From Toy Tractors to the Real Deal: S.D. Secretary of Agriculture Shares His Farm Story & Thoughts on Current Crisis

October 26, 2016

By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

Like many young farm boys, long before Mike Jaspers was harvesting a crop in the field, he was on his hands and knees, harvesting off the floors in his parents’ home.

“If dad was out harvesting, I was in the basement with my toy combine harvesting,” recalls the fifth-generation Marshall County family farmer, ‘88-89 State FFA President, former legislator and current South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture.

As he reflects on the journey which led him to accept Governor Daugaard’s request to serve as Secretary of Agriculture starting July 5, 2016, Jaspers explains that although his passion for public service was developed in college, his passion for agriculture was nurtured from the start. It started long before he was old enough to drive a tractor.

“I’m a typical kid who grew up on a farm. You live your mom and dad’s business. It’s just part of who we are as South Dakota ag producers. You grow up with it and that passion for agriculture becomes part of who you are,” explains the 1993 South Dakota State University graduate.

Mature enough to remember the ag economy of the late 70s, Jaspers is no stranger to the current challenges facing South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers.

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Last Modified: 10/26/2016 11:10:18 am MDT

Schaefers Siblings Say Growing Up on the Farm Prepared Them to Serve

October 25, 2016

Schaefers siblings – farm kids and soldiers: Sam, Paivi, Josie and Paul. Their youngest brother,  
Jacob, is pictured right. 

By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

Growing up actively involved in their family’s fourth-generation South Dakota farm prepared Josie Ries and four of her siblings well for military service.

“There are so many times on the farm or in our small farming community of Polo when we did things bigger than ourselves ­ not just on our family’s farm, but for others in our community,” explains Josie, who joined the Army National Guard as a junior in high school. “Being a soldier is similar. You develop a strong sense of family and community with the people you serve with and you have this awesome sense of doing something bigger than you.”

When she signed up in 1996, Josie was the first of five Schaefers siblings to serve. The second oldest of seven children, Josie said she was inspired by older cousins and neighbors who served, as well as the fact that in their small community of Polo, patriotism is celebrated.

“We always had the best Fourth of July and Memorial Day celebrations,” Josie recalls.

She was only 17, so her parents, Fred and Cheryl Schaefers, had to sign for her.

Her brother, Paul, adds that in Polo, the Legion is one of only a few buildings left in the town. “Our Legion plays a big role in the community; making donations to local ball programs and helping with funerals and celebrations,” explains Paul, 31, who deployed to Iraq in 2006 and now farms full-time. Paul and his wife, Blair, a registered nurse, live in Polo.

Paul was a recent high school graduate when Josie deployed to Iraq in 2003.

He and his other siblings all credit Josie, in part, with inspiring them to serve. “It felt like the right thing to do,” explains Paul, who didn’t wait to be called up, but instead volunteered to deploy in 2006 with an infantry guard unit from Michigan. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. I wanted to do my part.”

By 2012, his brother, Sam, and sister, Paivi Stone, and their youngest brother, Jacob, were also enlisted.

As the youngest of seven, Jacob says even though he was the baby, he wasn’t coddled at home on the farm. “Once they all left I had to do a lot of work on the farm, plus help my mom with her catering business.”

Jacob says the work ethic and ability to stick with a job until it was done that he developed on the family’s crop and livestock farm served him well in his role as a Marine. “When something breaks on the farm, you may not know what is wrong or how to fix it, but you will get it figured out,” Jacob says.

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Last Modified: 10/26/2016 8:35:09 am MDT

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Schaefers Farm Family

October 25, 2016

By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

When Cheryl and Fred Schaefers tied the knot 40 years ago, the two farm kids shared a strong passion for farming. And, along with crops and livestock, the couple wanted to raise a large family.

“We originally wanted 12 kids. Fred is the youngest of 9 and I am the second oldest of six ­ we wanted a house full of noise and love,” Cheryl says.

Today, the active grandparents reflect on raising their seven children on the farm and say they wouldn’t change a thing. Their children include: Belle Schaefers, Josie Ries, Maureen “Mo” Wernsmann, Sam Schaefers, Paul Schaefers, Paivi Stone and Jacob Schaefers.

“What better way of life is there?” Fred asks.

“The kids all learned to care for life and that every life is important ­ because they understood that it mattered to the farm’s bottom line,” Cheryl added.

The early years were busy, but happy. All seven of their children were born two years apart. “Whatever we were doing, I’d just pack up the kids and bring them along. We even put a swing in the milk parlor so the baby could watch us and swing while we milked,” Cheryl says.

The couple began milking their first Holstein just 10 days after they married. It was 1976 and Fred says Hand County was full of small 50 to 75-cow dairies. “There was money in dairying. It was a good steady income.

At one time there were at least 30 to 40 dairies in Hand County.” Slowly, they expanded their dairy herd to 80 cows.

The entire family helped with milking. As a young kid, Paul recalls carrying buckets of grain to each stanchion. “Then we installed an automatic feeder,” Paul remembers.

“You were replaced by technology,” his wife, Blair, jokes.

Paul and Blair celebrated their first anniversary this May. Like Paul, Blair grew up on a farm. “This way of life isn’t new to me,” explains Blair, who works as a nurse for Faulkton Area Medical Center and Good Samaritan nursing home in Miller.

Paul says the farming lifestyle was one reason he wanted to return to his family’s farm full-time after completing a deployment. Paul and four of his siblings are veterans.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Last Modified: 10/26/2016 8:37:16 am MDT

Farmers Union Feeds Farmers During Harvest

October 4, 2016

During harvest, mornings come early for South Dakota farmers like Greg Mehling.

 By 7 a.m. the Wessington farmer and his son, Cole are greasing combines or they are behind the wheel en route to the local elevator to unload trucks. By mid-morning they are in the field combining soybeans. That's where Greg and Cole will be until about 9 p.m.

"Sure the days are long, but this is my favorite time of year," says the fourth-generation farmer who raises corn, soybeans and some wheat.

 Working within a small window of time allocated by Mother Nature to get the crop harvested before the weather turns, Mehling explains that there is no time to stop - even for meals. So, when Mehling was handed a sack lunch as he was unloading at Wheat Growers' Wolsey elevator the other day, he says it was appreciated.

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Last Modified: 10/04/2016 7:36:34 am MDT

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Greenway Farm Family

September 27, 2016

South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s number one industry and help feed the world.

This month, we’re highlighting the Greenway family who raise crops and operate a wean-to-finish hog and cow/calf operation near Mitchell.

By Lura Roti for SDFU

A $200 scholarship from the Davison County Pork Producers in 1984 launched Mitchell farmer, Brad Greenway, on an ag advocacy journey which has placed him in front of thousands of consumers coast-to-coast and around the world sharing his story.

“That scholarship got me involved,” explains the third-generation pork producer.

Brad’s engagement in Davison County Pork Producers motivated him to become active in the S.D. Pork Producers Council (he served as president from 2005-2007), as well as the National Pork Board and the advocacy training program called Operation Main Street.

After providing Brad with training on how to share his farm’s story and how to put together presentations, Operation Main Street took the legwork out of advocacy by scheduling speaking engagements with local civic organizations, dietetic groups, county commissioners, and schools, as well as national and international sharing opportunities.

Since he started sharing his story in 2005, Brad has presented to more than115 groups.

Brad explains that putting a face to the food produced makes all the difference.

“I spoke to a big anti-ag/anti-big ag group, and following my presentation a woman in the back stood up to say that after hearing me speak, she trusted me when I said that animal comfort is a priority for us and we take care of our pigs. Then she asked, ‘How do I know that other farmers are doing the same thing?’ This is why advocacy is so important.”

“Even though we're very busy, it's important for farmers to share with consumers how we are growing food and why we do what we do," explains Peggy, who makes time to post photos on Facebook and Twitter as well as serve as a spokeswoman with Soybean Council’s Common Ground advocacy group.

“Terms like ‘factory farming’ are put on farms like ours because of misperceptions. We need to dispel myths and remind consumers that 98 percent of all farms are still family-owned.”

Brad adds that even farmers and ranchers who don’t feel they have the time or feel comfortable presenting, can do their part by making sure their neighbors and friends understand what they do on the farm. “Zoning issues come up because our neighbors simply don’t know what is going on,” Brad says.

He adds, “Today there is such a disconnect among consumers as each generation is farther removed from the farm. Even here in South Dakota - we drive 8 miles off the farm to Mitchell and there are plenty who don’t know what we are doing here on the farm.”

Brad and Peggy have a lot to share. To learn more about the Greenway family and view a video as well as an online photo gallery, click here. 

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Last Modified: 09/27/2016 8:51:25 am MDT

South Dakota Family Farmers and Ranchers Join 275 Farmers Union Members in D.C. for Fall Legislative Fly-In

September 14, 2016

Twenty-six family farmers, ranchers and Farmers Union members from South Dakota joined with some 275 farmers and ranchers from across the nation in Washington D.C. for the National Farmers Union (NFU) Fall Legislative Fly-In Sept. 12-14, 2016.

 "We are facing some challenging times on farms and ranches across South Dakota right now. This Fly-In provides an excellent opportunity for those of us who are actively involved in the day-to-day operations on our farms and ranches to visit with Congressional leaders about the issues we face and ways they can provide support," explained Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 The annual event allows Farmers Union members from across the country to meet directly with lawmakers, USDA leaders and other administration officials to discuss issues important to family farmers and ranchers.

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Last Modified: 09/16/2016 11:30:16 am MDT

Panelists Discuss Amendment T during Voice of the Voters Event at the State Fair

September 6, 2016

On Election Day 2016 South Dakota voters will have an opportunity to vote for fair elections by voting 'yes' for Amendment T.

 Amendment T is a ballot measure sponsored by #SDRightThing2Do Coalition which South Dakota Farmers Union supports. Amendment T puts voters back in charge of their elections, explains Matt Sibley, South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Specialist during a panel discussion hosted by the agriculture organization today at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron.

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Last Modified: 09/06/2016 10:43:50 am MDT

Fairgoers Eat a Great Meal Today for Just $1

September 6, 2016

Fair food is known for its tempting aromas - not its bargain prices. Today however, more than 1,000 fairgoers filled their bellies for just a $1 during the South Dakota Farmers Union Farmers Share Luncheon held at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron.

 The hearty meal, consisting of a pulled pork sandwich, baked beans, potato chips and milk, is designed by Farmers Union to clearly demonstrate to fairgoers how much of the grocery store price tag South Dakota's farmers and ranchers take home after harvesting the crops or livestock they raise.

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Last Modified: 09/06/2016 10:42:20 am MDT

2016 Rural Dakota Pride Award Honorees Recognized Today During Farmers Union Day at the S.D. State Fair

September 6, 2016

Each year, South Dakota Farmers Union recognizes individuals who give back to their communities with the Rural Dakota Pride Award. Today, during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair, the following South Dakotans were recognized: 

Bryan Breitling, Miller; Doug Edwards, South Hand County; Sharon Wilson, Black Hawk and Tim Pravecek, Winner.

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Last Modified: 09/06/2016 10:40:13 am MDT

2016 Farmers Union Quiz Bowl Encourages Youth to Think about Farm & Ranch Safety

September 6, 2016

McCook Central FFA Chapter won the championship round of the Farmers Union Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl held today during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron.

 McCook Central FFA Chapter is one of four FFA Chapters which placed in the Farmers Union Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl held in conjunction with the 2016 South Dakota State FFA Convention this April in Brookings.

Team members of the McCook Central FFA Chapter include: Cole Grasma, Melissa Lauck, Jordan Scheier and Leslie Kolbeck: Other FFA Chapters who competed and their team members include: Viborg/Hurley FFA Chapter, team members include: Alison Knutson, Logan Slack, Abby Hora and Annie Wirth: Sunshine Bible FFA Chapter, team members include; Chris Hass, Evan Lopez, Shelby Belmare and Titus Deal: and the Lyman FFA Chapter, team members include; Sage Mowery, Conrad Mohr-Eymer, Eli Fanning and Grant Stewart.

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Last Modified: 09/06/2016 10:35:51 am MDT