S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates the Lee Farm Family from De Smet
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 No. 1 industry and help feed the world. This month, we celebrate the Lee farm family who raise crops and cattle near De Smet. Pictured here: Kaitlyn, Landon, Roger, Rob and Mary.
By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union
Farming brings the Lee family joy. Enjoying the work and time together on the land is essential for this De Smet farm family.
“We have told our kids this for years, as long as we can farm and have fun with it, we will continue to do it,” explains Roger Lee, 62, who farms with his wife, Mary, and their three grown children, Rob, Landon and Amanda.
Forty years ago, fun would hardly be the term an outsider would use to describe the beginning of Roger’s farming career.
Only a few years into farming fulltime, his dad, Ephriam, passed away, leaving Roger, at 21 to milk the family’s dairy herd and farm with his mom, Dorothy. It was 1976. A year later a drought and lack of feed forced him to sell their dairy herd.
Roger’s affection for farming kept him going, even when interest rates reached 23 percent.
“I always knew I wanted to farm. I liked farming. It wasn’t the money-making part of it, I just knew I wanted to be on the farm. If I didn’t like it, I would have been gone,” says the third-generation farmer, who instead of heading off to college after high school, bought his first half section of land from his parents.
At 18, he bought his second half section from a neighbor. “(At the time) I was the youngest FHA (Farmers Home Administration) real estate borrower in Kingsbury County,” Roger says. “Dad had to sign a form saying I could use his barn and equipment. Dad and Mom were always fair to me.”
With farm income nil, Roger and his wife, Mary, were able to keep up with land payments by working off the farm.
Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union was recently Elected Chairman of Farmers Union Enterprises board of directors.
"I am eager to continue to guide this organization whose goal is to do everything we can to help family farmers and ranchers," said Sombke, of the organization which oversees Farmers Union Industries.
Farmers Union Industries is made up of several businesses - the dividends of which go to help fund Farmers Union organizations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin as well as Farmers Union Enterprise programs and National Farmers Union.
Jesse Carlson, Seneca, and Reece Schultz, Orient, were selected to serve on the 2016-2017 Senior Advisory Council during the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre December 2016.
In this role, Carlson, a freshman studying Economics at South Dakota State University, and Schultz, a freshman studying Production Innovation at Dakota State University, will provide advice and act as mentors to the six members of the Farmers Union Youth Advisory Council. The Youth Advisory Council helps organize and plan Farmers Union State Leadership camp each year.
Below, the college students visit about what they look forward to in this new leadership role and discuss how the personal leadership development and communication skills they developed through Farmers Union educational programming has helped them during their first year of college.
Her passion for being around livestock and the people who depend upon them for their livelihood is what attracted Taylor Aubrey to pursue a master's degree focused on dairy production.
"I enjoy working with producers and the close connection to our food system," explains the South Dakota State University graduate student and the 2017 recipient of the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation $2,500 Graduate Scholarship.
Developed to support students pursuing graduate degrees in agriculture, the SDFU Foundation scholarship is one of several scholarships the grassroots organization sponsors each year.
Feb. 2, 2017 Two PE Teachers Working Together to Keep the Family Farm: The Story of the GooseMobile
Sixty-four years ago Ruth (Iburg) and Tom Neuberger embarked on their life's adventure together beginning with a road-trip from South Dakota to Ft. Benning, Georgia, where Tom's orders were awaiting them.
Along the way, the State College graduates took in several collegiate football games. Not your typical honeymoon, but perfect entertainment for two physical education teachers.
Before the couple became known for the GooseMobile, their Canistota-based, direct marketing, farm-to-table business, they were commuting to their first job together as high school physical education teachers.
It was 1955 and gym classes looked much different than they do today. "The girls all wore navy blue uniforms and when I taught aerobics, I had a piano accompanist," Ruth says.
She begins to giggle at the memory of leading the class of 90 girls through a routine balanced on a raised platform about the size of her kitchen table. "I was responsible for teaching 550 girls. This job taught me a lot about organization skills I ended up utilizing years later when I was manager of the Downtown Farmers Market."
Not long after her stint as a PE teacher, Ruth gave up her career to stay at home with the couple's only son, Tim. "We were only blessed with one child and it took us a long time, so I was determined to stay home," Ruth explains.
Tom, in the meantime, was building his career as a collegiate wrestling coach.
By the time his dad, Walter, called to say he was ready to retire and ask if Tom wanted to take over the family farm, Tom was the athletic director, basketball coach and soccer coach at Concordia Lutheran College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
"Dad was old school. He said, 'Because you are the oldest, you get the first opportunity,'" explains Tom. "Growing up, my interest was sports. I had no real interest in agriculture. I grew up on this farm, but for my future, why, I wanted to be a teacher and a coach."
A couple of faith, they prayed for wisdom. In the end, it was their middle-school-age son, Tim, who tipped the scale.
"It was the early 70s and in Ann Arbor, it was a time of free love. Even the junior high students were demanding smoking rooms. I wanted to get out of there before my one and only child was polluted by these crazy ideas," Ruth explains.
Although Tom had not planned to return to the farm, he could see the value in moving his family back to South Dakota and in the end, he says the skills he developed as a coach proved invaluable back on the farm.
"When I was coaching, I had a bunch of human beings who I was trying to organize and do the right things with to get them to win. Now, on the farm, here I am, working with cows, pigs, sheep and poultry organizing them to make it work," Tom explained.
And it did work.
That is, until the Farm Crisis of the late 70s and early 80s hit.
Tom figured out the farm could provide for the family if they built up their livestock operation to 100 cows, 100 pigs and 100 sheep. When the markets fell, it didn't take long before the 20 percent interest they were paying on the livestock loan caught up with them.
"I farmed the way my dad did. Then one day I was doing the bookwork and I figured out that we had paid more interest than we'd gotten paid. We had to do something different," Tom says.
Instead of returning to his coaching career, Tom became determined to stick it out and make things work.
This decision didn't surprise Ruth.
"When he was a wrestler in college he had one record. He never got pinned," Ruth explains. "He is a strong-willed person; he will work, and work, and work, until it works."
They began selling off the cattle and started looking into direct marketing.
"I liked to garden so I thought, 'Why not?'" Ruth says.
A people person, Ruth enjoyed the weekly trip to sell her garden vegetables at the Sioux Falls Farmers Market.
"The reason we've been so successful with direct marketing is more her than me. She is more of a people person than I am," Tom explains. "Customers will call in an order and then visit with Ruth for 15 or 20 minutes."
Not shy about their personality differences, Ruth explains that the reason they have worked so well together on the farm for nearly 45 years is that they share a strong faith, keeping God at the center of their marriage, and they each focus on their niche. "We help each other when we need help," Ruth explains. "But we each have our own way of doing things."
Farmers Markets were a rather new concept in 1978, and the Downtown Farmers Market in Sioux Falls had a few growing pains to work through.
Ruth became the group's first chairperson, organized committees and on Tom's urging, worked to develop a price structure for all vendors which was fair.
"Tom said, 'You got to make money. You need to help organize the members so you are not all competing against each other.'"
While Ruth was building up their direct market business, Tom began rebuilding the farm with poultry geese, chickens and turkeys. There was not an independent poultry processing plant in the area; he started a poultry processing plant in Humboldt.
From the start, the couple determined that the livestock they raised would be free range, grass-fed and raised without hormones or antibiotics.
So, when Ruth read an article that geese are an almost disease-free animal and Tom learned that there was an international export market, they didn't hesitate. The first year they raised 1,000 geese.
The goose export market closed a few years later. So, for a few years, the couple joined with other South Dakota geese producers and purchased small refrigerator trucks and direct marketed the meat to rural communities.
"The GooseMobile was not started by us, but by the members of the South Dakota Goose Association. In those days, South Dakota was the number one goose-producing state in the nation. When the organization dissolved, we bought them out and kept the GooseMobile routes going," Tom explained.
Over the years the GMO-free, grass fed, free range meat niche meat business evolved.
Eventually demand for their meat products began to grow among their produce customers. At first it was up to Ruth and Tom to educate their customers on the value of their naturally raised meat. Today, their customers educate themselves and have introduced some unique value-added opportunities.
"It's so funny: today we sell bones and fat and we never used to," says Ruth, of the products purchased to make homemade broth.
Today, at 85 and 86, the couple is looking to slow down, sell their business and after 64 years of marriage, embark on yet another adventure together.
To listen to Tom and Ruth visit about their life together and The GooseMobile, visit www.sdfu.org/news after February 15, 2017 and click on the Radio Show link.
Courtesy of S.D. Farmers Union Sixty-four years ago Ruth (Iburg) and Tom Neuberger embarked on their life's adventure together. Today, at 85 and 86, the couple is looking to slow down, sell their business, The GooseMobile, and embark on yet another adventure together.
Ralph Kenzy used to tell his sons, “You can’t put it all in your pocketbook.”
“He meant that agriculture is a lot more than money,” explains his oldest son, Brett, 45. “You get to be on the land, raising your kids. You get to work with crops and cattle. You’re never going to get rich ranching … there’s more than dollar bills that make you rich.”
Brett has worked on the family ranch since childhood except for a short break to serve in the Army and attend college. “I came back because I missed the community, the home base, this tie to the land,” Brett explains.
His brother, George, 40, adds: “My dream was always here.”
Like his older brother, George only left the Gregory ranch long enough to get a degree and even when they were college students, the fourth-generation cattle producers drove home to work every weekend.
Listening to the brothers/business partners visit about raising their children and cattle on the family’s ranch, it is clear that Ralph’s philosophy lives on through his sons. Ralph passed away in 2012.
“I kind of figured they would come home to ranch because they were home every weekend to work,” says their mom, Millie.
It was the first day of school 2006 and LeAnn's phone rang. Her son, Chet's, preschool teacher was calling.
"She said, 'LeAnn I think we have a problem. At the end of the day Chet packed up his bag and said, 'Thanks Mrs. Lanners. I had a great day, but I won't be back.'"
Taking the conversation in stride, LeAnn (Neugebauer) Moe met Chet as he got off the bus and set about showing the four-year-old the value of education by making connections between school and their family's Alexandria farm.
"We asked him to count the cows in the pasture, reminding him that in school he will learn how to count. We asked him if he wanted to help the guys spray in the field and then explained that he needed to learn science to do that.
South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s number one industry and help feed the world. This month, we feature the Mehling family who raise crops and cattle southwest of Wessington.
by Lura Roti, for South Dakota Farmers Union
Ask Greg Mehling, 53, what his favorite Christmas gift was as a child and without hesitation he names the miniature thrashing machine his dad built for him.
“The summer Greg was 6 we took him to Prairie Village. He came home needing a thrashing machine, so I worked in the garage every night until Christmas,” recalls Greg’s dad, Roy, 74.
The fourth-generation farmer’s early introduction to farm equipment didn’t stop with toys. By 7, Greg was driving a tractor. “Farming’s kinda in my blood. I enjoy it,” he explains.
After a brief detour to Lake Area Technical Institute and a few job interviews, Greg knew that even though times were tough, farming was the only career for him.
“It was the 80s, so the farming deal wasn’t really good, but after a few job interviews, I knew that farming was the only work I wanted to do,” Greg explains.
During the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre Dec. 8-9, South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation awarded three $500 scholarships to young people committed to attending a South Dakota college, university or technical school; and are children of parents who are current dues-paying members of South Dakota Farmers Union.
The scholarship recipients are Haley Bialas, Dimock; Reece Schulte, Orient; and Samuel Schumacher, Stickney.
When it comes to providing opportunities for McCook county youth, the 2016 recipient of the S.D. Farmers Union Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award, Tracy Chase, doesn't say 'no.'
She said 'yes' when the High School Agriculture Education Instructor, Terry Rieckman, asked the science teacher to take on some agriculture education classes. "He said, 'What do you think about us working together?' FFA provides great opportunities for students, so I began teaching Animal Science, Agriculture Foods and Natural Resources classes,'" recalls Chase, who grew up on a McCook County dairy farm.
Twelve years ago, she also said 'yes' when Farmers Union District 2 President, Jim Wahl, asked if she would serve as the Education Director for McCook County. "You have to provide opportunities for kids and South Dakota Farmers Union does just that," says Tracy, of why she accepted the additional responsibility.
Rural youth were recognized today for their commitment to community and leadership skills with the Torchbearer Award during an awards banquet held during the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre, Dec. 8-9, 2016.
Torchbearer is the highest level for South Dakota Farmers Union Education Achievement. This achievement showcases the time and dedication campers have given over the years to the education department as well as the communities they have served. A special thanks to their families whom supported this process and ensured campers were able to attend camp and other activities.
"South Dakota Farmers Union invests in youth starting at a young age to ensure the next generation of leaders in our rural communities. We appreciate these youth and their families who have invested in this program and are dedicated to the traditions and skills the program embeds in the students," said S.D. Farmers Union Education Director, Rachel Haigh-Blume.
The 2016 Torchbearers include; Madelyn Kline, Huron, daughter of Neal and Kristin Kline; Jonah Murtha, Parkston, son of Becky and Kevin Murtha; Shaun Snedeker, Woonsocket, son of Mark and Lisa Snedeker; Cole Van Gorp, Stickney, son of Randy and Jan Van Gorp; Abbey Tschetter, Huron, daughter of Lisa Tschetter; Braeden Walton, son of Scott and Lisa Walton, Mitchell and Reece Schulte, son of Mark and Jil Schulte, Orient.
South Dakota Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke supports today's
announcement that the Farmer Fair Practices Rules have been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).
"These rules are designed to level the playing field for family farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry. These rules give producers protection against unfair or discriminatory contract practices and two proposed rules that provide oversight for pricing and payment practices," Sombke explained. "Across the board these rules are designed to provide fair price protection, but especially for those farmers who raise poultry or swine, which are heavily concentrated."
He explains that today, 51 percent of all boiler markets and 57 percent of turkey markets are controlled by four processors.
Sombke's comments echo those of National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson.
"For too long, family livestock producers and poultry growers have endured a heavily concentrated market with little protection against unfair, anti-competitive practices. We are glad that this important set of rules is finally moving forward," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "While the Farmer Fair Practice Rules do not fix all of the fraudulent practices in the livestock and poultry industries, these rules are certainly an important step in the right direction."
A provision was included in the 2008 Farm Bill, authorizing USDA to improve GIPSA regulations; however, until recently, lawmakers repeatedly blocked the funding needed for USDA to finalize these protection rules for family farmers.
"Both producers and consumers benefit when the markets are competitive and the practices and process are transparent. We look forward to thoughtfully reviewing the published rules and providing feedback to ensure the final rules will work for family farmers," Johnson said.
Moving forward, Sombke said the question will be whether the Trump Administration will follow through and support the Farmer Fair Practice Rules.
South Dakota Farmers Union members donated $5,000 to Make-A-Wish and helped make Toby’s wish to go to Walt Disney World come true.
Toby is 11 and lives with his family in Lower Brule. Toby faces dilated cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening medical condition. He is among 53 other South Dakota youth who had their wishes granted in 2016 thanks to the generosity of South Dakotans, explains Paul Krueger, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish South Dakota.
“We really believe that wishes are essential for kids with life-threatening medical conditions. Wishes give hope, strength and joy to those children and their families,” Krueger explains.
Like Farmers Union, Make-A-Wish is a grassroots organization which relies heavily upon a volunteer network of nearly 200 and donations from individuals and organizations to keep granting wishes.
The phrase, “That will never work,” doesn’t slow BJ McNeil down.
Not when he converted 4,000 acres of his grandpa’s conventionally tilled land to no-till. Not when he was among the first Wessington farmers to plant Roundup Ready soybeans. Not when he decided to plant cover crops.
If anything, hearing the expression has only motivated the fourth generation farmer.
“I am confident in my own decisions and what I want to accomplish it’s just my nature,” BJ, 46, explains.
His aunt and business partner, Jonnie Zvonek, says it’s in his genes. “You have your grandpa’s attitude. You just don’t quit.”
BJ’s grandpa, John Wilmer Zvonek, is the reason both Jonnie and BJ farm today.
When Jonnie was born, she was the third of four daughters and his namesake.
“I was always with dad I was basically his ‘son’ John,” Jonnie recalls.
After high school Jonnie tried working off the farm. She moved to Sioux Falls and worked for the Argus Leader as a typesetter for nine months.
“I felt claustrophobic,” she explains. “I always loved getting my hands in the dirt and watching things grow - so, I asked dad if I could come home and farm full-time.”
Working side-by-side with her dad, Jonnie was involved in every aspect of the farm: planting, harvesting and bookwork.
In the summer, her sister Sheryl’s son, BJ, would spend much of his time on the farm.
BJ says although he didn’t know it at the time, it was those summer vacations spent on the farm that instilled in him a passion for working the land. This passion eventually led him to pursue a degree in Agriculture Engineering from Texas A&M.
“I first tried aerodynamics because I wanted to be a Navy pilot. Then I transferred to business. I had no passion for any of the classes. So, I asked myself, ‘What do I love?’ The answer was, ‘I loved farming,’” BJ explains.
Shortly after BJ graduated from college, Wilmer passed away. BJ asked Jonnie if he could come back and farm with her. She said yes.
Like many young farm boys, long before Mike Jaspers was harvesting a crop in the field, he was on his hands and knees, harvesting off the floors in his parents’ home.
“If dad was out harvesting, I was in the basement with my toy combine harvesting,” recalls the fifth-generation Marshall County family farmer, ‘88-89 State FFA President, former legislator and current South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture.
As he reflects on the journey which led him to accept Governor Daugaard’s request to serve as Secretary of Agriculture starting July 5, 2016, Jaspers explains that although his passion for public service was developed in college, his passion for agriculture was nurtured from the start. It started long before he was old enough to drive a tractor.
“I’m a typical kid who grew up on a farm. You live your mom and dad’s business. It’s just part of who we are as South Dakota ag producers. You grow up with it and that passion for agriculture becomes part of who you are,” explains the 1993 South Dakota State University graduate.
Mature enough to remember the ag economy of the late 70s, Jaspers is no stranger to the current challenges facing South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers.
Schaefers siblings – farm kids and soldiers: Sam, Paivi, Josie and Paul. Their youngest brother, Jacob, is pictured right.
By Lura Roti, for S.D. Farmers Union
Growing up actively involved in their family’s fourth-generation South Dakota farm prepared Josie Ries and four of her siblings well for military service.
“There are so many times on the farm or in our small farming community of Polo when we did things bigger than ourselves not just on our family’s farm, but for others in our community,” explains Josie, who joined the Army National Guard as a junior in high school. “Being a soldier is similar. You develop a strong sense of family and community with the people you serve with and you have this awesome sense of doing something bigger than you.”
When she signed up in 1996, Josie was the first of five Schaefers siblings to serve. The second oldest of seven children, Josie said she was inspired by older cousins and neighbors who served, as well as the fact that in their small community of Polo, patriotism is celebrated.
“We always had the best Fourth of July and Memorial Day celebrations,” Josie recalls.
She was only 17, so her parents, Fred and Cheryl Schaefers, had to sign for her.
Her brother, Paul, adds that in Polo, the Legion is one of only a few buildings left in the town. “Our Legion plays a big role in the community; making donations to local ball programs and helping with funerals and celebrations,” explains Paul, 31, who deployed to Iraq in 2006 and now farms full-time. Paul and his wife, Blair, a registered nurse, live in Polo.
Paul was a recent high school graduate when Josie deployed to Iraq in 2003.
He and his other siblings all credit Josie, in part, with inspiring them to serve. “It felt like the right thing to do,” explains Paul, who didn’t wait to be called up, but instead volunteered to deploy in 2006 with an infantry guard unit from Michigan. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. I wanted to do my part.”
By 2012, his brother, Sam, and sister, Paivi Stone, and their youngest brother, Jacob, were also enlisted.
As the youngest of seven, Jacob says even though he was the baby, he wasn’t coddled at home on the farm. “Once they all left I had to do a lot of work on the farm, plus help my mom with her catering business.”
Jacob says the work ethic and ability to stick with a job until it was done that he developed on the family’s crop and livestock farm served him well in his role as a Marine. “When something breaks on the farm, you may not know what is wrong or how to fix it, but you will get it figured out,” Jacob says.
When Cheryl and Fred Schaefers tied the knot 40 years ago, the two farm kids shared a strong passion for farming. And, along with crops and livestock, the couple wanted to raise a large family.
“We originally wanted 12 kids. Fred is the youngest of 9 and I am the second oldest of six we wanted a house full of noise and love,” Cheryl says.
Today, the active grandparents reflect on raising their seven children on the farm and say they wouldn’t change a thing. Their children include: Belle Schaefers, Josie Ries, Maureen “Mo” Wernsmann, Sam Schaefers, Paul Schaefers, Paivi Stone and Jacob Schaefers.
“What better way of life is there?” Fred asks.
“The kids all learned to care for life and that every life is important because they understood that it mattered to the farm’s bottom line,” Cheryl added.
The early years were busy, but happy. All seven of their children were born two years apart. “Whatever we were doing, I’d just pack up the kids and bring them along. We even put a swing in the milk parlor so the baby could watch us and swing while we milked,” Cheryl says.
The couple began milking their first Holstein just 10 days after they married. It was 1976 and Fred says Hand County was full of small 50 to 75-cow dairies. “There was money in dairying. It was a good steady income.
At one time there were at least 30 to 40 dairies in Hand County.” Slowly, they expanded their dairy herd to 80 cows.
The entire family helped with milking. As a young kid, Paul recalls carrying buckets of grain to each stanchion. “Then we installed an automatic feeder,” Paul remembers.
“You were replaced by technology,” his wife, Blair, jokes.
Paul and Blair celebrated their first anniversary this May. Like Paul, Blair grew up on a farm. “This way of life isn’t new to me,” explains Blair, who works as a nurse for Faulkton Area Medical Center and Good Samaritan nursing home in Miller.
Paul says the farming lifestyle was one reason he wanted to return to his family’s farm full-time after completing a deployment. Paul and four of his siblings are veterans.
During harvest, mornings come early for South Dakota farmers like Greg Mehling.
By 7 a.m. the Wessington farmer and his son, Cole are greasing combines or they are behind the wheel en route to the local elevator to unload trucks. By mid-morning they are in the field combining soybeans. That's where Greg and Cole will be until about 9 p.m.
"Sure the days are long, but this is my favorite time of year," says the fourth-generation farmer who raises corn, soybeans and some wheat.
Working within a small window of time allocated by Mother Nature to get the crop harvested before the weather turns, Mehling explains that there is no time to stop - even for meals. So, when Mehling was handed a sack lunch as he was unloading at Wheat Growers' Wolsey elevator the other day, he says it was appreciated.
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 Greenway family who raise crops and operate a wean-to-finish hog and cow/calf operation near Mitchell.
By Lura Roti for SDFU
A $200 scholarship from the Davison County Pork Producers in 1984 launched Mitchell farmer, Brad Greenway, on an ag advocacy journey which has placed him in front of thousands of consumers coast-to-coast and around the world sharing his story.
“That scholarship got me involved,” explains the third-generation pork producer.
Brad’s engagement in Davison County Pork Producers motivated him to become active in the S.D. Pork Producers Council (he served as president from 2005-2007), as well as the National Pork Board and the advocacy training program called Operation Main Street.
After providing Brad with training on how to share his farm’s story and how to put together presentations, Operation Main Street took the legwork out of advocacy by scheduling speaking engagements with local civic organizations, dietetic groups, county commissioners, and schools, as well as national and international sharing opportunities.
Since he started sharing his story in 2005, Brad has presented to more than115 groups.
Brad explains that putting a face to the food produced makes all the difference.
“I spoke to a big anti-ag/anti-big ag group, and following my presentation a woman in the back stood up to say that after hearing me speak, she trusted me when I said that animal comfort is a priority for us and we take care of our pigs. Then she asked, ‘How do I know that other farmers are doing the same thing?’ This is why advocacy is so important.”
“Even though we're very busy, it's important for farmers to share with consumers how we are growing food and why we do what we do," explains Peggy, who makes time to post photos on Facebook and Twitter as well as serve as a spokeswoman with Soybean Council’s Common Ground advocacy group.
“Terms like ‘factory farming’ are put on farms like ours because of misperceptions. We need to dispel myths and remind consumers that 98 percent of all farms are still family-owned.”
Brad adds that even farmers and ranchers who don’t feel they have the time or feel comfortable presenting, can do their part by making sure their neighbors and friends understand what they do on the farm. “Zoning issues come up because our neighbors simply don’t know what is going on,” Brad says.
He adds, “Today there is such a disconnect among consumers as each generation is farther removed from the farm. Even here in South Dakota - we drive 8 miles off the farm to Mitchell and there are plenty who don’t know what we are doing here on the farm.”
Brad and Peggy have a lot to share. To learn more about the Greenway family and view a video as well as an online photo gallery, click here.
Twenty-six family farmers, ranchers and Farmers Union members from South Dakota joined with some 275 farmers and ranchers from across the nation in Washington D.C. for the National Farmers Union (NFU) Fall Legislative Fly-In Sept. 12-14, 2016.
"We are facing some challenging times on farms and ranches across South Dakota right now. This Fly-In provides an excellent opportunity for those of us who are actively involved in the day-to-day operations on our farms and ranches to visit with Congressional leaders about the issues we face and ways they can provide support," explained Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.
The annual event allows Farmers Union members from across the country to meet directly with lawmakers, USDA leaders and other administration officials to discuss issues important to family farmers and ranchers.