Featured Farmer: Heidi Selken Receives 2015 AgVocate Award
Making sure that 1,700 dairy cows are healthy, fed and well-cared-for is a big job. As herd manager for Boadwine Dairy in Baltic, South Dakota, Heidi Selken takes on that responsibility every day.
Over the past several years, Heidi has also taken on another role: advocating for the dairy community in South Dakota and beyond. From corresponding with classrooms to giving tours and posting information on social media, she has made sharing the story of what happens at the dairy farm each day a priority.
Heidi sees communications with the consumers who buy dairy products as an important part of her job.
“Consumers want to know what we do and why,” she said. “As farmers, we need to put more of ourselves out there and share what we do.”
Heidi was recognized for her efforts with the 2015 AgVocate of the Year award presented by the board of directors for Agriculture United for South Dakota at the organization’s annual luncheon in December. The second annual AgVocate award recognizes South Dakota farmers and ranchers for their work in sharing their story of modern farming with the public.
She volunteers her time for Ag United many times throughout the year. As part of the Adopt-A-Famer program, Heidi records monthly videos to send to fourth grade classrooms and visits these classrooms in the spring. Click here to watch videos of Heidi and other adopted farmers.
She also visits local classrooms during National Ag Week and gives tours of Boadwine Farms for bus tours, community groups and daycares throughout the year. In 2015, Heidi hosted Ag United guests for seven different tours. Selken also maintains the Boadwine Farms Facebook page to share their story of South Dakota agriculture.
Heidi grew up on a dairy farm near Humboldt, and farmed with her parents until 2000. She has worked for Boadwine Farms for 15 years, starting as a calf feeder and working her way to herd manager. She and her nine-year-old son Brody live near Colton.
“From visiting classrooms to leading tours on the farm, Heidi is a tireless advocate for the South Dakota dairy community and farmers,” said Richard Vasgaard, Centerville farmer and president of Ag United. “She is always willing to share information and answer questions about how cows are cared for and how dairy products go from the farm to family tables across the state.”
Over the years, she has learned to tailor every tour or presentation to the age and interests of each group.
“Young children are most excited to see the calves and how the cows are milked, then they will start asking lots of questions,” she said.” “Adults often come with questions about things they have heard on social media or from friends.”
She takes time to understand their questions and provide the background for why something is done on a farm. For example, many people have questions about what antibiotics or medicines are given to cows. She can explain that medicines are provided when an animal is sick, but more importantly that drugs are administered under oversight of a veterinarian, that milk from cows who are treated is kept separate from the rest of the farm’s milk, and that every truckload of milk is sampled at the farm and the processing plant to make sure it is free of antibiotics or other contaminants.
“It is rewarding to be able to not just show people what we do, but explain why and answer the questions that they have,” Heidi said. “Everyone is just trying to do the best they can for their families, so it is important they feel good about the dairy products they enjoy.”
Heidi also volunteers her time as 4-H leader and helping FFA members with dairy shows, in addition to showing her own registered Holsteins. She now leads the club she was a member of growing up and sees groups like 4-H as valuable to kids from all backgrounds.
“4-H is a great organization to help kids learn and expand their horizons. A project in 4-H may be the way a student finds lifelong hobby or future career path,” she said. “Whether it is photography, showing animals, baking or crop production, it gives them opportunities to grow their skills and interests.”
She is active in the FFA alumni group at Tri-Valley High School and has helped with judging schools and coached dairy judging teams. Boadwine Dairy has hosted dairy judging programs and schools for more than 10 years.
On behalf of South Dakota’s farm and ranch families, we thank Heidi for her commitment to sharing our state’s agriculture story. And, we thank ALL of the agvocates who helped with South Dakota Farm Families activities in 2015. If you are interested in helping or learning more about activities in 2016, contact Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org or 605-336-3622.