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Farm Safety is a Year-Round Focus for S.D. Farmers Union

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South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) invests in farm safety year-round, because it has a direct impact on family farmers, ranchers and their communities, says Doug Sombke, SDFU President.

“South Dakota’s rural communities are tight-knit. So, if someone is injured in a farm or ranch-related accident, it impacts not only their family, but the entire community. Through our farm safety education efforts, we hope South Dakota youth and families think about safety. And ultimately prevent injuries all together,” explains Sombke, who farms with his sons near Conde.

Sombke says today with his sons working on the farm and his young grandkids playing on the farm, farm safety is something he thinks about a lot more than when he first started farming more than 30 years ago. 

Keeping farm safety top of mind is the goal of programming SDFU develops for their annual summer camps, held across the state and attended by more than 1,000 youth each summer and the Farm Safety Trailer they designed and began taking to schools, fairs, community, 4-H and FFA events, explains Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator. “Kids learn best by doing,” Forman says. “So, we made sure each safety lesson exhibited in this trailer engages youth in a hands-on activity.”

For example, youth can try on a safety harness while learning about grain bin safety; drive an ATV simulator to learn how to safely drive an ATV and through the 3-D model farm, they can learn about high-risk areas of the farm and how to be safe.

“When learning is hands-on, it engages students’ thought processes, so they understand what they are learning,” explains Tracy Chase, a science and agriculture education teacher at McCook Central High School.

More than 7,000 South Dakota youth have visited the Farm Safety Trailer since it hit the road in 2018.
“The trailer took more than a year to design and develop, but the result is worth it,” says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. “The hands-on nature of this trailer enhances our educational mission and allows us to provide farm safety education to youth year-round.”

Team-Up for Safety Quiz Bowl
In addition to farm safety programming geared to elementary and middle school-age youth, SDFU hosts an annual Team-Up for Safety Quiz Bowl during the SD State FFA Convention, where high school youth test their farm safety knowledge, competing to qualify for the championship round held annually during the South Dakota State Fair.

“Farm safety is a very important aspect of farming that is underestimated at times and if you take it for granted, it can be the difference between preventing an accident or serious injury or even death,” explains Logan Zemlicka, a member of the Wolsey Wessington FFA Chapter when they qualified for the State Fair championship. 

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union farm safety programming, or to reserve the Farm Safety Trailer for your next event, contact Rocky Forman at (605) 352-6761 or rforman@sdfu.org.

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South Dakota Family Farmers & Ranchers Visit with USDA Officials in D.C.

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More than 30 South Dakota farmers and ranchers met with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials in D.C. today as part of the 2019 National Farmers Union Annual Fly-In.

“Due to the trade war and weather challenges, many of our state’s family farmers and ranchers will not see a profit this harvest. We are here to share our story with D.C. policy makers. Hopefully they understand the decisions they make, impact real people and families,” explains Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and fourth-generation Conde farmer.

In his role as president of one of South Dakota’s largest farm and ranch organizations, Sombke has made the trek to D.C. several times. Based on the feedback he receives from Congressional leaders and their staff, the time these family farmers and ranchers have set aside to meet with leaders from across the U.S. pays off.

“Grassroots advocacy gets noticed. In some cases, our fly-in visit is the first time some staff, from more urban areas of the country have had an opportunity to visit with farmers and ranchers,” Sombke explains. “National Farmers Union has lobbyists, who carry our message to policy makers. However, meeting with the people behind that message leaves a strong impact.”


Providing a voice for South Dakota family farmers and ranchers is the reason farmers, Shane and Julie Fastnacht traveled from Wessington Springs to participate in the Fly-In.

“We are here to speak up for ourselves and other South Dakota ag producers. With the state of the agriculture economy, we’ve been facing market issues for several consecutive years now. This will be the fourth or fifth year, producers like us, are working hard to hit breakeven,” explains Shane, a third-generation cow/calf producer. “I plan to visit with policy makers about expanding ethanol consumption and country of origin labeling.”

The Fastnachts are among more than 30 South Dakota farmers, ranchers and supporters of agriculture who traveled to D.C. The other Fly-In participants include Wayne Soren, SDFU Vice President, Lake Preston; Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director, Huron; Larry Birgen, Sioux Falls; Kirk Schaunaman, Aberdeen; Doug and Julie Bruckner, Wessington Springs; Brian and Lindsey Cain, Miller; Gail Temple, Clark; Lisa Snedeker, Woonsocket; Caroline Blatchford, State FFA Reporter, Brookings; Sarah Kroeger, State FFA Vice President, Lennox; Jason Wells, SDFU Insurance Manager, Huron; Rocky and Mandi Forman, Huron; Dallas and Tammy Basel, Union Center; Mark and Schmidt, Gary; Richard and Beverely Rubel, Dallas; Ryan Leischner, Mitchell; Mitch Richter, , Rapid City; Cody Wilson, , Parkston; George and Michelle Kenzy and children, Tyler, Nicholas and Brooklynn, Gregory; Cameron and Jessica Lux, Aberdeen; Darwin and Latham, Camp Crook; along with Matt and Stephanie Cavenee, Miller.

In addition to meeting with USDA officials, during the three-day Fly-In, participants will meet with Congressional leaders from across the nation and their staff. Family farmers and ranchers will share their personal stories on how the current challenges are impacting them, their neighbors and their South Dakota communities. They will campaign for policies that strengthen the farm safety net, reduce chronic overproduction, help farmers and ranchers implement climate smart practices, restore competition to the agricultural economy, resolve ongoing trade disputes, and expand the market for homegrown biofuels.

To learn more about the 2019 Fly-In, visit www.sdfu.org or follow South Dakota Farmers Union on Facebook.

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Ethanol Advocate & Former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle Meets with Farmers Union Members in D.C.

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It’s a critical time for the ethanol industry said former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle today when he met with more than 300 farmers, ranchers and agriculture supporters today in D.C. as part of the National Farmers Union Fly-In.

“It’s a critical time, not only for agriculture, but for rural America,” said Daschle, calling hardship waivers granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to oil refineries, including Exxon Mobile and Chevron (85 since 2016) as “the most devastating thing to happen to ethanol in the last 40 years.”

When oil refineries receive EPA Small Refinery Exemption (SREs) also referred to as hardship waivers, they are no longer required to comply with renewable fuel blend laws put in place by the Renewable Fuels Standard – eliminating their need to blend ethanol and other renewable fuels.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher, we have 276 million light utility vehicles on the road… emitting over 1 billion tons of carbon,” said Daschle, a longtime ethanol advocate. “For the last 40 years we have been able to make a case that ethanol is a national security issue, a jobs issue, an ag issue and is, darn right, an environmental issue.”

The solution, Daschle said is found in opening the market to higher ethanol blends. “There is absolutely no better solution in doing exactly that, than E30,” said Daschle of the high-octane, low-carbon renewable fuel. “The path forward involves, remaining determined to reduce all regulatory barriers that exist, to allow ethanol to play in the free market – to allow it to do what it is meant to do. Doug Sombke and South Dakota Farmers Union have been strong advocates for this.”

Recognizing the road forward will not be an easy one, Daschle encouraged farmers to have resilience, and to continue to engage with Congressional leaders, like Farmers Union members are doing this week during the Fly-In. “I talk to frustrated people who throw up their hands and say they don’t want anything to do with Washington or politics. But we need to be more engaged than ever. Someone once said, “difficulty is an excuse that history never accepts,’” Daschle said. “We are sure at a difficult time. But that can’t be a reason for giving up.”

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REAL Fosters Leadership, Looking for 2019 Participants

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South Dakota Farmers Union Rural Economic and Leadership Development (REAL)

fosters leadership among rural leaders, business owners and agricultural operators. 

In small towns and rural communities, leaders wear a lot of hats. They are not just running businesses and going to school events. They are sitting on boards, volunteering, fundraising and mentoring. REAL’s purpose is to give current and future leaders an opportunity for professional development. 

Rachel Haigh-Blume, Education Director, South Dakota Farmers Union explains, “The REAL groups have fun and make connections that last. It gives individuals a group of people to run things by and a chance to just learn from each other. It’s also a great resource builder to reach out to and gain insights from.” 

Alan Roth of Sabers Farmers Union Insurance Agency in Sturgis participated in this year’s REAL program where he had the opportunity to sit in on Senate and House sessions at the State Capitol. “I would strongly suggest REAL to anyone who is just getting started in their career or anyone who thinks they could use a little boost in their current position,” says Roth. 

Participants bring what they’ve learned from REAL back to their communities. Kelli Erickson of Full Circle Ag in Britton recently joined her local Chamber of Commerce. “The REAL program has definitely helped me gain the rural economic and leadership skills needed to help me succeed on the board,” says Erickson. “Opportunities like this remind me how to be a good communicator and a strong leader when working with teams.” 

Full Circle Ag believes the REAL program has impacted their employees in numerous positive ways. The company has made a commitment to offer their staff the opportunity to apply for the REAL program each year. 

Are you interested in participating in REAL or do you have employees you would encourage to apply? We are looking for our next class of rural leaders from all walks of life. Go to sdfu.org or call Rachel Haigh-Blume at 605-450-1000.

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Farmers Earn 25 Cents from $12 State Fair Lunch

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South Dakota’s number one industry of agriculture is hurting. In addition to dealing with extreme weather during 2019 calving and planting seasons, grain and livestock prices are down. While at the same time, grocery store prices hold steady. 

To help South Dakotans who don’t work on farms and ranches gain a better understanding of the wage gap between what they pay in the grocery store and what a South Dakota farm or ranch family earns, South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) hosts its annual Farmer Share Lunch during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair, Aug. 31.

Fairgoers pay only 25 cents for a lunch valued at $12.

“We fed more than 1,000 today,” says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. “This is our largest educational event. Farmers Union board members, who are farmers and ranchers, and staff spend a lot of time visiting with folks waiting in line, answering questions, helping them understand what the family farmers and ranchers of our state are going through right now.”

Friends, Taylor Feddersen and Savannah Krogman said they knew prices were low, but they were still surprised when they learned the farmer and rancher who raised the ingredients for the lunch, which included milk, chips and pulled pork sandwich, only received 25 cents.

“We live in a small town, and know everyone who does farm,” explains Feddersen, who traveled to the State Fair from Murdo.

“But it’s still surprising – farmers don’t make enough,” adds Krogman.

Farmer Share lunch is an annual event hosted by S.D. Farmers Union. And although there has been a large gap between what shoppers pay and what farmers and ranchers earn, in recent years the difference has become extreme.

“Farmers and ranchers are used to dealing with unpredictable weather, and somewhat volatile markets, but the recent trade war and the 2017 dissolving of governmental oversight with the closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) who facilitated the marketing of agriculture products, means our farmers can’t even get fair markets within the U.S.,” explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President and fourth-generation farmer.

Winner farmer, Joel Keierleber, appreciates the organization’s effort to education. “When consumers buy a pound of burger at the store and pays $4, they think I’m making $4 a pound for the cattle I raise. This simply isn’t the case. Consumers really don’t understand that most of their food dollars go to the middleman. For example, I only receive $1.73 for that pound of burger, and that is not counting how much it cost me to produce and market the cow.”

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2019 S.D. Farmers Union Day at the State Fair Supports South Dakota’s Family Farmers & Ranchers & Rural Communities

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Recognizing rural heroes, awarding more than $25,000 in scholarships, feeding more than 1,000 fairgoers and discussing industrial hemp with policy makers and much more – 2019 South Dakota Farmers Union Day at the State Fair, August 31, focused on supporting South Dakota’s family farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

“We work all year to make this day’s events relevant and educational for South Dakotans involved in agriculture and those who aren’t,” explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

As one of the state’s largest agriculture organizations, and a premier sponsor of the South Dakota State Fair, members of the grassroots organization recognized those who give back to rural communities across the state with the Rural Dakota Pride Award. The 2019 Rural Dakota Pride honorees include Rich Bakeberg, Frederick; Jeannie Hofer, Huron; Jim Lane, Groton; Angie Mueller, Ethan and Franklin Olson, Pierpont.

“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,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President and fourth-generation Conde farmer. “The Rural Dakota Pride honor is one of many ways SDFU works to show our support for both.”

Providing hands-on educational opportunities for fairgoers, SDFU hosted its annual Farmers Share Lunch and Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl.

Feeding more than 1,000, the lunch is designed to help those not involved in agriculture understand the gap between the price paid for food in the grocery store and what a South Dakota family farmer or rancher earns. The lunch, which would retail for $12, only cost fairgoers 25 cents. Learn more, visit www.sdfu.org.

Educating youth about farm safety is a large part of SDFU educational programming. The organization’s interactive Farm Safety Trailer is on display throughout the entire fair, and during Farmers Union Day. Four qualifying FFA teams put their farm safety knowledge to the test, competing in the Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl. FFA Chapters competing included Wolsey Wessington, Hoven, Howard and Dell Rapids. Learn which team won by visiting www.sdfu.org.

Policy makers discuss industrial hemp

Industrial hemp has been on the minds of South Dakota legislators this summer as they work to develop a bill Governor Noem will sign in 2020. And today Farmers Union hosted two legislative members of the Summer Industrial Hemp Study to discuss with fairgoers what they learned from visiting with leaders from other states where the agriculture crop is legal.

“We’re working to come up with legislation everyone can be comfortable with,” explains Lee Qualm, House Majority Leader and Chair of Industrial Hemp Summer Study.

After the South Dakota Senate failed to override Governor Noem’s veto of House Bill 1191, which would have legalized industrial hemp, a group of legislators, including Minority Whip and District 28A Representative, Oren Lesmeister began meeting with officials from states where industrial hemp is grown and processed, to learn how state departments of agriculture work with law enforcement, farmers and citizens.

“We are seeing that these states have strict rules in place, but we also see that the fear industrial hemp is a backway to produce the drug, marijuana, is unwarranted,” Lesmeister, a Parade rancher and small business owner explains. “We have also learned farmers can make money from this.”

New marketing opportunities from the hardy crop that can be grown in nearly every region of South Dakota, are the reason Qualm and Lesmeister voted to legalize growing the crop during the 2019 Legislative Session.

“Industrial hemp is the first new crop that has come along in decades,” says Qualm, a Platte farmer. “It provides the opportunity to add value to a crop before it leaves the state. We are so used to shipping out raw commodities instead of processing them here.”

“Industrial hemp would give South Dakotans opportunities,” adds Lesmeister. “I say South Dakotans, not just farmers or ranchers, because it’s the business as a whole, through manufacturing opportunities that could benefit the entire state.”

Support for legalizing industrial hemp became part of SDFU policy in 2018. The organization will continue to lobby Pierre to legalize the crop during the 2019 Legislative Session. Learn more about SDFU policy at www.sdfu.org.

Supporting rural youth through scholarships

The South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation, in cooperation with Farmers Union Insurance, recognized recipients of the Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow $1,000 scholarship.

Over the past 12 years, the Foundation has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships to students attending South Dakota post-secondary schools. Farmers Union Insurance agents throughout the state fund this scholarship program administered by the Farmers Union Foundation. “Our insurance agents are committed to building a brighter future in South Dakota,” says Jason Wells, Regional Manager of Farmers Union Insurance. “This is a remarkable group and they make me excited about the future of our great state. We’re choosing to invest in these outstanding individuals to help them pursue their goals and aspirations.

Recipients include the following students: Abbie Bratland, daughter of Curwin & Kim Bratland, Willow Lake High School; Bayden Schneider, son of Jason & Velda Schneider, Chester Area High School;Benjamin Sees, son of Mike & Kris Sees, Irene-Wakonda High School; Brandon Volmer, son of Todd & Rona Volmer, Winner High School; Brittany Delzer, daughter of Glen & Cheryl Delzer Sturgis Brown High School; Caleb Nugteren, son of Darin & Lisa Nugteren, Canistota High School; Conner Edelman, son of Kevin & Lisa Edelman, Menno Public High School; Elise Heesch, daugher of Loran & Yvette Heesch, Sisseton High School; Emily Buse, daughter of Gary & DeeAnna Buse, Lennox High School; Jaedyn Oplinger, daughter of Linda Oplinger, Menno Public High School;  Justin Edelman, son of Del & Brenda Edelman, Menno Public High School; Justin Goetz, son of Trent & Goetz & Patricia Pudwill, Selby Area High School; Kaitlyn Carlon, daughter of Ronald & Nancy Carlon, Canton High School; Kendra Johnson, daughter of Wayne & Nancy Johnson, Webster Area High School; Kristin Kotes, daughter of Greg Kotes & Angel Eddy, Bridgewater-Emery High School; Liza Schoenbeck, daughter of Loren & Lisa Schoenbeck, Webster Area High School; Morgan Feddersen, son of Chris & Beth Feddersen, Jones County High School; Paydon Casper, son of Eric & Laurie Casper, Lake Preston High School; Spencer Lund, son of Brian & Kari Lund, St. Thomas More High School; Sydney Hoffman, daughter of Jeff & Deanna Hoffman, Bridgewater-Emery High School; Sydney Smith, daughter of Jay & Sherry Smith, Redfield High School; Tess Oplinger, daughter of Linda Oplinger, Menno Public High School; Tessa Menzel, daughter of CJ & Mandie Menzel, Philip High School;  Trevor Frost, son of Travis & Kaylin Frost, Redfield High School and Trista Frost, daughter of Travis & Kaylin Frost, Redfield High School.

Learn more about SDFU educational programming at www.sdfu.org.

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Wolsey-Wessington FFA Chapter Wins 2019 Farmers Union State Fair Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl

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Putting their farm safety knowledge to the test, four South Dakota FFA Chapters competed in the Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl Championship today, August 31, 2019, during South Dakota Farmers Union Day at the State Fair in Huron.

Wolsey-Wessington FFA Chapter won the quiz bowl. Team members include Trayce Haeder, Paige Snyder, Mark Hamilton and Jacob Kahre. Their FFA Advisor is Andrew Boersma. Each member receives a monetary prize.

 “This quiz bowl is a fun way to make youth aware of farm safety and educate them on how to keep themselves and their friends safe,” explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President and fourth-generation Conde farmer. “As an organization, South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) is dedicated to supporting family farmers and rural communities. We invest in keeping our rural youth and families safe. Just the simple fact that most farms in South Dakota are family farms, means many South Dakota youth either live on farms or have friends who do.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 million youth, under the age of 20, live on farms in the U.S. Over half of them do farm-related work. Sombke points out that agriculture is often listed among the most dangerous occupations in America. Farm workers face many risks because of the large machinery they work with, along with chemical hazards, unpredictable livestock and enclosed spaces like grain bins that hold thousands of pounds of grain.


Wolsey-Wessington is one of four teams to qualify for the championship quiz bowl during the South Dakota State FFA Convention held in April on the campus of South Dakota State University. Other qualifying teams include Hoven, Howard and Dells (from Dell Rapids).

Creating an opportunity for youth to learn about farm safety in a fun way, is why Sara Colombe encourages students to participate in the SDFU Farm Safety Quiz Bowl.

“The quiz bowl makes learning about farm safety fun. And the contest builds momentum for some other farm safety educational opportunities, like participating in our local cooperative’s grain bin simulator that demonstrates how to help get people out of grain bins safely,” explains the Hoven FFA Advisor/Agriculture Education Instructor. “The students are really into the fact that if they win, there is a cash prize. Competing in a farm safety contest, versus taking a test is much more effective.”

In addition to the annual Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl and farm safety education implemented into the curriculum of SDFU summer camps, in 2018 SDFU invested in and designed a customized Farm Safety Trailer. This Farm Safety Trailer is at the State Fair engaging youth and families in fun, farm safety education.

“The hands-on nature of the Farm Safety Trailer allows us to make the message of farm safety real,” explains Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator.

To learn more about SDFU Farm Safety Trailer or other youth education opportunities, visit www.sdfu.org.

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Industrial Hemp Summer Study Meets with North Dakota Commissioner of Ag in Pierre Today

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Industrial hemp has been on the minds of South Dakota legislators this summer as they work to develop a bill Governor Noem will sign in 2020. And today (August 19, 2019), several legislators met in Pierre with Doug Goehring, North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture and leaders from other states where the agriculture crop is legal.

“We’re working to come up with legislation everyone can be comfortable with,” explains Lee Qualm, House Majority Leader and Chair of Industrial Hemp Summer Study.

After the South Dakota Senate failed to override Governor Noem’s veto of House Bill 1191, which would have legalized industrial hemp, a group of legislators, including Minority Whip and District 28A Representative, Oren Lesmeister began meeting with officials from states where industrial hemp is grown and processed, to learn how state departments of agriculture work with law enforcement, farmers and citizens.

“We are seeing that these states have strict rules in place, but we also see that the fear industrial hemp is a backway to produce the drug, marijuana, is unwarranted,” Lesmeister, a Parade rancher and small business owner explains. “We have also learned farmers can make money from this.”

New marketing opportunities from the hardy crop that can be grown in nearly every region of South Dakota, are the reason Qualm and Lesmeister voted to legalize growing the crop during the 2019 Legislative Session.

“Industrial hemp is the first new crop that has come along in decades,” says Qualm, a Platte farmer. “It provides the opportunity to add value to a crop before it leaves the state. We are so used to shipping out raw commodities instead of processing them here.”

“Industrial hemp would give South Dakotans opportunities,” adds Lesmeister. “I say South Dakotans, not just farmers or ranchers, because it’s the business as a whole, through manufacturing opportunities that could benefit the entire state.”

The men hope what they learned from today’s discussions will help their committee develop legislation that will pass in 2020. Other members of the Industrial Hemp Summer Study include Committee Vice Chair Rocky Blare, Ideal; Representatives Shawn Bordeaux, Mission; Bob Glanzer, Huron; Tim Goodwin, Rapid City; Randy Gross, Elkton; Nancy York, Watertown and Senators Red Dawn Foster, Pine Ridge; Joshua Klumb, Mount Vernon and Reynold Nesiba, Sioux Falls.

Learn more during South Dakota Farmers Union State Fair panel discussion
Members of one of the state’s largest farm and ranch organizations are watching the progression of the new industrial hemp bill closely. “Legalizing the growing of industrial hemp has been part of our policy since 2018, because our family farmers and ranchers need new opportunities. And industrial hemp is a new, potentially high-value opportunity,” explains South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

The delay caused by the Governor’s veto troubles Sombke and Lesmeister because they are concerned neighboring states, will race to develop processing infrastructure ahead of South Dakota.

Qualm shares the concern, but believes opportunities still exist. “We are a bit behind the 8-ball, we will see some rules in September or October from USDA, and the FDA may take longer than that. I don’t think we are too far behind,” he says.

Which is the reason, today’s discussion is so important. “Due to a stressed ag economy, producers are losing money year-after-year. South Dakota producers need more options to diversify and be profitable, they need more tools in their tool belts. The legalization of industrial hemp production will tell our producers that we want them to succeed,” says Luke Reindl, Communications & Policy Specialist with S.D. Farmers Union. “As a grassroots organization our members set our policy, and many of our family farmers and ranchers would like to be able to grow industrial hemp, so legalizing industrial hemp will be a priority for us as we approach the 2020 Legislative Session.”

And, today’s discussion showed there’s still a lot of work to be done if an industrial hemp bill will pass Legislative Session 2019, explains Mitch Richter, S.D. Farmers Union Lobbyist. “We heard from North Dakota and Montana on how they dealt with issues around licensing, law enforcement and testing, yet South Dakota’s State Dept. of Ag as well as Public Safety brought up the same questions they had during Legislative Session. They are still stuck on the fact that hemp and marijuana are similar, but they have not moved beyond that with plans for how they will deal with testing, licensing and fee structure. I know the legislators on the Summer Study have done the legwork and research, but it looks like they have a long way to go before the Governor will sign legislation to legalize hemp in South Dakota.”

As South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers wait on lawmakers, Lesmeister encourages them to begin researching today. “Don’t wait for someone to hand you the information. Don’t wait until legislation is passed. Farmers need to be doing their research today, because the minute a bill does pass legalizing industrial hemp, things will move quickly and growers need to be prepared,” explains Lesmeister, who began researching industrial hemp opportunities a few years ago after the 2014 farm bill opened the door for states to grow industrial hemp on a trial basis.

“The U.S. has been the biggest user of hemp in the world for years. Now, that we are growing it here, we have years of research to pull from Europe and other countries where they’ve been growing and processing industrial hemp for years,” says Lesmeister, who is most excited about the opportunities to add value to industrial hemp by processing it in South Dakota. “Depending on where they plan to market it, and the variety they plant, industrial hemp can bring farmers between $1,000 to $14,000- an-acre.”

Lesmeister references a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pointing to industrial hemp as an ingredient used in more than 17,000 products – ranging from granola bars, healthcare, cosmetics and clothing to cattle feed and hempcrete, a stronger, lighter-weight, industrial-grade concrete.

To learn more, attend the South Dakota Farmers Union Industrial Hemp panel discussion, held on the Freedom Stage at the South Dakota State Fair, at 1 p.m. August 31 during Farmers Union Day at the State Fair.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates Community Heroes, Farmers & Ranchers During SDFU Day at the State Fair

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South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) will celebrate community heroes, family farmers and ranchers and educate consumers on current challenges facing our state’s No. 1 industry of agriculture during the 2019 Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair, Aug. 31.

“State Fair is a celebration of the people who make up our state’s No. 1 industry of agriculture,” explains Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President and fourth-generation Conde farmer. “It’s an industry, whose people are really struggling right now because of uncooperative weather and markets. So, this year, I see the state fair as a good place for those of us who work the fields and care for livestock to support one another and feel the support from our many friends, neighbors and supporters throughout the state.”

Clark farmer Gail Temple would agree. “State Fair is like a family reunion. It’s a statewide gathering that supports farmers. It’s where farmers from across the state bring all their best crops and livestock and 4-H kids bring their best displays.”

Temple, and her husband, Brad, raise crops and cattle. Temple also serves as District 3 board member. She will be among a group of Farmers Union volunteers to help host the organization’s annual Farmer’s Share Lunch.

Farmer’s Share Lunch is designed to educate consumers on the current low prices facing South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. During the lunch hour, Farmers Union will only charge fairgoers the price a South Dakota farmer or rancher would receive for the ingredients used to make a $12 lunch.

This year the organization will only be collecting 25 cents. “When consumers buy a pound of burger at the store and pays $4, they think I’m making $4 a pound for the cattle I raise. This simply isn’t the case,” explains Joel Keierleber, who farms near Winner. “Consumers really don’t understand that most of their food dollars go to the middle-man. For example, I only receive $1.73 for that pound of burger, and that is not counting how much it cost me to produce and market the cow.”

And, like every cow/calf producer in South Dakota, Keierleber is responsible for the health and welfare of the cattle day-in and day-out until they are sold to a feeder or processor.
“As farmers or ranchers, we’re the ones taking care of the critter for up to two years and receiving a very small fraction of the grocery store price,” Keierleber explains.
Each year the farmers share lunch feeds more than 1,000.

“This is one of our largest education events,” says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. “Education is a mission our grassroots organization takes seriously.”

Throughout the year, SDFU hosts education events for youth, rural professionals and community leaders and farm and ranch couples. They also provide youth with farm safety education through the SDFU Farm Safety Trailer. The trailer will also be at the fair. A mobile, interactive classroom designed to provide rural youth with farm safety training.
Fairgoers will have an opportunity to go through the trailer during the state fair.

Team up for Farm Safety Quiz Bowl
Another way the organization emphasizes farm safety is through the Team Up for Farm Safety Quiz Bowl.

Sombke and Hofhenke invite everyone to watch rural youth in action by attending the 2019 S.D. Farmers Union Team Up To Safety Quiz Bowl championship, held at 2 p.m. on the Freedom Stage across from the Farmers Union Tent.

“The quiz bowl is a fun way for high school students to learn about safety on the farm or ranch,” says Hofhenke, of the competition that asks FFA members questions on farm and ranch safety.

The following FFA chapters qualified to compete during the 2019 State FFA Convention: Wolsey Wessington, Hoven, Howard and Platte-Geddes.

Community heroes honored with Rural Dakota Pride awards
At 10:30 a.m., Farmers Union will recognize five South Dakotans for their selfless contributions to rural communities across the state with the Rural Dakota Pride award.
The honorees include Rich Bakeberg, Frederick; Jeannie Hofer, Huron; Jim Lane, Groton; Angie Mueller, Ethan; and Franklin Olson, Pierpont.

As an organization which supports South Dakota farmers and ranchers, Farmers Union understands the integral connection between those who work in South Dakota’s No. 1 industry and their rural communities.

“One cannot survive without the other,” says Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of S.D. Farmers Union. “Without thriving communities, it’s difficult to encourage young people to return to their family’s farm or ranch. Rural communities are key to the future of South Dakota’s agriculture industry, which is why we like to recognize those individuals who help them thrive.”

Scholarships Awarded
The organization will also announce the South Dakota students who receive $1,000 scholarships for post-secondary education as part of the Farmers Union Foundation and Farmers Union Insurance Agency 2019 Insuring a Brighter Tomorrow Scholarship.

Since 2008, SDFU Foundation has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships to students attending South Dakota post-secondary schools.

The recipients were chosen from among a large pool of applicants. They were scored based on a combination of academic record, activities and awards, financial need and an essay relating to how they will “Insure a Brighter Tomorrow” in South Dakota.

Farmers Union Insurance agents throughout the state fund this scholarship program administered by the Farmers Union Foundation.

“Education is one of the three pillars upon which Farmers Union is built. Year-round, Farmers Union invests in providing leadership, cooperative and farm safety educational programming to school-age rural youth across South Dakota,” Sombke explains.

Recipients include the following students: Abbie Bratland, daughter of Curwin & Kim Bratland, Willow Lake High School; Bayden Schneider, son of Jason & Velda Schneider, Chester Area High School;Benjamin Sees, son of Mike & Kris Sees, Irene-Wakonda High School; Brandon Volmer, son of Todd & Rona Volmer, Winner High School; Brittany Delzer, daughter of Glen & Cheryl Delzer Sturgis Brown High School; Caleb Nugteren, son of Darin & Lisa Nugteren, Canistota High School; Conner Edelman, son of Kevin & Lisa Edelman, Menno Public High School; Elise Heesch, daugher of Loran & Yvette Heesch, Sisseton High School; Emily Buse, daughter of Gary & DeeAnna Buse, Lennox High School; Jaedyn Oplinger, daughter of Linda Oplinger, Menno Public High School;  Justin Edelman, son of Del & Brenda Edelman, Menno Public High School; Justin Goetz, son of Trent & Goetz & Patricia Pudwill, Selby Area High School; Kaitlyn Carlon, daughter of Ronald & Nancy Carlon, Canton High School; Kendra Johnson, daughter of Wayne & Nancy Johnson, Webster Area High School; Kristin Kotes, daughter of Greg Kotes & Angel Eddy, Bridgewater-Emery High School; Liza Schoenbeck, daughter of Loren & Lisa Schoenbeck, Webster Area High School; Morgan Feddersen, son of Chris & Beth Feddersen, Jones County High School; Paydon Casper, son of Eric & Laurie Casper, Lake Preston High School; Spencer Lund, son of Brian & Kari Lund, St. Thomas More High School; Sydney Hoffman, daughter of Jeff & Deanna Hoffman, Bridgewater-Emery High School; Sydney Smith, daughter of Jay & Sherry Smith, Redfield High School; Tess Oplinger, daughter of Linda Oplinger, Menno Public High School; Tessa Menzel, daughter of CJ & Mandie Menzel, Philip High School;  Trevor Frost, son of Travis & Kaylin Frost, Redfield High School andTrista Frost, daughter of Travis & Kaylin Frost, Redfield High School.

Visit www.sdfu.org to meet the scholarship winners who represent more than 20 South Dakota communities.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates Camp Crook Ranch Family

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By Lura Roti for SDFU

Someone once asked Darwin Latham’s grandpa Frank about his heritage. His answer? “Texan,” says the Camp Crook rancher.

As the story goes, Frank’s uncles, Doc and Willie, were among the area’s early settlers, first arriving in the 1880s, driving herds for Texas cattle companies.

They trailed up herds from Texas. “They worked for both the CY Cattle Company and the 101 Cattle Company,” Darwin explains. “Then they began ranching. For a time, Doc was part-owner of the famous bucking horse Tipperary.”

Born in Texas, Frank’s dad died when he was only 2, so his uncles, Doc and Willie encouraged his mom, Mattie, and stepdad, along with his younger brother John, to relocate from Texas.

It wasn’t easy. They tried homesteading several claims and moved around trying to make a go of it. After Frank’s stepdad’s death, Mattie and John moved to a small ranch just north of Camp Crook which is still in the family today.

Frank served in France during World War I as a truck driver. After the war, he put his heavy-equipment experience to work as a “cat skinner” driving a dozer helping build state highways. The money he earned helped him get a start ranching on his own.

In 1928, Frank and his young wife, Esther (Bickerdyke), started ranching on land north of Camp Crook along the Little Missouri River. Their oldest child, Erwin, Darwin’s dad, remained on the ranch.

Darwin and his sons, John, 33, and Jason, 30, continue to ranch there today.

“There are two stories about why we still have the place. One is we are too stubborn to give up and leave. The other is we were too broke to leave. Maybe the real truth is, it is a good place to be, so why go anywhere else,” Darwin says.

And, thanks to these efforts, Darwin, his wife, Kay, and their sons are the fifth generation of Lathams to ranch in the Camp Crook area. The family raises a commercial herd of black Angus/Hereford-cross cattle and sell some registered bulls.

Originally, like all their neighbors, the Lathams raised Hereford cattle. Then black became the preferred color and sale barn prices changed their allegiance.

“We’d get $50 less. Our cattle were the same weight and everything. It was their color, so we switched to black Angus bulls and put them on our Hereford cows,” Darwin explains.

Then, they noticed the bulls weren’t holding up. “They were overdeveloped and couldn’t make it on just grass. Their feet would go bad and they’d break down when we turned them out with the cows on the forest service allotment in the summer,” John explains.

As a result, John bought some registered Angus cows at a dispersion and began raising his own bulls. “We figured the bulls needed to be developed on the same feed as our cows – grass, hay and cake. That will allow them to develop slower but last longer and remain sound,” John says.

“We hand-feed the bull calves because we had some temperament issues with purchased bulls as well. Our main bull-feeding crew are Jason’s sons, my mom and my daughter,” John says.

John’s daughter, Joy, is 3 and Jason and his wife, Kaeloni, have two sons, Jaydon, 4, and Jarrett, 2.

To keep fresh genetics in the herd, John AI’s his registered cows and buys cleanup bulls. “I review catalogues extensively to get just what I’m looking for,” he explains.

In addition to temperament, strong maternal traits and feed efficiency top the list. “Fertility, moderate frame, weaning weights and growth round out the rest of the list,” Jason explains, their cattle need to gain well on rangeland as well as the forest service land they lease in the Custer National Forest.

Their focus has been working. For the last two decades, the Lathams have sold calves right off their ranch, direct to the same Sisseton feeder.

“He is very happy with how our calves perform for him, and we settle on a price ahead of time so we know there won’t be a market wreck on shipping day,” Darwin explains.

Like his grandfather, keeping things going for the next generation still takes gumption and creativity.

During the most recent drought, 2016- 17, the Lathams weren’t able to put up hay at home and lost some cattle to salinity poisoning when the water in their dams went bad.

Because access to water impacts pasture rotation, since 2003, the men have worked to install miles of waterlines, tanks and solar-pumped wells.

“We’ve worked hard to get live water everywhere,” explains John.

For the solar wells, the family was able to get some cost-sharing help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds and Emergency Conservation Program. The funds were made available during recent drought years when they had to haul water.

Even on overcast or snowy days, the solar-powered wells run continuously – keeping tanks thawed out on the coldest of days.

“They are easy to put in now, because we know what we’re doing,” Darwin explains.

Thankfully, there’s been plenty of moisture this year, “Our Little Missouri River is up longer than I’ve ever seen it in my lifetime. Typically, by this time of year you can walk across without getting your feet wet, but today, it’s 10-feet deep. The best clover year we’ve ever had.”

“We’re pretty well watered up. It allows for better utilization of pastures,” Darwin adds.

“And the cows and calves look much better,” says Jason.

The Lathams manage their summer pastures on a seasonal rotation. If they go into a pasture in the spring one year, they use it in the fall the next year. “It gives the cool- and warm-season grasses a break and as long as there’s moisture, it works pretty well,” Darwin says. “I can remember from an early age, my granddad Frank and dad told me, ‘if you take care of the ranch, it will take care of you.’”

Darwin’s focus on water began when he returned to ranch full time with his dad, Erwin, in 1994. He and his wife, Kay, had been working as teachers. They jumped at the opportunity to raise their sons on the ranch.

“We felt this was a great place to raise kids. You don’t have a lot of violence and crime here, not like a lot of places,” Darwin says.

The boys attended the multi-grade school in Camp Crook through the eighth grade. “I loved it,” says John, comparing it to the traditional elementary school experience he had prior to moving to the ranch. “You are with kids above and below you, so you learn a lot from your peers, and you get to help the younger kids. We all had combined recess and played kickball together. We even worked on subjects like history, social science and science projects together.”

“In a country school, you don’t have clicks because there are only about 20 kids in the whole school, so everyone needs to get along,” Jason adds.

Like their dad, John and Jason enjoyed working on the ranch and, after college they both planned to return home to ranch. The time was right in 2012. Darwin needed extra help because their grandpa Erwin was fighting cancer and wanted to stay on the ranch. “We were able to honor that and take care of him here,” Jason says.

Jason was the first to return home. He had and had been able to save up some money to build up the herd he began as an elementary student. Jason’s wife, Kaeloni, does billing and payroll for a local construction company. John, after teaching and coaching for several years, returned to the ranch in 2018 and works as a loan officer for Pioneer Bank.

Jason and John have slowly built their own commercial herd and were fortunate enough to recently buy some pasture close to the main ranch. Both men agree, having off-ranch income helps them survive the weather-related events as well as volatile markets.

While John got his first heifer calf from Grandpa Erwin, Jason actually received his first calf as part of a local program, established by Ludlow rancher, Claude Olson, to help kids get their start with cattle. Through the Olson Livestock Foundation, first-graders in Harding County can apply for a heifer calf. Then, three years later, they donate back one of her heifer calves.

The Olson Foundation is just one example of the strong community the Lathams belong to, and, yet another reason the men wanted to return to the ranch.

“We’re so sparsely populated, but because we only have one high school in Buffalo, we know people from all over Harding County – we have people who are good friends and we consider as neighbors even if they live 25 to 50 miles away,” Darwin says.

“In the spring and fall we do a lot of neighboring, trading work, branding and working cattle. There are about seven families in our crew who rotate around and help each other,” Jason explains.

Branding, the men explain, is a social event everyone looks forward to each spring. “After being cooped up all winter, it’s nice to get out and see people,” Jason says. “When you feel like you have had a crap winter, you hear about the one guy who buried his tractor in the snow and had to climb out his back window. It makes the day that you had all the pickups buried in the snow not seem quite so bad.”

Beyond the good times, community members watch out for one another in small ways, like delivering parts. “One challenge of living rural is the distances you have to go to get parts. Getting parts when you break down during haying can take one to four hours, depending on where you need to go for the part. At the Case-IH dealership 65 miles away there’s a sign on the counter asking in-store customers if they are from one of the towns listed, would they be willing to drop a part off for a neighbor in that community waiting for a part,” Darwin explains.

And in big ways. Darwin shares about a time a few years ago when an area ranch had a TB outbreak in their herd. “Everyone who shares a fenceline with them had to test. It happened right before calving season. It was a terrible deal. You don’t want to work cows before calving, but we had to. We had phone calls from our bankers, feed salesmen, insurance salesmen and others asking if they could come out and help us work cattle,” Darwin says. “Relationships you develop in agriculture are like nothing you can find in any other field.”

To give back, the Lathams are all actively involved in the community. Jason and Kay serve on the fair board, John and Jason serve on the church council, Darwin has served on the school board and is president of the EMT association. John currently serves on the Harding County Economic Development board and Jason has served as a director of Stockgrowers. Darwin, Kay and Jason are volunteer EMTs and John and Kaeloni are drivers for the Harding County Ambulance Service. ”We feel that part of leaving a legacy for your children and grandchildren is leaving not only a sustainable ranch, but a strong sustainable community. We have benefited from a great community and we want to give back and pay it forward to the next generations,” says Darwin.

“We have a lot of history here. I know it because I grew up with Granddad Frank, and although he wasn’t one of the first ones, he knew all the first ones,” Darwin explains. “This area was, is and will continue to be a great place to live and raise a family.”

To view more photos of the Latham family, click here.

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Value Added Agriculture Center Celebrates 20 Years

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Turning a good idea into a successful business isn’t simple – just ask Cheri Rath.

“Business plans, feasibility studies, research and development … there are so many spokes in the wheel. It is challenging, cumbersome, expensive and takes time,” explains Rath, Executive Director of South Dakota’s Value Added Agriculture Development Center.

Guiding South Dakota’s agricultural entrepreneurs through this process has been the focus of the non-profit organization since its inception 20 years ago, explains Lake Preston farmer and S.D. Farmers Union (SDFU) Vice President Wayne Soren. “We needed an organization where farmers, ranchers and rural citizens can go when they think they have an idea for a business, to help them get it off the ground,” explains Soren, who represents SDFU on the Value Added board of directors. “You think you have an idea, but what do you do next? You have to be able to manufacture, market and be financially savvy. In general, most people have the skills to do one of those three things. Sometimes two of those three. But almost never does anyone have the know-how or resources to do all three effectively.”

This is where the Value Added Ag Development Center comes in, Rath explains. “We are able to walk people through the process. We can step in and put ink to paper to help them get the necessary paperwork done to apply for grants or put together their business plan or have a feasibility study done – we consider ourselves the hub of the project, we hold their hands through the entire process, while bringing partnering resources to the table,” she says.

And, it’s working. Since 1999, 79 percent of all ideas that go through the Value Added Ag Development Center process, became a reality. Today, 41 percent are still operational. This is compared to the statewide average of 10 percent.
SDFU is among the founding sponsors of the organization, which provides all its services at no cost.

“Our membership, sponsors like Farmers Union, are instrumental to our being available to producers,” explains Rath, who says the organization also finds ways to leverage grant dollars to help finance the services they provide, and help entrepreneurs with research and development or other start-up expenses.
Grants discovered through the Value Added Ag Development Center helped Spearfish hops grower, Steve Polley cover costs associated with research and development. Polley began working with the Value Added Ag Development Center about 10 years ago, after he harvested his first crop of hops, and decided to preserve the crop by freezing it instead of drying it. Technical assistance provided by the Value Added Ag Development Center has also guided Polley with business planning and marketing strategy as Dakota Hops moves into commercialization of his unique hops products.

“To my knowledge, we are the only grower who freezes hops for brewing beer,” Polley explains. In fact, after doing some research, Polley found only one journal article from the 1940s, where Oregon State University professors tried freezing hops to determine if it could be done. “They found it could be done, and the article said they thought it would make excellent beer, probably better beer than dried hops.”

Hops are among the main ingredients found in many varieties of beer, and according to Polley, although they are labor-intensive, they thrive in the western South Dakota climate.

To discover whether or not frozen hops could be used in brewing beer, Polley reached out to home brewers and microbrewries in western U.S. to help test the concept. Because the results were so favorable, they decided to do side-by-side tests to determine which tasted better – beer made with dried hops or frozen hops.

Using USDA grants they found through Value Added Ag Development Center, Polley was able to fund multiple tests, using multiple varieties of hops.
The results were uniform. Beer brewed with frozen hops tasted as good, or better than beer brewed with commercial kiln dried hops.

Polley wanted to know if two batches were made at the same time, using dried hops for one batch and frozen for the other, which beer would taste better.
Polley didn’t stop there. Using USDA grants he found through Value Added Ag Development Center, and working with local breweries and brew clubs, Polley tested this theory multiple times, asked Black Hills State University chemists to explore why freezing hops make a better tasting beer, purchased equipment and hired a brew master.

Polley, who doesn’t drink, relies on others - professionals, amateur taste-testers and judges - to determine if frozen hops produce a better-tasting product. Since R&D began, beer produced from Polley’s frozen hops has won top honors at four brew festival contests.

Flavor isn’t the only reason brewers may want to consider using frozen hops over dried. Polley’s research proved a large yield advantage.

“It takes four times less hops to make the same amount of beer,” Polley says.
He explains, that it takes 4 pounds of vine-fresh hops to produce 1 pound of dry hops for market. Whereas 1 pound of vine-fresh hops, produces 1 pound of frozen hops. “If a beer recipe calls for 5 ounces of Cascade (a hop variety), and a brewer uses 5 ounces of dried hops, it took 20 ounces of fresh hops. However, if we use 5 ounces of frozen hops, it only took 5 ounces of fresh hops. And, the beer tastes better,” Polley says.

The ability to produce four times more hops per acre, by changing the preservation method could have a large impact on the hops industry. Polley says his research company, Dakota Hops LLC, needs to do more research and development before he is ready to market his discoveries.

This harvest, they plan to freeze hops in the field using liquid nitrogen (-320 degrees Fahrenheit) with Individual Quick Freeze (IQF) technology. This will preserve hop freshness because it will reduce hop preservation time to a few minutes.

“My business model fits the concept of the Value Added like a glove. We have taken an agriculture product and been able to develop something that prior to this did not exist,” Polley says.

Soren adds, Value Added Ag Development Center fits with the philosophies of South Dakota Farmers Union too. “Value Added shines in its work helping small, rural businesses. If you read our mission statement, you can see it talks about rural America and supporting rural communities. If one business gets started in a rural community, and provides employment to one, two or three individuals, that is a big deal,” Soren explains.

To learn more about the Value Added Agriculture Development Center, visit www. sdvalueadded.coop/. To learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union supports family farmers, ranchers and their rural communities, visit sdfu.org.

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South Dakotans from Ethan, Frederick, Groton, Huron & Pierpont Named 2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees

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By Lura Roti for SDFU
Each year, SDFU recognizes individuals who give back to their communities with the Rural Dakota Pride Award. To meet the 2019 honorees, attend the Rural Dakota Pride Ceremony held at 10:30 a.m., Aug. 31 during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair on the Freedom Stage. Read on to learn more.
Angie Mueller, Ethan
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. 

Jim Lane, Groton
When Jim Lane hears his peers make negative comments about “kids these days.” He is quick to disagree.

“I get to work with kids who put an incredible amount of work into their projects. Their work ethic, fortitude and personal drive are why I like volunteering as the robotics coach,” Jim explains, about the Groton High School students who make up the robotics team he has coached since 2011.

Robotics is a unique extra-curricular activity where teens are given the rules of a game, and then expected to build and program a robot to play that game, competing against another robot built by an opposing team. Governed by an international organization, Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, the youth compete on the state level to qualify for regional, national and international competitions.

As the coach, Jim sees his role as practice organizer, supply provider, provider of transportation and teaching youth problem solving skills. “I don’t tell them anything. Robotics is not like basketball or football where the coach tells kids how to play the game,” he says, explaining that when the teens ask him questions, he asks them more questions. “Robotics teaches them how to problem solve by helping them think through issues. All their lives, they will have to solve problems. No matter what they do or where they go, there will be a problem. Whether it is a mechanical problem or a people problem.”

To emphasize his point further, Jim shares a story about a time when the Groton team qualified for a nation competition with more than 350 teams. “Our team was doing very well and close to the top at the end of the first day of matches. Then, their robot broke in last seconds of competition.”

The teens painstakingly took their robot apart, spending hours testing the parts to locate the problem. By 10 p.m. when the facility closed for the night, they were forced to leave their robot, which they still needed to finish putting back together. The next morning, they arrived early to finish putting the robot back together.

The Groton team ended up placing third overall in their division. “They won because they spent the time working on their robot, finding the problem and fixing it.”

Problem solving is something Jim enjoys. It’s a skill that comes in handy. He is a small business owner of a handyman business, Jim of All Trades. “I enjoy projects and I have a curious mind. The things I read for pleasure are Discovery Magazine and National Geographic.”

Jim first got involved in coaching robotics when his son, Logan, was in high school. Logan had been taking a robotics unit and the teacher learned of a competition in Sioux Falls. Logan and some of his friends were interested in participating, but they needed a parent to provide transportation. When the teacher asked Jim, he said, “yes.”

Then, Jim organized some practices…he was hooked. Even after Logan graduated, Jim is still involved.

“I like watching kids take ownership of their robot and the work it takes,” Jim says.

Along with the opportunity to mentor local youth, Jim appreciates the opportunity to give back to the community he’s called home since 1976. “I like the fact it’s a small town and, when my kids were young and running around, people knew who they were and where they belonged. If they got into trouble, people know where to come.”

Jim has five grown children, Jamie Forrest, CJ, Lincoln, Logan and Marshall. In addition to robotics, Jim and his wife, Melodee, volunteer their time in other areas of the community as well. A few years ago, couple dedicated two years to organizing efforts to fundraise and build a warming house for the community ice rink.

To learn more about the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, visithttps://www.roboticseducation.org/.
Rich Bakeberg, Frederick
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.”



Jeannie Hofer, Huron

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.


Franklin Olson, Pierpont

When Franklin Olson commits to something, he follows through. As a little boy he decided he would farm. As a young man, he expanded his dream, determining to farm 1,000 acres – even though he and his wife, JoAnne had to start from scratch.

Through hard work and tenacity, they expanded and eventually Franklin was farming 1,000 acres and milking a herd of milk cows.

For nearly 65 years, Franklin applied the same dedication to the many organizations he has served. He was only 18 when Farmers Union Independence Local 923 asked him to serve as their Secretary/Treasurer and he said “yes,” and never missed a meeting until he left town for two years to serve in the Army. When he returned, he resumed his role, and went on to serve several terms as Day County Farmers Union President. He served several years on the Brown/Day/Marshall Rural Water System and as well as the State Rural Water Board, helping guide them through several phases of development; served on the board of directors for FSA board as well as the board of the Strand Kjorsvig Living Center and served on the Farmers Union Oil Company board of directors for 35 years – missing only two meetings. Franklin recently completed six years of service, representing District 3 on the South Dakota Farmers Union State Board of Directors.

“It’s always easy to work hard for something you thoroughly believe in,” Franklin says. “I’m glad that a lot of the things I was involved in turned out to be good and successful.”

A strong advocate for Farmers Union and cooperatives, Franklin says both have played a vital role in supporting South Dakota’s farmers. “If we didn’t have cooperatives in our country right now, farmers would not have a local place to do business. Farmers Union is the number one farm organization. We have always fought for family farmers, fair prices and education programs,” he said. “Like agriculture, our cooperative has evolved quite a bit. I have watched it grow from a small cooperative to merge with a cooperative in a neighboring community to better serve farmers throughout our region.”

Because Franklin began serving at such a young age, he had to fit meetings and service activities into his already busy farm and dairy schedule. “Some mornings I got up early, and some nights I worked late. JoAnne was always a great support,” says Franklin, noting that his typical workday began at 5 a.m. since they milked the cows at 6. “People who milk cows do things on time.”


 

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S.D. Farmers Union Meets with EPA Director to Discuss E30

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South Dakota Farmers Union, together with leaders from 13 South Dakota agriculture organizations, sat down with Gregory Sopkin, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator for District eight to discuss challenges facing South Dakota farmers and ranchers, as well as opportunities to be found through expanded support for higher ethanol blends. The August 1, 2019 South Dakota Ag Roundtable was hosted in Sioux Falls by South Dakota Corn.

“This was a valuable opportunity to provide the farmers’ story and give the EPA a chance to put a face to that story,” explains Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union.

Stories like the one shared by a young farmer who participated in the roundtable. “He did a good job describing what it is like as a young farmer. He’s the same age as my son. He shared that there are no markets. All he and other farmers want is to have their markets back. One of the best ways to do this is through ethanol and distillers grains,” explains Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer.

Because of the local marketing opportunities it provides for South Dakota farmers, supporting ethanol has been a focus of South Dakota Farmers Union policy for more than 30 years. Sombke says it was encouraging to hear other organization’s support for expanding the state’s ethanol industry through increased sales of higher ethanol blends, like E30. “During the discussion, the comment was made that young farmers are going broke and E15 isn’t going to cut it,” Sombke shares.

Prior to the roundtable, Sopkin traveled to Watertown to tour Glacial Lakes Energy Cooperative ethanol plants and learn about how the cooperative bolstered local sales of E30 600 percent through an educational campaign, the E30 Challenge.

“The Administration has been trying to help farmers. One way is to expand use of E15. I received education on possibilities of E30 and what a community is doing to promote E30,” Sopkin shared. “When I was at Glacial Lakes Energy, many in the community showed up to say how they used E30 in non-flex fuel vehicles and in general, they had a positive experience.”

Hearing Sopkin’s words, SDFU Executive Director Karla Hofhenke says she is optimistic about the future growth of the state’s ethanol industry. “We’ve worked for decades lobbying for ethanol use to be part of policy dealing with clean air and the environment. It’s not easy because our largest competitor is Big Oil. But, after Administrator Sopkin’s tour of Glacial Lakes and meeting with leaders of ag organizations who shared that one way the President can support farmers is through his support of E30, I am hopeful.”

Support in tough times

Hope is also a word Sombke used when reflecting on the discussion. “Unity was demonstrated today. On the surface, we each have different focuses, but overall, the work we do boils down to supporting South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. We’re like a family. We may not always get along, but in tough times, we are here for each other. I felt that today,” Sombke says.

Sombke explains that in his role, he visits with farmers and ranchers daily and hears how the current depressed ag economy impacts their lives. “This is the worst I’ve seen South Dakota’s agriculture economy, and I started farming in the 80s.”

Also, during the roundtable, a participant shared that they talked with a South Dakota lawyer who typically works on three to five farm bankruptcies a year, and as of January 2019, the lawyer is working on 52 cases.

“It was encouraging to sit beside other leaders and know that we are all working together,” Sombke says.

E30 was not the only opportunity discussed. Land stewardship and farmers and ranchers’ work to improve soil health were also topics brought up.

“Communicating with the EPA how South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers care for the land and its resources is important,” Sombke explained. “It’s our land and our livelihood.”

To learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union supports the state’s family farmers and ranchers, visit www.sdfu.org.

 

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S.D. Farmers Union Welcomes Luke Reindl

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There’s so much going on in the world today, that the challenges family farmers and ranchers face are often not heard by policy makers. Luke Reindl hopes he can help create positive change through his new position as Communications & Policy Specialist with S.D. Farmers Union.

“I think it’s so noisy in the world we live in right now, it’s easy for what’s going on with our family farmers and ranchers to get lost in the mix. I wanted to join Farmers Union so I could be a voice for them and advocate on their behalf,” explains Reindl, who grew up on a cow/calf and crop operation near Wessington Springs.

In his role, Reindl will work closely with members and state staff to enhance and support the organization’s communication and policy efforts.

Working directly with members, meeting with them on their farms and ranches is an aspect of his work that he is familiar with. Prior to joining SD Farmers Union’ team, Reindl worked as a branch manager and ag banker for American Bank and Trust in Wessington Springs.

“Being able to work directly with producers is where I get the greatest reward,” Reindl says. “I understand the direct impact markets and weather have had on our producer families, and I am eager to advocate on their behalf.”

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union and the work the grassroots organization does to support South Dakota’s family farmers, ranchers and rural communities, visit www.sdfu.org.

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Truth in Labeling, Food Security, Pre-K Education & More Focus of 2019 State Policy Meeting

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Truth in labeling, E30, affordable housing, pre-K education and food security topped the list of policy discussed during South Dakota Farmers Union annual State Policy meeting, held July 24, 2019, in Huron at the Crossroads Convention Center.

“This is grassroots policy development in action,” explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President. “Leading up to State Convention, this is the most important meetings we participate in. It sets the base for 2020 policy. Members from across the state have a chance to have their voices heard and impact our organization’s policy focus moving forward.”

During the afternoon meeting, members from across the state review the SDFU policy book, discuss and vote on updates suggested by the State Policy Committee. “It’s our job as a committee to listen to what members in our district are saying about changes they’d like to see, review the policy book and see where they would fit,” explains Policy Committee Chair, Jenae Hansen, a sixth-generation South Dakotan, working as a social work consultant for B Consulting, LLC, whose family farms near Turton.

The Policy Committee also reviews the policy book for outdated language, laws or language that needs clarification. In addition to Hansen, who represents District 7, other members of the Policy Committee include Dist. 1, David Cap, Yankton; Dist. 2, Scott Kolousek, Wessington Springs; Dist. 4, Hank Wonnenberg, Gregory; Dist. 5, Mary Ellen Cammack, Sturgis and Dist. 6, Dani Beer, Keldron.

“I enjoy seeing grassroots policy come together from members’ ideas and solutions,” explains Keldron rancher, Danni Beer of why she agreed to serve District 6 as a Policy Committee member. “This meeting, and state convention, are a great way for members to voice their thoughts on policy that they don’t agree with or don’t think is worded quite right.”

Winner farmer, Joel Keierleber agrees. “There are a lot of issues to look at and address,” he explains. And, although he could have spent the day repairing fence taken out by spring floods, Keierleber, like many other members, made time for the Policy Meeting.

From its inception more than a century ago, developing policy to support family farmers, ranchers and rural communities has been a focus of Farmers Union. And, for many members, policy development is a role they take seriously.

“Policy is very important. It’s something I truly love, so having the opportunity to use some of my policy development knowledge and experience to serve an organization I care a lot about is a great opportunity,” Hansen says. “As a membership organization, that is truly driven by its members, this policy meeting is so important because it structures what our voice will be when we advocate and talk with legislators.”

 To learn more about SDFU current policy, contact Karla Hofhenke for a copy of the policy book. All policy discussed and voted on during the State Policy Meeting, will be reviewed and voted on again by delegates during the 2019 State Convention.

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Gasolinegate: Three Decades of Flawed Emission Reports Has Endangered Public

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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.”

Related research and information: Safe Gasoline Public Education and Consumer Awareness Campaign Library/Website

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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 www.sdfu.org and click on the education tab. Or call Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator at 605-350-3421.

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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 http://www.sdhsra.com/.

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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 www.sdfu.org.

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