S.D. Farmers Union President Elected Chairman of Farmers Union Enterprises

February 13, 2017

Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union was recently Elected Chairman of Farmers Union Enterprises board of directors.

 "I am eager to continue to guide this organization whose goal is to do everything we can to help family farmers and ranchers," said Sombke, of the organization which oversees Farmers Union Industries.

 Farmers Union Industries is made up of several businesses - the dividends of which go to help fund Farmers Union organizations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin as well as Farmers Union Enterprise programs and National Farmers Union.

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Last Modified: 02/13/2017 9:32:37 am MST

Orient and Seneca Youth Say Involvement in Farmers Union Prepared them for College

February 13, 2017

Jesse Carlson, Seneca, and Reece Schultz, Orient, were selected to serve on the 2016-2017 Senior Advisory Council during the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre December 2016.

 In this role, Carlson, a freshman studying Economics at South Dakota State University, and Schultz, a freshman studying Production Innovation at Dakota State University, will provide advice and act as mentors to the six members of the Farmers Union Youth Advisory Council. The Youth Advisory Council helps organize and plan Farmers Union State Leadership camp each year.

 Below, the college students visit about what they look forward to in this new leadership role and discuss how the personal leadership development and communication skills they developed through Farmers Union educational programming has helped them during their first year of college.

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Last Modified: 02/13/2017 8:36:12 am MST

Taylor Aubrey Receives S.D. Farmers Union Foundation Graduate Scholarship

February 9, 2017

Her passion for being around livestock and the people who depend upon them for their livelihood is what attracted Taylor Aubrey to pursue a master's degree focused on dairy production.

 "I enjoy working with producers and the close connection to our food system," explains the South Dakota State University graduate student and the 2017 recipient of the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation $2,500 Graduate Scholarship.

 Developed to support students pursuing graduate degrees in agriculture, the SDFU Foundation scholarship is one of several scholarships the grassroots organization sponsors each year.

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Last Modified: 02/09/2017 7:57:02 am MST

Two PE Teachers Working Together to Keep the Family Farm

February 2, 2017

Feb. 2, 2017
Two PE Teachers Working Together to Keep the Family Farm: The Story of the GooseMobile 

Sixty-four years ago Ruth (Iburg) and Tom Neuberger embarked on their life's adventure together beginning with a road-trip from South Dakota to Ft. Benning, Georgia, where Tom's orders were awaiting them.

Along the way, the State College graduates took in several collegiate football games. Not your typical honeymoon, but perfect entertainment for two physical education teachers.

Before the couple became known for the GooseMobile, their Canistota-based, direct marketing, farm-to-table business, they were commuting to their first job together as high school physical education teachers.

It was 1955 and gym classes looked much different than they do today. "The girls all wore navy blue uniforms and when I taught aerobics, I had a piano accompanist," Ruth says.

She begins to giggle at the memory of leading the class of 90 girls through a routine ­ balanced on a raised platform about the size of her kitchen table. "I was responsible for teaching 550 girls. This job taught me a lot about organization skills I ended up utilizing years later when I was manager of the Downtown Farmers Market."

Not long after her stint as a PE teacher, Ruth gave up her career to stay at home with the couple's only son, Tim.
"We were only blessed with one child and it took us a long time, so I was determined to stay home," Ruth explains.

Tom, in the meantime, was building his career as a collegiate wrestling coach.

By the time his dad, Walter, called to say he was ready to retire and ask if Tom wanted to take over the family farm, Tom was the athletic director, basketball coach and soccer coach at Concordia Lutheran College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"Dad was old school. He said, 'Because you are the oldest, you get the first opportunity,'" explains Tom. "Growing up, my interest was sports. I had no real interest in agriculture. I grew up on this farm, but for my future, why, I wanted to be a teacher and a coach."

A couple of faith, they prayed for wisdom. In the end, it was their middle-school-age son, Tim, who tipped the scale.

"It was the early 70s and in Ann Arbor, it was a time of free love. Even the junior high students were demanding smoking rooms. I wanted to get out of there before my one and only child was polluted by these crazy ideas," Ruth explains.

Although Tom had not planned to return to the farm, he could see the value in moving his family back to South Dakota and in the end, he says the skills he developed as a coach proved invaluable back on the farm.

"When I was coaching, I had a bunch of human beings who I was trying to organize and do the right things with to get them to win. Now, on the farm, here I am, working with cows, pigs, sheep and poultry organizing them to make it work," Tom explained.

And it did work.

That is, until the Farm Crisis of the late 70s and early 80s hit.

Tom figured out the farm could provide for the family if they built up their livestock operation to 100 cows, 100 pigs and 100 sheep. When the markets fell, it didn't take long before the 20 percent interest they were paying on the livestock loan caught up with them.

"I farmed the way my dad did. Then one day I was doing the bookwork and I figured out that we had paid more interest than we'd gotten paid. We had to do something different," Tom says.

Instead of returning to his coaching career, Tom became determined to stick it out and make things work.

This decision didn't surprise Ruth.

"When he was a wrestler in college he had one record. He never got pinned," Ruth explains. "He is a strong-willed person; he will work, and work, and work, until it works."

They began selling off the cattle and started looking into direct marketing.

"I liked to garden so I thought, 'Why not?'" Ruth says.

A people person, Ruth enjoyed the weekly trip to sell her garden vegetables at the Sioux Falls Farmers Market.

"The reason we've been so successful with direct marketing is more her than me. She is more of a people person than I am," Tom explains. "Customers will call in an order and then visit with Ruth for 15 or 20 minutes."

Not shy about their personality differences, Ruth explains that the reason they have worked so well together on the farm for nearly 45 years is that they share a strong faith, keeping God at the center of their marriage, and they each focus on their niche. "We help each other when we need help," Ruth explains. "But we each have our own way of doing things."

Farmers Markets were a rather new concept in 1978, and the Downtown Farmers Market in Sioux Falls had a few growing pains to work through.

Ruth became the group's first chairperson, organized committees and on Tom's urging, worked to develop a price structure for all vendors which was fair.

"Tom said, 'You got to make money. You need to help organize the members so you are not all competing against each other.'"

While Ruth was building up their direct market business, Tom began rebuilding the farm with poultry ­ geese, chickens and turkeys. There was not an independent poultry processing plant in the area; he started a poultry processing plant in Humboldt.

From the start, the couple determined that the livestock they raised would be free range, grass-fed and raised without hormones or antibiotics.

So, when Ruth read an article that geese are an almost disease-free animal and Tom learned that there was an international export market, they didn't hesitate. The first year they raised 1,000 geese.

The goose export market closed a few years later. So, for a few years, the couple joined with other South Dakota geese producers and purchased small refrigerator trucks and direct marketed the meat to rural communities.

"The GooseMobile was not started by us, but by the members of the South Dakota Goose Association. In those days, South Dakota was the number one goose-producing state in the nation. When the organization dissolved, we bought them out and kept the GooseMobile routes going," Tom explained.

Over the years the GMO-free, grass fed, free range meat niche meat business evolved.

Eventually demand for their meat products began to grow among their produce customers. At first it was up to Ruth and Tom to educate their customers on the value of their naturally raised meat. Today, their customers educate themselves and have introduced some unique value-added opportunities.

"It's so funny: today we sell bones and fat and we never used to," says Ruth, of the products purchased to make homemade broth.

Today, at 85 and 86, the couple is looking to slow down, sell their business and after 64 years of marriage, embark on yet another adventure together.

To listen to Tom and Ruth visit about their life together and The GooseMobile, visit after February 15, 2017 and click on the Radio Show link.

Courtesy of S.D. Farmers Union
Sixty-four years ago Ruth (Iburg) and Tom Neuberger embarked on their life's adventure together. Today, at 85 and 86, the couple is looking to slow down, sell their business, The GooseMobile, and embark on yet another adventure together.

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Last Modified: 02/02/2017 11:49:11 am MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Kenzy Ranch Family

January 31, 2017

By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union

 Ralph Kenzy used to tell his sons, “You can’t put it all in your pocketbook.”

 “He meant that agriculture is a lot more than money,” explains his oldest son, Brett, 45. “You get to be on the land, raising your kids. You get to work with crops and cattle. You’re never going to get rich ranching … there’s more than dollar bills that make you rich.”

 Brett has worked on the family ranch since childhood ­except for a short break to serve in the Army and attend college. “I came back because I missed the community, the home base, this tie to the land,” Brett explains.

 His brother, George, 40, adds:  “My dream was always here.”

 Like his older brother, George only left the Gregory ranch long enough to get a degree ­ and even when they were college students, the fourth-generation cattle producers drove home to work every weekend.

 Listening to the brothers/business partners visit about raising their children and cattle on the family’s ranch, it is clear that Ralph’s philosophy lives on through his sons. Ralph passed away in 2012.

 “I kind of figured they would come home to ranch because they were home every weekend to work,” says their mom, Millie.

 To read more, click here. 

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Last Modified: 01/31/2017 10:51:26 am MST

Alexandria Farmer Shares Her Thoughts on Faith, Family, Farming and Outreach

January 9, 2017

It was the first day of school 2006 and LeAnn's phone rang. Her son, Chet's, preschool teacher was calling.

 "She said, 'LeAnn I think we have a problem. At the end of the day Chet packed up his bag and said, 'Thanks Mrs. Lanners. I had a great day, but I won't be back.'" 

 Taking the conversation in stride, LeAnn (Neugebauer) Moe met Chet as he got off the bus and set about showing the four-year-old the value of education by making connections between school and their family's Alexandria farm.

 "We asked him to count the cows in the pasture, reminding him that in school he will learn how to count. We asked him if he wanted to help the guys spray in the field and then explained that he needed to learn science to do that.

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Last Modified: 01/09/2017 8:52:18 am MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrates the Mehling Farm Family

January 2, 2017

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 feature the Mehling family who raise crops and cattle southwest of Wessington. 

by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union

Ask Greg Mehling, 53, what his favorite Christmas gift was as a child and without hesitation he names the miniature thrashing machine his dad built for him.

“The summer Greg was 6 we took him to Prairie Village. He came home needing a thrashing machine, so I worked in the garage every night until Christmas,” recalls Greg’s dad, Roy, 74.

The fourth-generation farmer’s early introduction to farm equipment didn’t stop with toys. By 7, Greg was driving a tractor. “Farming’s kinda in my blood. I enjoy it,” he explains.

After a brief detour to Lake Area Technical Institute and a few job interviews, Greg knew that even though times were tough, farming was the only career for him.

“It was the 80s, so the farming deal wasn’t really good, but after a few job interviews, I knew that farming was the only work I wanted to do,” Greg explains.

To read more, click here 

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Last Modified: 01/02/2017 7:10:28 am MST

South Dakota Farmers Union Awards $500 Scholarships to Three South Dakota Youth

December 28, 2016

During the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre Dec. 8-9, South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation awarded three $500 scholarships to young people committed to attending a South Dakota college, university or technical school; and are children of parents who are current dues-paying members of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 The scholarship recipients are Haley Bialas, Dimock; Reece Schulte, Orient; and Samuel Schumacher, Stickney.

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Last Modified: 12/28/2016 8:29:16 am MST

Tracy Chase Recognized with S.D. Farmers Union 2016 Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award

December 28, 2016

When it comes to providing opportunities for McCook county youth, the 2016 recipient of the S.D. Farmers Union Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award, Tracy Chase, doesn't say 'no.' 

 She said 'yes' when the High School Agriculture Education Instructor, Terry Rieckman, asked the science teacher to take on some agriculture education classes. "He said, 'What do you think about us working together?' FFA provides great opportunities for students, so I began teaching Animal Science, Agriculture Foods and Natural Resources classes,'" recalls Chase, who grew up on a McCook County dairy farm.

 Twelve years ago, she also said 'yes' when Farmers Union District 2 President, Jim Wahl, asked if she would serve as the Education Director for McCook County. "You have to provide opportunities for kids and South Dakota Farmers Union does just that," says Tracy, of why she accepted the additional responsibility.

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Last Modified: 12/28/2016 8:13:26 am MST

Rural Youth Recognized with 2016 S.D. Farmers Union Torchbearer Award During S.D. Farmers Union State Convention

December 20, 2016

Rural youth were recognized today for their commitment to community and leadership skills with the Torchbearer Award during an awards banquet held during the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre, Dec. 8-9, 2016.

 Torchbearer is the highest level for South Dakota Farmers Union Education Achievement. This achievement showcases the time and dedication campers have given over the years to the education department as well as the communities they have served. A special thanks to their families whom supported this process and ensured campers were able to attend camp and other activities.

 "South Dakota Farmers Union invests in youth starting at a young age to ensure the next generation of leaders in our rural communities. We appreciate these youth and their families who have invested in this program and are dedicated to the traditions and skills the program embeds in the students," said S.D. Farmers Union Education Director, Rachel Haigh-Blume.

 The 2016 Torchbearers include; Madelyn Kline, Huron, daughter of Neal and Kristin Kline; Jonah Murtha, Parkston, son of Becky and Kevin Murtha; Shaun Snedeker, Woonsocket, son of Mark and Lisa Snedeker; Cole Van Gorp, Stickney, son of Randy and Jan Van Gorp; Abbey Tschetter, Huron, daughter of Lisa Tschetter; Braeden Walton, son of Scott and Lisa Walton, Mitchell and Reece Schulte, son of Mark and Jil Schulte, Orient.

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Last Modified: 12/20/2016 9:46:50 am MST