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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates Three Generations of Farm Moms This Mother's Day

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As we reflect on the women who raised us this Mother's Day, S.D. Farmers Union would like to celebrate the many women who support the state's number one industry - Farm and Ranch Moms!

 Read on to learn the story of three mothers.

 Each of these Farmers Union members represent a different generation of women born and raised on South Dakota farms and ranches, who married a farmer or rancher.

 These women share their story and reflect on raising children on their South Dakota farm or ranch.

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S.D. Farmers Union President Doug Sombke Agreed to Exclusive TV Interview with KELO TV

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Today, during the 6 o'clock news, Doug Sombke, South Dakota Farmers Union President was interviewed by KELO TV following the 7 to 46 vote by Dist. 7 members which shut down a resolution asking for his resignation.

 Sombke stands by the election results decided by the members during the Centennial Convention held Dec. 9-10, 2015 in Huron.

 "I am proud of the work that I've done with Farmers Union. I am proud of where we have come since I have been the president of this organization and we will continue to do better," said Sombke, a fourth generation Conde farmer.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Insurance Welcomes New Regional Manager

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South Dakota Farmers Union Insurance welcomes Jason Wells to serve as the new Regional Manager.

 "Jason brings extensive leadership and career experience to this role," said Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. "We are confident he will administer exceptional guidance and support to our team of South Dakota Farmers Union Insurance agents who help provide risk protection to many families throughout South Dakota.

 Growing up in rural North Dakota, Wells began his career with Farmers Union Insurance of North Dakota right out of college. "My entire career has been 100 percent Farmers Union Insurance. Over the years, I have worked in every aspect of insurance," said Wells, who started out in operations and eventually became vice president of underwriting and marketing for Farmers Union Insurance of Montana.

 Wells is excited for the opportunity to lead South Dakota Farmers Union Insurance and cannot wait to get started.  He is also happy to bring his wife, Becci, and son, Carter, back to the Midwest and closer to family.

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

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Four FFA Chapters placed in the Farmers Union Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl held in conjunction with the 2016 South Dakota State FFA Convention in Brookings and will be advancing to the state competition held during the 2016 South Dakota State Fair.

The qualifying teams are, in order of highest score: the Viborg/Hurley FFA Chapter, team members include; Logan Slack, Alison Knutson, Abby Hora and Annie Wirth: the McCook Central FFA Chapter, team members include; Melissa Lauck, Leslie Kolbeck, Kohl Miller, and Jordan Scheier: Sunshine Bible FFA Chapter, team members include; Christopher Hass, Evan Lopez, Shelby Belmore and Titus Deal: and the Lyman FFA Chapter, team members include Korder Cropsey, Conrad MohrEymer, Eli Fanning and Grant Stewart.

 Designed as a fun way to inform teens about farm safety, South Dakota Farmers Union hosts the Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl each year during the FFA Convention.

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South Dakota Farmers Union Board of Directors Dispels Myths With Letter

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HURON, S.D. - For more than a century, South Dakota Farmers Union has supported the state's family farmers and ranchers. The organization's board of directors continues to support it's more than 17,000 members in standing by the election results tallied during the Dec. 2015 Annual Convention and validated by an outside lawyer.

 "The board has considered these resolutions and they are committed to the greater membership of South Dakota Farmers Union," said Joel Keierleber, Dist 4 Board member, in response to a request made by 25-30 members of it's Dist. 1 and Dist. 2 to hold a second convention.

 In response to allegations of mistreating staff, SDFU cannot discuss personnel issues.

 "However, the board of directors can tell you that no current or former employee has ever made a claim to the board that they were mistreated," said Kecia Beranek, Communication Specialist for SDFU. "The board is always willing to hear from every single employee."

Below is the letter, signed by the board of directors, and released to membership April 1, 2016 to let members statewide know there will not be a second convention and the election results stand.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Wonnenberg Family Ranch

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

This month, we're highlighting the Wonnenberg family who ranch near Dallas.

 As its mother protectively stands guard, her newborn calf, supported precariously by its wobbly legs, looks curiously at its surroundings and then begins nursing. For four generations, this heart-warming scene has signaled spring on the Wonnenberg Ranch near Dallas.

 And, even though it's been a part of his life for as long as he can remember, Steve, 61, still enjoys calving season.

 "From the time I was really small I enjoyed working with cattle and doing chores," explains Steve, who raises a registered Black Angus herd, which his dad, William, began in the 60s.

 "For their FFA project, my older brothers decided to get into raising registered Black Angus," Steve explains. "My dad liked them so much that he kept expanding the herd after my brothers left the ranch."

 Like his father before him, the third-generation rancher still does business with a handshake. "Our family still has the old mentality where a shake of the hand still means a lot," explains Steve and Joan's daughter, Casey Wonnenberg King. "When my dad sells registered Angus bulls, he always tells buyers that if something doesn't work out, he will make it right - and he always holds true to his promise."

To read the rest of their story, click here.

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Meet South Dakota Farm & Ranch Families During National Ag Week

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During National Ag Week, South Dakota Farmers Union and its 17,000-plus members want to introduce South Dakotans to a few of the many farm and ranch families who make up the state's number one industry by inviting the public to read their stories which can be found on the organization's website, www.sdfu.org.

 Since 2014, the organization has highlighted a different farm or ranch family each month - capturing their stories and photographing the family's agriculture operations.

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USDA Secretary Discusses Diversification, Conservation and Trade at NFU Convention

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South Dakota Farmers Union members were in attendance as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, spoke at the National Farmers Union Convention held March 5-8, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minn.

 "What an amazing opportunity for those of us who work in production agriculture and live in rural communities throughout South Dakota that are supported by agriculture to hear firsthand Vilsack's message," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

 Vilsack, who is also a Farmers Union member, celebrated U.S. agriculture's uniqueness and called on Congress to act on food labeling, and advocated for increased trade with Cuba.

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National Farmers Union College Conference on Cooperatives Introduces Students to Purpose & Diversity of Co-ops

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When Lake Area Technical Institute Agriculture Business student, Alexa Olson, thinks about cooperatives, she immediately pictures the grain elevator in her hometown.

 Until recently.

 Today, the image in her mind is much more diverse. Olson just returned from the National Farmers Union College Conference on Cooperatives held Feb.19-21, 2016, in Minneapolis.

 "During the conference we visited a grocery store that was a cooperative. I was impressed by the fact that cooperatives are much more than grain and agriculture focused," she said.

 Her classmate, Jeffrey York, agrees.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Wienk Charolais Farm Family

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South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s number one industry and help feed the world. This month, we’re highlighting the Wienk and Eschenbaum farm family who operate Wienk Charolais near Lake Preston.

Thumbing through a recent Wienk Charolais sale catalogue, Arnold Wienk, 78, recalls what it was like in the early years, “When I first sold bulls, the only number we gave buyers was the birthdate.” The glossy flyer is filled with photos of breeding stock and several columns of numbers representing EPD data - genetic information which today’s cattle producers count on to make breeding decisions. EPD data is standard issue with the sale of all purebred cattle thanks to the efforts of breeders like Arnold and Carol Wienk who, a generation ago, understood the value of genetic data.

 The Wienks are among the breed association pioneers who encouraged purebred breeders across the country to collect and catalogue genetic data because they understood the role it would play in improving commercial cattle herd genetics - and ultimately enable the cattle industry to quickly respond to consumer demands.

 “We do what we can to promote the industry and the product,” says Arnold, a third generation Kingsbury County farmer. “This herd has more records on file with the association than any herd in the U.S. - or is one of the herds with the most records - because we were keeping records with the S.D. Beef Improvement Association before the Charolais Association kept members’ performance records.” The Wienks transferred their performance records to the Charolais Association once the association began processing and maintaining members’ performance records.

 To read the rest of their story, click here.

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South Dakota Farmers, Ranchers & Rural Youth Visit Legislators Today for South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Day

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When you're 15 politics can be confusing. South Dakota's Legislature is now more understandable for the South Dakota teens who attended the South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Day today. They joined family farmers, ranchers and rural business owners who also participated in the annual event.

 "It's cool to see the process first hand and really understand what happens behind the scenes," says Hannah Sumption, 15 and a student at Frederick Area High School. "I have heard about it on the news, but until I got to sit in on committee meetings and Session today, I didn't really understand how everything worked."

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Sturgis Rancher attends National Farmers Union 2016 Women's Conference

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Initials and brands cover the inside wall of a barn on the Sturgis ranch Mary Ellen Cammack operates with her husband, Randy.

 "It started back when my dad was doing daily chores. If you helped him milk and feed bucket calves, he would carve your name or initials into the barn wall," she explains.

The family continues the tradition of raising quality Hereford cattle on the ranch. When family and friends visit, they ask to contribute to the wall - it's become a tradition of sorts. After attending the National Farmers Union Women's Conference recently, Cammack says the barn will be getting some new text - her family ranch's mission statement.

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Jr. REAL: South Dakota Farmers Union Continues to Cultivate Leaders in South Dakota's Youth

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Six Wolsey/Wesssington High School students learned how to protect their credit score and earned a cash prize from South Dakota Farmers Union as winners of the Making $ense of Credit and Finance PSA Competition.

 The winning team includes the following students: Devon Metter, Jamie Cutshaw, Zach Reilly, Matt Larsen, Justin Clark and Judd King.

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S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Birgen Farm Family

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

 By Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union; Photos by Kathy Birgen

 Like most South Dakota farm families 50 years ago, the Birgen’s farm resembled that of the Old McDonald nursery rhyme.

 “We raised cattle, chickens, sheep, had milk cows and stock cows ­ but back then, everyone did. You sold cream and eggs,” recalls Matt Birgen, an 86-year-old Korean War Veteran, who together with his wife, Maureen, farmed and raised their seven children on the land he bought near Beresford with combat pay in 1955.

To learn more about the Birgen family, and view a photo gallery, click here.

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S.D. Farmers Union Young Producers Event Encourages Next Generation to Explore Sustainability

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HURON, S.D. - Ranching is deeply rooted in Mark Hollenbeck's family. His great-grandparents homesteaded in Dakota Territory, however, as one of seven children, Hollenbeck grew up understanding that if ranching was in his future, he would have to take an unconventional route to get there.

 "It took a lot of unconventional ideas in order for me to get into the ranching business because unlike the vast majority of people who are ranching these days, inheriting the land wasn't an option available to me," explains Hollenbeck, who runs an organic cow/calf-finisher herd and a vacation rental property, Sunrise Ranch Lodge, near Edgemont.

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Sec. of Ag. Tom Vilsack Appoints two South Dakota Farmers Union Members to Serve on Cattlemen's Beef Promotion & Research Board

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Two S.D. Farmers Union members were appointed by Sec. of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack Dec. 22, 2015, to serve on the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, they are Union Center rancher, Tammy Basel and Frederick cattleman, Eric Sumption.

 "Secretary Vilsack made a good choice. Tammy and Eric live and breathe the cattle industry. Combined, they have extensive experience in all areas of the cattle industry as well as experience in promoting the industry by serving on state and national boards," said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.

 Farmers Union is one of the organizations which nominated Basel and Sumption, the two South Dakotan cattle producers appointed to serve with 100 producers from across the nation.

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A Century Strong! Members Turn Out for 2015 Centennial State Convention

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We are 100-years-old and have a lot to celebrate, said S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke of the organization's Centennial State Convention where nearly 500 members turned out to celebrate and provide policy direction for the future, Dec. 9-10, 2015, in Huron.

 "Celebrating 100 years is amazing, especially in this day and age when many organizations are struggling with membership numbers ­ just trying to survive ­ and we continue to thrive," says Mary Ellen Cammack, a cow/calf producer from Sturgis, who ranches with her husband Randy and drove to Huron with her adult daughters, Shelby Cammack and Paige Komes, who remain actively involved in production agriculture, managing their own cattle herds on their family's ranch and working as AI technicians.

 The Cammacks are currently participating in the 2016 Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program, which was developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union by providing training and hands-on experiences that enable couples to become knowledgeable leaders

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Ranch Family sees Past as Part of the Future

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Ranch Family sees Past as Part of the Future

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

By Alica P. Thiele for South Dakota Farmers Union; Photos by Darcy Krick Photography & Kecia Beranek, SDFU Communications Specialist

The Yost family of Gann Valley are dedicated to ranching for the long haul.

In hard times and good, four generations have pushed on, raising cattle and growing crops to sustain their herd.

Ben and Anastasia “Stacey” Knippling settled on the family ranch in 1930 with their only child, Paul. When Paul married Margaret Lobban in 1948, they built their home next to Paul’s parents and raised four children on the ranch. Paul and Margaret’s oldest daughter, Kathy, and her husband, Chuck Yost, joined the operation in 1973 and raised their five children on the ranch.

Now their boys ­ Charley, Wade and Rodney Yost ­ ranch with their parents and are looking forward to one day passing the land on to their children.

“In ranching, you get satisfaction in knowing you’re leaving something behind,’ Rodney said.

It’s not always easy. In the Dirty Thirties and the farm crisis of the 1980s, and more recently, during the Great Recession years, family members have made necessary sacrifices to keep the ranch running and thriving.

In the 1980s, some land purchased 10 years earlier needed to be sold, Kathy said. Chuck took day work and she got her degree in education so she could teach school. The couple’s daughters, Christie and Stacey, were top hands on the ranch until they married. They now ranch with their husbands. The boys all have outside incomes, but the land is “the heart of what it’s all about,” Rodney said.

Ben Knippling created the distinctive ax design that the family continues to use as their brand, and that is the reason the ranch is affectionately known as the Broadaxe Ranch. To learn more about the Yost family, and view a photo gallery, click here.

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Nancy Mueller Receives Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award

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 S.D. Farmers Union Davison County Education Director, Nancy Mueller was recognized for her years of dedicated service to South Dakota Farmers Union Youth Programming with the Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award during the Centennial Convention held Dec. 9-10, 2015 in Huron.

"Nancy Mueller has made great contributions to the success and longevity of the South Dakota Farmers Union Youth Program," said Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director during the presentation ceremony.

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Agriculture Producers from Reliance, Britton & Union Center Elected to Represent at National Farmers Union Convention

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Four agriculture producers were selected to represent South Dakota's family farmers and ranchers during the South Dakota Farmers Union centennial convention held in Huron last week Dec. 9-10.

 "Farmers Union is a grassroots organization, all policy - state and national - begins with our members at the state level. These delegates will represent South Dakota during the National Farmers Union Convention," explained Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

 Elected by the membership, these delegates will represent the states more than 17,000 Farmers Union members during the National Farmers Union Convention held March 5-8, 2016 in Minneapolis. The delegates include: Lorrie Hanson, , Britton; Jason Hanson, Animal Science major at North Dakota State, Britton; David Reis, cow/calf producer from Reliance and Steve Harwood, cattle producer, Union Center.

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