Posts for June 2019

SD Farmers Union Celebrates Beitelspacher Farm Family

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By Lura Roti, for SDFU

Mark Beitelspacher followed his heart’s calling when he returned to his family’s cattle and crop operation near Bowdle in 2004, just a few years after college.

“Either your heart is into it, or it isn’t. I’ve always been into the livestock side more than farming,” explains the third-generation cattleman, who also raises corn, soybeans and wheat.

Loving what he does day-in and day-out is important, especially when working conditions were what they were this calving season. “This was the first year, in a long time, that it got so bad with snow that I had to check cattle with a tractor instead of the four-wheeler,” Mark, 43, says. “The death loss on the calf crop during those April blizzards was pretty high this year. And then with the rain this spring, even hauling cattle out to pasture is a challenge.”

At their worst, the blizzards dropped 2 feet of snow on Edmunds County, shutting down Highway 12, which runs right through their farm. Sharon Beitelspacher, Mark’s mom, says she’s never seen a spring like 2019 when the area received a total of 115 inches of snow.

“It just didn’t give up. It kept coming and coming,” says Sharon, who together with her husband, Richard, raised their four children, on the farm where Mark and his wife, Tara, now live and raise their sons, Bryce, 15, and Brady, 13. Mark has two sisters, Krecia and Kindra, and a brother, Lance.

“We are very, very happy Mark is continuing the farm. And his two boys are super great. They are such good helpers. Fun to see them grow up and take on more responsibility and do things that Richard and I used to do,” says Sharon. She adds that raising her children on the farm taught them responsibility and gave them opportunities. “They learned responsibility, yet we had fun times, we were involved in 4-H, and family outings always revolved around livestock shows. To take a resort vacation was not in our plan, it was always structured around livestock shows or Rangeland Days. I remember taking kids to Rangeland Days and learning different grasses. Even today, my daughters still take their kids to Rangeland Days.” 

The couple moved onto the place in the early 1970s. Richard, like Mark, loved cattle and was a purebred breeder. Mark continues to raise purebred Angus and Simmental herds.

“We like the genetics, which are good for implementing into crossbred programs,” explains Mark, who is always working to improve herd genetics. “I breed for lightweight calves. I’m also looking for efficient calves, so they get up and grow fast. Pounds pay, especially when I sell bulls to guys who are selling calves off the cow.”

The family holds an annual sale the final Friday in February every year where they sell 80-90 head of Simm X Angus and Purebred Angus bulls.

When Mark moved back to farm full time 15 years ago, he and his wife, Tara, found a home in town – only 2 miles from the farm.

He rents crop and pasture acres from his parents and they run their cattle together. In 2017, when Richard and Sharon decided, to build a new home, Mark and Tara and their sons moved onto the family’s farm.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity. In my mind, my end goal is to pass the farm onto these two (Brady and Bryce) to keep it going for the next generation,” Mark explains. “We’re still transitioning. The decision-making is all on my shoulders now, but my mom still helps out and does all the cattle records.”

Since they were little, Bryce and Brady have helped out quite a bit. “They are definitely learning skills they would never learn otherwise,” Tara says. “I went out with Bryce a couple times during calving and I thought I’d need to call Mark out to help, but he pulled the calves and took care of everything like a pro.”

Following in their dad’s footsteps, Bryce and Brady enjoy working with cattle and are both avid showman – which means a lot of work year-round, Brady explains. “We get up early to wash and blow our show calves every day.”
Their work often pays off. During the 2018 South Dakota State Fair, they received third overall in the 4-H market beef show. Bryce achieved several top five showmanship mentions in the past year, but is most proud of winning the overall showmanship title at the American Royal in Kansas City. His steer was also in the top six – receiving reserve champion in the Division III Category of the Jr. Market Show.

Mark and Tara are both 4-H alumni and currently serve as Busy Bowdle Stars 4-H Club leaders. “We wanted to make sure to offer the opportunity because we were both in 4-H and enjoyed it and learned a lot from it,” explains Tara, who spent her summers growing up traveling from farm to farm throughout Texas, Kansas and Colorado, custom harvesting and completing 4-H projects.

“One year, my sister, Jada, and I each had 60 4-H projects – that is no joke.”

Tara says she gained a lot of communication and business management skills from 4-H, serving as a state FFA officer and watching her parents, Perry and Candice Hoffman, manage the harvesting crew. Today, as the owner of Bowdle and Eureka’s newspapers, The Pride and Northwest Blade, she leads a team of seven part-time employees as they work together to meet weekly print deadlines.

“Those experiences definitely shaped how I work with people,” she says. “My dad had to trust and train a lot of people who were running big equipment – and they were not all in the same area or field.”

Tara and her sister began The Pride in 2007 when the previous owner passed away the year prior and were asked to purchase the Northwest Blade when its owners were ready to retire. “Our local newspapers are like the scrapbooks of the community. Everyone looks to them for history of how a community evolves. Regional papers don’t have the ability or want, to encompass local things that happen in small, rural communities.”

In addition to cattle, the family also raises crops, implementing no-till and other conservation practices like maintaining a crop rotation that includes cover crops. “Dad started no-till because this is sandy soil and it helps conserve as much moisture as we can,” Mark explains.
Cover crops build up organic matter and provide extra grazing for their cattle. “Cover crops also help with compaction and water infiltration – especially in a year like this.”

Mark adds that the cattle love turnips, which have large tubular roots that help break up compaction. “They get to be about a foot in diameter. You can’t believe how the cows dig them up to eat them because they love them.” 

To view additional photos of the Beitelspacher family, click here.

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FSA Director Speaks on Disaster Relief During S.D. Farmers Union Young Producer Event July 19 and 20

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 Whether you’re a crop or cattle producer, extreme weather and market instability make for a challenging 2019 growing season. S.D. Farmers Union offers young producers an opportunity to gain insight into disaster relief, cattle care and enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the Missouri River during the July 19 & 20 Young Producer Event held at Cedar Shores Resort, Chamberlain.

“This is a good opportunity for spouses to get off the farm or ranch and take some time themselves, learn from experts and network with other young producers,” says Amber Kolousek, who farms with her husband Scott and his parents near Wessington Springs. “Farmers Union does a good job selecting relevant topics. It seems that no matter who you listen to, some speaker hits on something you want to learn more about and you get take-homes that make it worth attending.”

Scott and Amber attended the 2018 Young Producer Event, and Amber said it was refreshing to visit with producers from across the state. “Sometimes farmers feel isolated. It is nice to talk to other people who understand how things are because they farm too. And, maybe they are doing things a bit different than you, so you can learn from each other.”

Supporting young producers is the focus of the annual two-day event, hosted at no cost for members and only $50 for non-members. “Our organization works to provide them with opportunities for education and connection because we know how valuable they are to the future of our state’s number one industry – not to mention our rural communities,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President. “Today’s young producers are tomorrow’s leaders.”

Speaker & registration information
When organizing the Young Producers Event, SDFU Member Services Coordinator Rocky Forman reflected on current challenges and opportunities and invited experts to address topics including: Paul Shubeck, South Dakota Farm Service Agency Director to discuss Disaster Relief Bill; Michael Oster, Agriculture Advocacy & Telling Your Story; Marty Michalek, First Dakota National Bank, How to Work With Your Banker and Jesse Cruse, Veterinarian, Huron Vet Hospital, Cattle Care. Saturday afternoon will feature a pontoon cruise of the river.

“It’s our hope that producers have an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers that will help them out when they return home. We also hope through this experience they connect with other South Dakota producers and have an opportunity to feel refreshed,” Forman says. “It’s been a tough calving and planting season. We hope this event offers some encouragement as well.”

To attend the July 19-20 Young Producers Event, fill out the registration form found at and click on the education tab. Or call Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator at 605-350-3421.

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Get to Know 2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honoree, Rich Bakeberg, Frederick

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When the Cenex station in Frederick closed, the closest fueling option was 12 miles away in Ellendale, N.D. So, members of the Frederick Development Corporation began searching for other options.

The plan they finally went with was a creative one. The Development Corporation built a self-service fuel station and lease the facility to Agtegra. The local cooperative takes care of everything else.

“After going without a local gas station for quite a while, this was a big success for us and our community,” explains Rich Bakeberg, volunteer chair of the Development Corporation and a 2019 recipient of South Dakota Farmers Union Rural Dakota Pride honor.

A longtime resident of Frederick, Rich donates his time to projects that help make Frederick a community welcoming to young families. Like he and his wife, Gayle, were when they moved to town to raise their family 44 years ago.

“Our focus is to keep Frederick thriving and growing – any opportunities we can create to get new families to the community we will work to do,” explains Rich, who retired four years ago, and then went back to work part-time when Frederick needed a part-time Maintenance manager.

For more than four decades he has served as a volunteer firefighter and spent 25 years with the volunteer ambulance service. For years he kept score for high school basketball games, and when the school needed a bus driver for away games, Rich passed the test so he could do the job.

“I figured, I have three sons and this way I get to watch every game courtside. I was blessed, we got to watch eight Class B State Tournaments while I was volunteer score keeper,” Rich, a veteran, shares. “Frederick is a good place to live and it was a good place to raise my family, and our school system is terrific. We have smaller class size, so students don’t get lost in the crowd.”

In fact, the Frederick Area School has such a good reputation, students from 30 miles away in Aberdeen choose to open enroll. To make it an easy decision for families, the school funds a bus to pick up and drop off students.

“We hope that some of the students’ families will be impressed enough with Frederick that they want to move here,” he says.

In fact, some student’s families have inquired about moving to Frederick, but housing availability was an obstacle. Fortunately, increasing housing options is another project the Development Corporation has undertaken since Rich joined the board more than two decades ago. Currently the organization manages eight apartments, and this summer they will fund the building of a four-bedroom home.

“I get to work with a lot of great people,” Bakeberg explains. “In small towns, we all need to volunteer and help out wherever we can. For me, Frederick is my number one priority.”

More about Rural Dakota Pride

Rich is one of five volunteers recognized for their selfless contributions to South Dakota rural communities by South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) with the 2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honor August 31, during the 2019 South Dakota State Fair.

“Community is created and maintained through the efforts of volunteers,” explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

The other 2019 Rural Dakota Pride honorees include: Angie Mueller, Ethan; Jeannie Hofer, Huron; Jim Lane, Groton and Franklin Olson, Pierpont.

As an organization which serves South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers, Doug Sombke, SDFU President, says Farmers Union recognizes the important role strong rural communities play in supporting agriculture producers and their families.

“South Dakota’s agriculture producers and their communities are closely connected. In good economic times they both prosper. When the economy is down, like today with the trade war, low commodity prices and extreme weather conditions, they both feel the pain,” Sombke said. “The Rural Dakota Pride honor is one of many ways SDFU works to show our support for both.”

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Moody Siblings Push Each Other to Excel in Rodeo

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By Lura Roti, for SDFU

Each summer, South Dakota Farmers Union feeds hundreds of rodeo athletes and their families during the South Dakota High School Rodeo Finals in Belle Fourche. Read on to learn more about one of the many families who will compete during the June 11-16 event.

Peering through the arena fence, 8-year-old Mason Moody couldn’t wait to rodeo.

“I always wanted to be a rodeo cowboy. My older sisters were in the arena and I wanted to be in the arena with them,” explains the youngest member of the Moody family.

After his ninth birthday, he finally got his chance to compete in 4-H Rodeo. Like his three older sisters, Logan, Bailey and Madi, he was hooked.

Now 16, his sisters will be outside the arena cheering him on during the State High School Rodeo Finals. Mason recently qualified to compete in bull riding, team roping and calf roping during the June 11-16, 2019 event held in Belle Fourche.  

“Winning takes a lot of practice and work in our homemade arena,” Mason explains. “Whenever there is a free moment, we saddle up, get on a horse and practice roping.”

In fact, Mason and his sisters spend anywhere from two to six hours each day practicing. And their efforts have paid off. All four siblings have qualified for the National Finals Rodeo. “We are all passionate about rodeo,” says Bailey, 21, a Dakota State University elementary/special education major.

Bailey says rodeo helped her decide on a career focus. “I always knew I would be a teacher, like mom, but it wasn’t until I helped with the Special Needs Rodeo during High School National Finals that I decided to go into special needs,” she explains. “I was paired with a boy named Quinten, a kindergartener. It was an amazing experience. It opened my eyes to the special education world.”

Since that time, Bailey and her mom, Tracy, helped start a Special Needs Rodeo in conjunction with the State 4-H Rodeo Finals.

Although Bailey chose not to rodeo during college, now that she’s home for summer break, she’s practicing to ride barrels in jackpot rodeos.

“You have to be motivated and goal-driven. Some days it would be easy to stay inside and not ride my horse, but if I see my sibling go out there to practice, then I’m not going to stay inside,” Bailey explains.

Her younger sister and recent Sanborn County High School Graduate, Madi, 18, agrees, sibling competition is a motivator. “I’m not going to lie I want to beat Bailey.”

Admittedly competitive, the siblings say succeeding in rodeo has helped them succeed in other areas of their life as well. “Rodeo was one of the things that I was good at, so it gave me confidence in other parts of my life too,” says Logan Hetland, 24, the oldest Moody sibling. Today, Logan is a nurse and lives near Artesian where her husband, Bob, farms fulltime.

And, losing once in a while teaches them valuable life lessons, Tracy adds. “All the kids have let some saddles slip through our hands and because of those mistakes, they’ve learned how to lose and the fact that life goes on.”

“But we get to cry at the trailer for 5 minutes,” Bailey interjects.

“Yes, I always told them they could go pout at the trailer for a few minutes, but then they needed to move on to the next thing because losing is part of life,” Tracy says.

A high school Science teacher, Tracy spends her summers traveling to rodeos with her children. Growing up she didn’t rodeo, but like her children, she grew up riding.

“I grew up on a dairy farm. We had horses and I set up barrels in the pasture and pretended to rodeo,” she says.

And, her husband shares a similar connection to horses. A fourth-generation cattle producer, Perry says he grew up on horseback working cattle. Today, the family continues to use horses to help manage their cow/calf operation. “Horses are more of a tool than a toy on our farm. We use them to move cows, doctor calves, sort cows. We use horses more than four-wheelers. They handle better,” Perry explains. “A cow cannot get away from a good horse.”

For the Moodys, their passion for rodeo stems from a desire to compete and a deep affection for horses or in the rodeo world, their teammate.

“I like how with rodeo, it’s just you and your horse. You develop a huge bond with your horse. Your horse is your team,” Logan explains.

Most of their horses come from their Grandpa Jerry, Perry’s dad. Also a farmer, Jerry makes time to attend every rodeo with the family. “Grandpa is our biggest supporter,” Bailey says.

Jerry enjoys the sport as much as the rest of the family. “Rodeo gives the kids something to do in the summertime where they can have fun competing and learn a bit about what life is about – winning and losing,” explains Jerry.

This summer these truths resonate with Madi. Because, due to a basketball injury – she tore several ligaments in her right knee – she may not be able to compete. “I don’t like even talking about it,” says Madi, fighting back tears. “It’s my senior year and I had so many goals.”

Goal setting is another trait the athletes attribute to rodeo. “Rodeo is the main thing I set goals for,” Madi says. Although she may not be competing this summer, she won’t be missing any rodeos. She currently serves as Student Vice President of the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association – one of the many goals she’s set during her rodeo career.

“It opens a lot of opportunities. It’s an awesome responsibility because we represent every South Dakota high school rodeo athlete, and they are like my family,” Madi explains.

One, big, extended family. That’s how the Moody’s think of other rodeo athletes and their families. “Every rodeo is like camping with your best friends,” Tracy says. “We all support each other.”

And, if you lose, Mason says, his rodeo family is there for him, just like his real family. “Losing with your friends there is OK because they help you get over it, “all right, you got bucked off this one, but tomorrow you’ll get back on and get them.’”

For event schedule and State High School Rodeo Finals details, visit

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2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees Announced

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Volunteers from Ethan, Frederick, Pierpont, Groton and Huron will be recognized for their selfless contributions to South Dakota rural communities by South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) with the 2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honor August 31, during the 2019 South Dakota State Fair.

“Community is created and maintained through the efforts of volunteers,” explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

The 2019 Rural Dakota Pride honorees include: Rich Bakeberg, Frederick; Jeannie Hofer, Huron; Jim Lane, Groton; Angie Mueller, Ethan and Franklin Olson, Pierpont.

As an organization which serves South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers, Doug Sombke, SDFU President, says Farmers Union recognizes the important role strong rural communities play in supporting agriculture producers and their families.

“South Dakota’s agriculture producers and their communities are closely connected. In good economic times they both prosper. When the economy is down, like today with the trade war, low commodity prices and extreme weather conditions, they both feel the pain,” Sombke said. “The Rural Dakota Pride honor is one of many ways SDFU works to show our support for both.”

Get to know an honoree

Empowering girls through running and faith-based principles, Angie Mueller, 40, and her friend, Angie Klock, started the Be{YOU}tiful Strides Running Club in 2015 in Ethan for girls third grade thru sixth grade.

“We wanted to help girls realize that with a little work, encouragement, practice and belief in self, they could do something big,” explains Mueller, who has two daughters, Avery and Sadie and a son, Blake.

The “something big” was train to run a 5K. Beginning when school starts, the Running Club meets at the city park before school two mornings a week. During stretches, Klock leads a character-building, faith-based object lesson and shares the verse for the week, like Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine.”  Then, they begin run walk intervals together, as Christian tunes play. When their 30 minutes of exercise is complete, the girls together with their teen and adult running mentors walk to school.

“We knew that the only way we could accomplish all our goals was to also focus on Bible truths. We needed God involved too,” says Mueller, who makes fun prizes that help to reinforce the verse to give each girl who memorizes the weekly verse.

To date, 40 girls and five women coaches are involved in Be{YOU}tiful Strides Running Club. Each October, the Running Club ends their season by hosting a Sparkle Run where they put their training to the test and raise money for a cause, like NHim Orphanages, and a community member in need.

As a stay-at-home mom who also works part-time, Mueller says she makes time for Running Club and other volunteer activities like teaching Sunday School and organizing Vacation Bible School for her church because they provide opportunities for her to not only give back to her community, but remain engaged in the lives of her children.

“I wanted to coach my daughters and encourage them to be physically fit. Running Club helps reinforce healthy living and character skills that they can use the rest of their lives,” Mueller says.

To learn more about Running Club, follow them on Facebook, Be{YOU}tiful Strides Runners. And, to learn more about how SDFU supports family farmers, ranchers and rural communities, visit

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