SOUTH SHORE, S.D. — Laurie Johnson can hear the crunch of gravel as she runs down the country road near her ranch in South Shore, S.D. Bundled up to ward off the cold, the puff of air create a cloud in front of her face as she tackles the quiet road after a busy day of calving, lambing, raising two toddler boys and working as the lamb and wool instructor at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
Despite her busy schedule, she prioritizes some quiet time each day to run and to work toward goals. In 2018, she plans to run in 30 races to celebrate her upcoming 30th birthday, but she won't be doing it alone.
She'll join more than 100 members of Team Beef, a beef checkoff-funded program managed by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council. As an SDBIC board member, Johnson not only raises beef, but she gets to be involved in the decision-making process for how checkoff dollars are spent.
"It is important to me to see where our checkoff money is going and how we are affecting people and their choice to include beef in their diet," says Johnson. "Athletes are a completely new crowd that we are reaching through this program, and since its inception seven years ago, Team Beef has been very well received."
As an active mom, Johnson knows firsthand that beef not only fuels her workouts but provides her the energy to get through her workday and wrangle two very busy kids on the ranch. And despite the cold, her training regimen doesn't take a break. She's got upcoming races to prepare for, and she's constantly working to beat previous finishing times.
"There are several winter races coming up with many Team Beef runners participating," Johnson says. "The winter months are also a great time for us to start our training and plan which races we want to compete in. Another aspect of Team Beef is completing a webinar, which has plenty of resources to help us prepare for any beef-related questions we might receive from athletes as we hit the race trail. The great thing about these online resources is we can also use them as a toolkit to visit classrooms and talk to students about beef in a healthy diet."
Team Beef members are required to complete the online webinar, and each runner, cyclist or triathlon competitor receives a Team Beef jersey to wear when they compete. With plenty of recipes, cooking demonstrations, nutritional facts, myth busters and other advocacy resources, Team Beef members are healthy, active, knowledgeable and passionate about the beef industry.
"In 2017, we had 140 Team Beef members, ranging from youth to adults, and by competing in race events, talking to the media, visiting classrooms and putting on cooking demonstrations, they reached an estimated 25,000 people in the state of South Dakota and an additional 50,000 across the country," says Holly Swee, a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist who serves as SDBIC director of nutrition and consumer information.
A 2017 addition to Team Beef was the Prime Cut program, which incentivized members to earn points throughout the year by encouraging additional beef promotion activities. The top three members earned race reimbursements and additional Team Beef swag as a reward for their efforts.
"We've had several elite members who have competed at the Boston Marathon over the years, and we've also had a female runner win the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon," Swee says. "It's always great to have these top competitors promoting beef, but I think what's most appealing about Team Beef is the everyday people who represent our industry at these events. We want to appeal to athletes of all levels and ages and discuss how beef is an important addition to a healthy diet and an effective training regimen."
Swee says Team Beef boasts a variety of members from many backgrounds, but they all have some sort of connection or passion for beef. And not only does Team Beef promote the industry to athletes, but it also helps assist members in their own personal health and wellness journeys.
"It's amazing to see the reactions you get when you're running with your Team Beef jersey on," Johnson says. "It's so nice to receive so much encouragement and cheers from the crowd with people yelling, 'Go Team Beef,' as you run by. I think it's a true testament when you see those Team Beef moms pushing a double or triple stroller with kids in tow. It definitely takes on a whole new meaning of the power of protein that beef has to offer!"
Official Team Beef events will kick off in February with the Frostbite Four in Beresford, S.D., and the February Freeze in Rapid City, S.D. Look for Team Beef members at upcoming races near you, or consider joining a team by applying online through your state beef council.