When it comes to challenges, we all have the opportunity to choose how we will react. This was one of many relevant messages delivered during the Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Seminar held June 2019 in Wisconsin.
“Given the planting season we just came off of, it is good to be mindful of that fact that yes, the environment stinks and planting season stinks, but I still make my own decision of how I am going to react to it,” explains De Smet farmer, Rob Lee.
When faced with a challenge, the presenter encouraged agriculture producers to take a moment to reflect on the situation. “Is this an inconvenience or a real problem,” explains Darci Lee, Rob’s wife.
Rob and Darcie represent South Dakota in the one-year program that hosts a farm or ranch couple from each of the following five states: North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Montana. The Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program was developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union through leadership, citizenship and policy development training.
In addition to discussing ways to address challenges, communication, self-care and navigating personal and professional balance were also discussed. “This seminar gave us an opportunity to discuss our priorities and how to be better communicators with others and our spouse,” Darcie says.
She adds that they benefited from time spent discussing the topics with other agriculture producers. “It is interesting how even though our operations look much different, we face similar challenges and struggles.”
Tours to a cranberry bog and robotic dairy were also part of the four-day seminar. The cranberry bog is owned by farmers who belong to the Ocean Spray cooperative. And, the robotic dairy is owned by family farmers who milk 160-head of dairy cows.
“Learning about different types of agriculture helped us think outside-the-box,” Darcie explains. “We began talking about ways we can be more efficient on our farm.”
Getting more involved is another take-away the Lees mention. “This program is steering us in a direction to become more comfortable getting involved,” Rob says.
Darcie adds that the first day home, the State Policy Meeting flyer was in their mail. “Before participating in this seminar, I would probably ignore the flyer since the meeting is during the day, on a Wednesday. But now, I feel like we should go and see if we have input to share. Nothing will change in our favor if we do not get involved.”
More about Rob and Darcie Lee
Rob and Darcie raise crops and a small herd of alpaca near De Smet. In addition to the farm, Darcie is a nurse, working at Horizon Health Care Clinic in De Smet and Rob works as a crop insurance adjustor. The couple have two young children, 3-year-old Everett and 9-month-old Rosene.
Rob’s dad, Roger, introduced him to Farmers Union. Rob helped lobby Congressional Leaders on behalf of South Dakota agriculture during the 2018 D.C. Fly-In and then took the policy advocacy skills he gained in D.C. and put them to work during SDFU Legislative Day in Pierre.
Throughout their year of involvement in Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program, the Lee’s will provide members with Union Farmer updates. To learn more about this program and how to get involved, contact Karla Hofhenke at Karla@sdfu.org.
When Jeannie Hofer explains her work as a volunteer with Manolis Family Safe Center she says, “It’s about accepting and helping and extending a hand and a heart.”
Extending a hand and opening her heart to those in need is second nature for Jeannie, 69, who is grateful an aunt and uncle were there for her, taking her in and raising her when she and her siblings were left without a home due to domestic violence.
The Manolis Family Safe Center is a volunteer organization for victims of domestic abuse and their children. Along with providing victims with a safe place to live, Jeannie and other volunteers take turns buying groceries, cleaning and doing home maintenance, driving family members to counseling and doctor appointments and anything else necessary to “help them feel empowered and in control of their own life,” Jeannie explains. “We give them a new avenue to follow so they don’t have to fall back into the same domestic situation. We can give them guidance to help them make better choices.”
Although she does provide support services to adult victims, Jeannie says her focus is typically the children. “I was one myself. When it comes to domestic violence, children don’t have a choice. Parents do. The children need someone there for them,” Jeannie says. “I encourage them and let them know this is not their fault, and they don’t need to let this experience come between them and their future.”
Even before volunteering for the domestic abuse shelter, Jeannie, a mom to three now grown children, Melissa, Jennifer and Mike, says she and her husband, Wayne, have always had an open-door policy when it came to helping kids. Over the years the couple has opened their home up to several children who needed support or a place to stay.
“I was blessed as a child to have an aunt and uncle who took care of me, so I’ve always wanted to do the same,” she says.
In addition to the Manolis Family Safe Center, Jeannie, who is a small business owner, also volunteers with Coats for Kids, Salvation Army and is an active member of Bethesda Church.
“Huron is where I live. I want to pay back to my community. We have excellent supporters in Huron. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” she says.
More about Rural Dakota Pride
Jeannie 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; Jim Lane, Groton; Rich Bakeberg, Frederick 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.”
WASHINGTON, DC, July 2, 2019: The 263 million gasoline vehicles on American roadways are emitting significantly more harmful emissions than being reported, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is ignoring the dangers of toxic compounds in gasoline, according to a new report released this week.
Simply titled Gasolinegate, the report (and public service announcement video) was produced by Farmers Union Enterprises (FUE) and according to FUE Chairman Doug Sombke, it chronicles three decades of EPA collusion with the industry they are responsible for regulating, which FUE believes resulted in harming the public they are sworn to protect. Emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act provide a history of what they call inaccurate testing of fuels and calculations of emissions. The result, FUE says, is much greater risk to the public than reported.
Despite dozens of reputable and peer reviewed studies confirming that ultrafine toxic particulates are one of the most serious public health threats in urban areas, and have been linked to pre-term births, IQ loss, and asthma, not enough has been done, according to Sombke. Dieselgate was about the public health impact of 500,000 cars emitting more emissions than the public was told, and the cover up by Volkswagen by using on board computers as a “defeat device”. Gasolinegate is about 263 million cars and light duty trucks emitting more than reported, particularly more toxic/carcinogenic emissions – for decades. 90% of urban Particulate (PM) emissions come from mobile sources, not power plants, and more than 80% of mobile source PM emissions come from gasoline powered vehicles, not diesel.
Farmers Union Enterprises took on this project to dispel the myths and misinformation that has kept clean burning ethanol out of the market, according to Sombke. “In their relentless effort to block competition, the monopoly of big oil extends to a revolving door policy of the petroleum industry infiltrating EPA, Congress, and other Federal agencies. Our research chronicles a consistent pattern of EPA always siding with the petroleum industry in its rulings and interpretations, failing to recognize Congressional intent and failing to act in the public interest,” said Sombke.
“All we are asking is to make gasoline safe for the public and to open the door to alternative fuels that meet a wide range of public policy goals. EPA has the authority and responsibility to protect public health and has to break the stranglehold of big oil to do its job.”