belief, and I have never seen my agri-culture life so closely tied to my spiritual belief until now. My art work and, my classes are focused on digging deep into the heart and spirit of life. My work tightly weaves with my faith and my desire to help others through darkest times. My desire is to grow, nourish, heal and bring forth the life, the pure-hearted passion, divinely placed within each person.
As we operate our day-to-day life throughout the seasons on the ranch, the mundane tasks can be wearisome and just plain normal. Just as motherhood and caring for a household. But all of it, is rooted deep in growing life. When I remember that, it gives meaning to all of the mundane and dirty jobs of ag life and of home life.
Work. Grow. Sacrifice. Nourish. Give life.
Isn’t that what agri-culture, at its roots, is all about? Those words also weave together my faith, our ranching family lifestyle, and my work with people through art and photography.
Thank you, Jodi, for giving us an inside look at your center of agri-culture and encouraging us all to work, grow, sacrifice, nourish and give life. Encouraging words to live by!
Where is your “center” of your life? Share and be entered for a surprise at the end of this blog post.
Below are all the women in agriculture featured this month in 30 Days of Women in Agriculture. The truth is I have about five new names a day that come to me or are suggested. I could do this daily, for years! I have so many good friends you haven’t met yet. So we’ll keep this going for at least ten more days through November and then who knows?
Be on the lookout for a cooking and cast-iron related giveaway with easy ways to enter. Check back often! I have THREE giveaways to get done before December. Keep them for a gift to yourself or use them for a Christmas gift.
Scroll down…for a surprise.
It didn’t take you long to find the giveaway? Here it is! TWO of my favorite Lodge Cast-Iron Dutch Ovens. A red 6 quart and a blue 7.5 quart. These are my favorite, ordered and purchased from our own family lumberyard by me, for you. I use these Dutch ovens almost daily in my kitchen. Perfect for meats, stews, soups and any type of slow-cooking recipe. Enter away through Sunday night!
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