RancHER - Life on the Ranch for a Missouri Millennial Mom

The Bruce family. ( Missouri Beef Industry Council )

Kalena Bruce wears many hats. Residing in Cedar County, Missouri in the Stockton Lake area, Kalena is a mother, rancher and accountant. Her days are long but her outlook on life is very bright, loving her life and family, and raising quality Missouri beef for consumers around the world. 

It’s 4:00a.m., the countryside is dark and quiet, and dew is forming on the grass in the humid air. Most of Missouri is sound asleep. At Kalena Bruce’s house, the lamp is on, the coffee pot is percolating with steam rolling into the kitchen, and she is getting ready to take on another day. 

Kalena (Kenny) Bruce is a 5th generation farmer, with land in her family that dates back to the Civil War. An ancestor of hers gave the ultimate sacrifice, during the war, and land was deeded to her family, creating the beginning of Kenny Family Farms. 

Billy and Kalena call the 3,500 acre Kenny Ranch home. Living on the ranch has many benefits, including a view of the Ozarks.

Today, the farm comprises several properties totaling approximately 3,500 acres. Kalena’s family maintains a 650 head commercial cow-calf herd of black and red Angus cattle. “There are a lot of moving parts involved in our family’s ranch,” said Kalena. “We all have separate farms and herds, but we’re all trying to move in the same direction.”  

Kalena’s sister and brother-in-law, Chelsea and Josh Abercrombie, raise registered black Angus cattle and provide the bulls for the family herds. Kalena’s mother and father, Peggy and Lynden Kenny, are just as active on the ranch, with farms of their own. The family shares knowledge, resources, equipment, labor and support to help make the farms work for everyone. 

Finding a Balance 

As a young, working millennial mother with many responsibilities, Kalena finds enjoyment from the simple things in life, like cleaning up the kitchen after a long day of work and providing a nutritious beef meal for her family. She also relishes looking out the early-morning window at the beautiful country landscape. It’s a rewarding feeling as she takes pride in what is accomplished each day and knows she gives her all to provide for her family.

Kalena at work.

Being a full-time CPA, Kalena’s “time off” from her business, is “time on” at the farm. Kalena and her sister, Chelsea, own and manage Integrity Squared, a CPA firm in Bolivar. When Kalena is not helping entrepreneurs and small business owners like herself with their financial plans, strategies, payroll and taxes, she’s raking hay, feeding cows, checking water sources, running for machinery parts or making a meal for various family members. Kalena’s entire family has off-the-farm careers, along with the many responsibilities of the ranch.   

Peggy, Kalena’s mother, is the county clerk for Cedar County. Her father, Lynden, owns and operates a construction business and Kalena’s husband, Billy, is an auctioneer and real estate agent. Kalena’s brother-in-law, Josh, works at Hammons Black Walnuts in Stockton. So, as contrary as it may sound, working on the farm is sometimes a break for the whole family. Managing the farms and taking care of their animals provides a common ground for the family and it makes time for them to be together. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Kalena. “Sometimes it’s stressful working with your family, but most of the time I enjoy it, and love that my family is always there for support when I need them.”

So how do they make it all work? Kalena says it’s all about finding a balance. “Some days are easier than others, but at the end of the day, even with all the running and gunning, my number one priority is making sure my daughter, Willa Grace, is safe, taken care of and loved,” added Kalena. Even though it’s often in the early hours of the morning before anyone in the house is awake, Kalena tries to make a little time each day for herself. “Twenty minutes on the couch with a book and a cup of coffee at 4:00 a.m. and I’m ready for the day,” she said. 

Kalena encourages other young mothers, regardless of their career or interests, to get involved in organizations where people can meet and talk to others going through the same daily challenges. For Kalena, Missouri Farm Bureau and Cedar County Cattlemen’s Association are her volunteer organizations. She can meet, visit and learn from others to help her be a better rancher and mother. Her time with Missouri Farm Bureau has allowed Kalena to make an impact on important agriculture issues and government policies that affect her and her family, their farm and similar farmers and ranchers across the country. 

Cattle on the ranch.

Working with a Purpose

Kalena is very passionate about sharing the story of Missouri agriculture. She spent over 200 days on the road in 2017 traveling across the country, touring farms and ranches, and advocating for her industry and the livelihood of fellow farmers and ranchers at the nation’s capital in Washington D.C.  

Serving on Missouri Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher Committee, Kalena set out with the purpose to find creative solutions for issues farmers like her and her family face on a daily basis. Her journey led her to the White House where she would attend a press conference in the Rose Garden and shake hands with President Trump.   

Kalena had the opportunity to eat lunch with Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay, where they discussed important agriculture issues for Americans and Canadians, and the critical role trade agreements play in their success.  She also worked with the Senate Finance Committee staff on the tax reform bill to help identify solutions to benefit farmers and ranchers in rural communities across the nation.   

When asked what fuels her passion to take on the leadership role she has, Kalena says she looks to her family’s children for motivation. Kalena’s daughter along with niece, Meloney, and nephews, Henry and Jakob inspire her to take action. “They’re going to need clean water. They’re going to need a place to raise their children,” said Kalena. “We need to stand up and make our voice heard so our children will have the same opportunities we have had,” she continued.   

Willa helping out with the cattle.

Kalena’s family is also involved in agri-tourism. People tour their operation and learn about what is involved in animal agriculture, what they do and why they do it. The agri-tourism component provides a great venue for Kenny Family Farms to learn from the public and gain an outside perspective to help them continue to grow and improve their ranch.

Farm Family Values 

Kalena takes pride in the lifestyle the ranch provides for her daughter and future family.   

“The ranch helps us teach Willa that, at times, you have to put other things before your own needs,” says Kalena. “Our animals need to be fed, and they are very well taken care of. Sometimes, it’s feeding a bottle calf early in the morning or late at night; sometimes it’s taking care of a sick animal, or, it can just be part of our daily feeding regiment. We always want what’s in the best interest for our animals, because that’s what is in the best interest for us.” 

Willa, age 3, loves to dump feed in the troughs for the animals and fill up water tanks with the water hose. This is all part of the exceptional care and handling animals receive at the ranch. Kalena has learned that happy cows make a ranch more successful and produce better beef as a result. 

One of the most important values Kalena believes the farm provides for her family and daughter is the value of perseverance. She prefers to lead by example and shows her daughter, day in and day out, what it means to give something your all. When things don’t go right, whether it’s a hailstorm damaging an alfalfa crop or a cow losing a calf, Kalena is proud that her daughter is learning the value of perseverance through her experience on the farm - a value that will serve her well in whatever her future may hold.