SD Farmers Union Celebrates Beitelspacher Farm Family

 – By


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.
 

Read More

Last Modified:


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

 – By



 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.

Read More

Last Modified:


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

 – By


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about Rural Dakota Pride

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

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

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

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

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

Read More

Last Modified:


Moody Siblings Push Each Other to Excel in Rodeo

 – By


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/.

Read More

Last Modified:


2019 Rural Dakota Pride Honorees Announced

 – By


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.

Read More

Last Modified:


Create Fair Markets Here at Home Says S.D. Farmers Union President

 – By


In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson, urged on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) to ensure the farmer assistance package they were developing in response to escalating Trade War, would “provide fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

While S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports Johnson’s request for a temporary relief package for all commodities impacted by the Trade War, he suggests an additional, urgent need for a long-term, market-fix stateside.

“We need to look at what is going on in our own nation, to understand why our farmers are so reliant upon export markets because we can control what happens within the U.S.,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer, who like most South Dakota farmers, was dealing with low commodity markets before the Trade War further depressed commodity prices.

Sombke believes the recent gutting of U.S. anti-trust laws, removes U.S. competition for commodities. He points to dissolving governmental oversight agencies, like the 2017 closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which facilitated the marketing of agriculture products.

“No wonder we are so dependent upon export markets, because although there is demand for our commodities right here at home, our farmers can’t get fair markets within the U.S.,” Sombke said. “We need governmental support to enforce anti-trust laws, to ensure farmers and ranchers can at least market their commodities at prices necessary to cover expenses.”

And, Sombke says there needs to be voluntary protections in place, beyond crop insurance. In April, Sombke, together with South Dakota Farmers Union member, Craig Blindert, a Salem farmer and crop insurance agent, met with Natural Resource Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency staff as well as congressional leaders to advocate for Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). A farmer-led solution to poor markets, IMSET was developed by Blindert and tested by North Dakota State University economics professors. The men urged the organizations to consider IMSET, which incentivizes soil health building, as a product for Risk Management Agency to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“This Trade War magnifies an existing issue – that impacts all commodities – the fact that farmers need a different marketing system. A fair marketing system,” Sombke said.

In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson, urged on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA) to ensure the farmer assistance package they were developing in response to escalating Trade War, would “provide fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

While S.D. Farmers Union President, Doug Sombke, supports Johnson’s request for a temporary relief package for all commodities impacted by the Trade War, he suggests an additional, urgent need for a long-term, market-fix stateside.

“We need to look at what is going on in our own nation, to understand why our farmers are so reliant upon export markets because we can control what happens within the U.S.,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation farmer, who like most South Dakota farmers, was dealing with low commodity markets before the Trade War further depressed commodity prices.

Sombke believes the recent gutting of U.S. anti-trust laws, removes U.S. competition for commodities. He points to dissolving governmental oversight agencies, like the 2017 closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which facilitated the marketing of agriculture products.

“No wonder we are so dependent upon export markets, because although there is demand for our commodities right here at home, our farmers can’t get fair markets within the U.S.,” Sombke said. “We need governmental support to enforce anti-trust laws, to ensure farmers and ranchers can at least market their commodities at prices necessary to cover expenses.”

And, Sombke says there needs to be voluntary protections in place, beyond crop insurance. In April, Sombke, together with South Dakota Farmers Union member, Craig Blindert, a Salem farmer and crop insurance agent, met with Natural Resource Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency staff as well as congressional leaders to advocate for Inventory Management Soil Enhancement Tool (IMSET). A farmer-led solution to poor markets, IMSET was developed by Blindert and tested by North Dakota State University economics professors. The men urged the organizations to consider IMSET, which incentivizes soil health building, as a product for Risk Management Agency to release to farmers to use alongside crop insurance.

“This Trade War magnifies an existing issue – that impacts all commodities – the fact that farmers need a different marketing system. A fair marketing system,” Sombke said.

Read Roger Johnson’s letter here:
NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement May 15, 2019 in anticipation of the agency’s announcement:

"Family farmers and ranchers have borne the brunt of the trade war with China, which has intentionally targeted American agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs. We appreciate the administration’s recent efforts to relieve the immense economic pressure those in the agriculture industry are feeling as a result.
“Though China’s tariffs have specifically targeted soybeans, pork, and sorghum, many other commodities have been impacted, both directly and indirectly. We ask that trade assistance be offered to producers of all affected commodities, and that payment rates be based on historical production. In addition, we recommend that the USDA address the growing problem of oversupply by providing farmers with incentives to reduce overall production.

“The ever-worsening financial challenges being forced on family farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated. We urge the USDA to ensure that this assistance package provides fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

To learn more about S.D. Farmers Union, visit www.sdfu.org.
NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement May 15, 2019 in anticipation of the agency’s announcement:

"Family farmers and ranchers have borne the brunt of the trade war with China, which has intentionally targeted American agricultural products with retaliatory tariffs. We appreciate the administration’s recent efforts to relieve the immense economic pressure those in the agriculture industry are feeling as a result.

“Though China’s tariffs have specifically targeted soybeans, pork, and sorghum, many other commodities have been impacted, both directly and indirectly. We ask that trade assistance be offered to producers of all affected commodities, and that payment rates be based on historical production. In addition, we recommend that the USDA address the growing problem of oversupply by providing farmers with incentives to reduce overall production.

“The ever-worsening financial challenges being forced on family farmers and ranchers cannot be overstated. We urge the USDA to ensure that this assistance package provides fair and equitable relief to all family farmers impacted by disruptions in international markets.”

To learn more about S.D. Farmers Union, visit www.sdfu.org.

Read More

Last Modified:


S.D. Farmers Union Farm Safety Trailer Receives National Award

 – By


South Dakota Farmers Union Farm Safety Trailer received the Best of National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Exhibits award during the 2019 NAMA Convention.

“Farm safety education has long been a focus of South Dakota Farmers Union summer camp programming. Because of the mobile nature of the Safety Trailer we are now able to reach more youth, in more communities with farm safety education year-round,” explains Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union, one of South Dakota’s largest farm and ranch organizations.

When designing the 24-foot-long learning space, South Dakota Farmers Union invested in developing creative ways to provide hands-on safety training for high-risk farm activities. They teamed up with Insight Marketing Design to bring their ideas to life.

“It was a challenge to bring all these safety features to life in an engaging way. We loved working with the Farmers Union team to do this,” says Candy Van Dam, partner and chief strategy officer for Insight Marketing Design.

Designed for active learning, the Safety Trailer features an ATV simulator, miniature farm, grain ladder and safety harnesses and more.

“Judged against similar projects, the SDFU Safety Trailer won because of its well thought out strategy to reach rural youth and farm and ranch kids with safety information regarding some of the most dangerous things that can happen on a farm or ranch,” Van Dam says.

To date, more than 7,000 South Dakota youth have engaged with the Safety Trailer.

“Kids learn best by doing. So, we made sure the Safety Trailer invites them to engage in learning about farm safety,” says Rocky Forman, SDFU Member Services Coordinator.

Traveling to communities throughout South Dakota, Forman coordinates with 4-H leaders, FFA chapters, schools and other youth-based community groups to reach as many South Dakota youth as possible.

“Youth are our future, it is an honor when a national organization recognizes the work Farmers Union does to support South Dakota’s youth,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President. “And, whether they live on a farm or not, because agriculture is our state’s number one industry, there is a good chance they will visit a farm at some point, and they need to understand the dangers associated with farm machinery or ATVs.”

In addition to the Farm Safety Trailer, South Dakota Farmers Union also hosts an annual Farm Safety Quiz Bowl each year during the South Dakota State Fair, where FFA members put their farm safety knowledge to the test, competing for the championship title.

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union youth programming, visit www.sdfu.org.

Read More

Last Modified:


De Smet Farmers Represent South Dakota during 2019 Farmers Union Enterprises Couples Leadership Program

 – By


De Smet farmers, Darcie and Rob Lee with their
children, 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old
Rosene. 

As De Smet farmers and young parents who also work off the farm fulltime, Rob and Darcie Lee say it’s not easy to make time for leadership development, but it’s important to their future, so they are making it a priority. The couple will represent South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) as members of the 2019 Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program.

“We can always come up with reasons not to do things. But we accepted the fact that there will never be a good time to give up five weekends, so we prioritized this and we’re going to make it work because it is worth it,” Rob explains.

And, the couple is fortunate to have grandparents living nearby to help care for 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old Rosene.

The Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program was developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union through leadership, citizenship and policy development training. Each year, one couple from each of the five state Farmers Union organizations which make up Farmers Union Enterprise, are selected to participate.

Throughout the 2019-2020 year, the Lees will attend five seminars. They will join with farm or ranch couples from North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“We are both excited about the networking opportunity to get to know other farm and ranch couples,” says Darcie, who is a nurse, working at Horizon Health Care Clinic in De Smet.

“There is value in being around like-minded individuals who you can bounce ideas off one another, and look at things from a different perspective,” says Rob, who along with raising crops, works as a crop insurance adjustor for Precision Risk Management. “We share the same interests and we are working toward the same goal, albeit on different farms – making a living from the farm and keeping it going for the next generation.”

Preserving the family farm for the next generation is a legacy Rob inherited from his dad, Roger. “My dad brought us up telling us, ‘don’t ever sell the farm.’ And, he has worked to pay down the land so that it’s a bit easier on me and my siblings,” Rob explains. “I catch myself thinking this same way and trying to figure out ways to pay off the land so that when Everett is old enough to farm, it’s easy going for him.”

Roger, who has been actively involved in SDFU for decades, introduced Rob to Farmers Union. Rob helped lobby Congressional leaders on behalf of South Dakota agriculture during the 2018 D.C. Fly-In and then took the policy advocacy skills he gained in D.C. and put them to work during SDFU Legislative Day in Pierre.

In addition to gaining leadership and advocacy skills to benefit their farming heritage, Rob and Darcie also enjoy the lifestyle they have living and working on their family farm. They value raising their children on the farm.

“I enjoyed my life growing up on the farm, I could just wander, and my parents knew I was OK. It’s nice to give our kids that kind of lifestyle too,” Darcie explains. “I enjoy seeing the world through our kids’ eyes. Everett gets so excited for the garden. He eats whatever we raise because we grew it in the garden.”

Recently, the couple diversified their farm when they purchased a small herd of alpaca. They plan to raise them for their fiber and provide Everett and Rosene with the opportunity to raise livestock.

Throughout their year involvement in Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program, the Lees will provide members with Union Farmer updates.

Read More

Last Modified:


Today is the Day for Yes

 – By


De Smet farmers, Darcie and Rob Lee with their children, 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old
Rosene. 
By Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director

“Yes” is a powerful word. And, like De Smet farmer, Rob Lee says, there is no real good time to says “yes.” But the benefits often outweigh the obstacles when it comes to making time for a good cause or purpose you believe in.

In Rob’s case, it is dedicating five weekends, together with his wife, Darcie, to further develop their leadership and advocacy skills as they represent South Dakota as members of the 2019 Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program.

“We can always come up with reasons not to do things. But we accepted the fact that there will never be a good time to give up five weekends, so we prioritized this and we’re going to make it work because it is worth it,” Rob explains about the program developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union through leadership, citizenship and policy development training.

When we ask members of South Dakota Farmers Union why they invest $50 a year and their time participating in policy development at the county and state level or attending Legislative Day or the D.C. Fly-In – the most frequent response we receive is, “as farmers and ranchers, we need a voice, and SDFU gives us this voice.”

And, the state SDFU staff and board of directors work hard to make your voice heard – here in South Dakota as well as in D.C. But, we need your input. Share your thoughts and help us develop policy for 2020 by attending the State Policy Meeting, held in Huron, July 24 at the Crossroads Convention Center (100 4th St SW).

Another great opportunity to share is during the Young Producers Event, held July 19-20 in Oacoma – if you’re a member it’s free and if you’re not, it’s only $50 and that includes a year membership!

Want to learn more, give me a call, 605-352-6763 ext: 114 or e-mail: Karla@SDFU.org.

Read More

Last Modified:


S.D. Farmers Union Celebrates Freeman Farm Family

 – By


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 highlight Mike Miller and Michelle Friesen. The couple have farmed together near Freeman since they married in 1996. They raise corn, soybeans, a cow/calf herd and feeder operation.

by Lura Roti for SDFU

Standing in their pasture, surrounded by cows with their new calves, Michelle Friesen points to a shelterbelt off to the southwest. “My mother grew up on a farm over there, about a year after my parents were married, my grandparents bought this place for my parents and they moved here,” explains the fourth-generation Freeman farmer.

Quick to point out that although she grew up on the farm and spends five days each week actively involved, farming is actually her husband, Mike Miller’s passion. Music is hers.

“My mother says that from 2-years-old on, I begged for a piano,” says Friesen, who is a soprano in the Sioux Falls Symphony Chorus and owns a piano studio, teaching 20 students each week. “I love music. It’s all around us. It’s everywhere you go.”

Before the couple married, she was living in Kansas teaching music and worked as the pianist for a junior college choir and Miller was farming fulltime. She knew marrying him meant she would return to farming, but she also knew he would support her in pursuing music and performing.

“Farming is his passion and this farm is more than what he can do on his own. So, as long as it works for me to do music and perform, I am available to help with farm work three-fourths time,” Friesen says.

Together, the couple raise corn, soybeans, a cow/calf herd and feeder operation. They lease some farmland and pasture from Michelle’s parents, Maureen (Hofer) and Marlyn Friesen, who retired in 2013.

Like Friesen said, farming is Miller’s passion. As a little boy, he remembers making the 50-mile drive from Sioux Falls to his grandparents’ Freeman farm each Saturday so his dad, Max, could help on the family’s farm and farm 80 acres he owned. After his grandpa, Edward Miller, passed away, his family moved to the farm fulltime.

“I always knew I wanted to be a farmer,” Miller explains.

“The family tells a story that one morning they got up and couldn’t find Mike. He was already on the tractor,” Friesen adds.

A while after the story took place, his family suffered a tremendous loss, when his dad was killed in a farm accident.

About that time, Miller began working for a local dairyman, Steve Friesen. “I worked for him all through high school and college. Before I even graduated from high school, he said, ‘you let me know if you want to farm, and I will help you get started,’” Miller recalls.

After college, he took over the lease on a quarter of land his mom, Marlyce, owned and began farming. Steve loaned him equipment and gave him advice. “I couldn’t have gotten into farming without Steve’s help,” Miller says.

“Someday, we’d like to do the same for a young farmer,” Friesen adds.

Conventional crop farmers, the couple implements outside-the-box thinking when it comes to managing their cow/calf herd.

“Efficiencies are the name of the game,” Miller says. “We calve half the herd in the spring and the other half in the fall because I have enough feedlot space for 120 head, but we calve more than 200 head. This way I don’t have to invest in larger facilities.”

Although it’s tough to juggle calving in the spring and fall during planting and harvest, typically, the weather cooperates. However, this spring, due to extreme moisture, Miller says planting is postponed, so they will have most of the calving done before planting begins.

They sell the feeder calves in January and May at auction markets in Worthing or Yankton.

“It’s good to be diversified so we aren’t tied to one commodity, and when that commodity is at a low, then you’re stuck. But, when you have some diversification, the highs in other areas can keep you going,” she says.

Miller uses forward contracting to market their corn and soybeans. “I don’t have to hit a home run, but I have to get on base. My object is not to hit the high of the market, but to avoid the low,” he explains.

Closely connected to their hometown and school, Freeman Academy, they are actively involved in their community. Together, the couple donates their time and equipment to farm a quarter of land that belongs to Freeman Academy. The money raised at harvest helps fund the local Christian school.

They serve as two of 250 Schmeckfest volunteers. Since 1959, Schmeckfest has been an annual festival/fundraiser for Freeman Academy, which serves kindergarten through high school. Running two weekends each spring, the event includes meals and a community play. This year, Friesen was the director of the musical, “The Boyfriend,” a 1920s-era romantic comedy.

“Growing up here I had a lot of people who did a lot for me. I believe in paying it forward and while I’m on this earth I want to be invested in the people who are on it,” she explains.

For more than 17 years, Miller has served on the board of Country Pride Cooperative, he is on the board of the South Dakota Cooperative Association and in 2018, he was elected to serve on the SDFU Board of Directors, representing District 1.

“The more I became involved, starting with our local cooperative, and the more I learned about agriculture in South Dakota, it made me realize, we need to speak up for ourselves,” he says. “We are only 2 percent of the population. Another reason to get involved in Farmers Union, because Farmers Union gives us a voice.”

To view more photos of life on Mike and Michelle's farm, visit www.sdfu.org.

Read More

Last Modified: