Day 8: Blin Uses Bling & Beef to Build Bridges

iowa CornfieldCrystal Cattle (aka Crystal Blin) blogs about her life as a farm girl and everything that comes with it.  That means if the cattle must fed but she has a wedding to attend, she just might wear a dress and heels while doing chores.  After all, a girl’s gotta do what has to be done!

“Cattle are my first love, and they still touch every part of my life,” says Crystal, who grew up raising purebred Simmental cattle in Breton, Alberta, Canada, with her parents and younger sister.  A livestock judging scholarship took her to Butler Community College in El Dorago, Kansas.  She later transferred to Kansas State University where she double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Communications. Upon graduation, Crystal became the assistant director of communications for the American Angus Association in St. Joseph, Missouri.

“I started blogging to help eliminate some of the distance between me and my family,” explains Crystal, who launched her Crystal Cattle blog in 2009.  “I thought it would be a good way to stay in touch and give them a glimpse of my life here.”

What she learned is that a blog gave her a platform to promote her passions.  The turning point came when Crystal posted a response on her blog to an article that the Kansas State campus newspaper had published, promoting vegetarianism, veganism and animal rights.

“If that was happening on a campus where there is such an ag focus, I couldn’t imagine what was happening in less ag-focused areas,” says Crystal.  “I had to refute some of the claims being made.  When I got so many responses to that particular blog posts, I realized the impact my blog could have on helping others understand agriculture and farming practices.”

Crystal and Jon at the Elevator

Crystal and Jon at the Elevator

Today Crystal continues to advocate from her home on a northeastern Iowa farm with her husband, Jon. They couple met in 2010 at the National Western Livestock Show in Denver.  Now they’re building their own herd of purebred Herefords, which is the breed Jon grew up raising and showing.  In addition to raising stock and heifers that become show prospects for junior members, Jon and Crystal sell freezer beef.

Marrying an Iowa farmer meant Crystal had to relocate once again.  So how did this native Canadian feel about that?  “The transition to Iowa was easier because I was involved in agriculture,” says Crystal, who feels fortunate to be able to office from home doing a job she loves.  She’s responsible for the sales and marketing of a livestock vitamin and mineral supplement called VitaFerm, which keeps her on the road about one-third of the year.

“Agriculture is really one big family no matter where you are.  The people you meet in ag always have their arms and homes open, so you never really feel like you’ve met a stranger.  Even if you’re with a new group of farmers, you’ll find something in common.”

Crystal also seeks for common interests among non-farmers as a way to build relationships and bridge gaps.  That’s why she blogs about more than agriculture.

“I love MAC makeup, clothes and interior design,” says Crystal.  “I’ve formed a lot of great online relationships with other non-farmers who share these interests.  As a result, these consumers have started to ask me questions about farming.  I’d rather have them ask me instead of Google for an answer.  Online engagement helps consumers understand that farmers are real people.  I want to help them get an accurate portrayal of farm life.”

Turquoise Thursday and Watching Corn Grow are regular features on Crystla’s blog.  She also covers “tough subjects” like why they give cows antibiotics when they’re sick.  In addition, she promotes the livestock industry and beef production by sharing recipes on Hunk of Meat Mondays.  A little “consumer education” occurs with the recipes Crystal posts like this one for Flat Iron Steak with Green Peppers: “Flat Iron steak is one of the 29 lean cuts of beef.  It’s the second most tender cut of beef and is pretty reasonably priced. You could also use a flank steak or round steak for this recipe.”

Today Crystal is sharing another one of her go-to recipes with us.  She shares my desire to make homemade, wholesome and delicious meals in a matter of minutes.  I’m looking forward to giving this recipe for Baked Tacos a try!  How about you? 

Baked Tacos


Baked Taco Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 small can of diced green chilies
  • 1 recipe for Homemade Taco Seasoning (See Below. Once you try this stuff, you won't use any other!)
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce (you only need about 4 ounces)
  • 2 cups of shredded Colby-Jack Cheese
  • 6 hard taco shells
  • And whatever condiments you love: salsa, lettuce, sour cream, etc.

Baked Taco Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. In large skillet brown ground beef, onion and taco seasoning. Drain off any excess liquid. Return to pan; add chilies and tomato sauce. Mix well. You don't want the mixture to be runny, so keep it cooking and you'll solve this problem.
  3. Place tacos, standing up, in a 9x9 inch backing dish. Spoon taco meat mixture into the shells. It's OK to fill them pretty full. The meat really bakes down. Sprinkle cheese over top of the meat. Place in the oven, and bake at 400° for 8-12 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve!


Taco Seasoning Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Taco Seasoning Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix all together.
  2. Store in an airtight container.
  3. I used all of this on 2 lbs of ground beef with a little water mixed in. Added to taco shells with all the fixings and it was a great dinner!