Rural Ramblings News from Ag United. Mon, 25 Mar 2019 20:52:44 -0500 Busy calving and lambing seasons pay off with healthy animals Newborn calves and lambs are an iconic sign of spring, but it takes planning, care and work all year long to ensure those young animals are healthy and ready to enjoy the green pastures of spring and summer.  

2018 (13 of 129).jpgD.J. Buseman and his family raise cattle, sheep and crops on their farm near Canistota, South Dakota, and are especially busy from mid-January through March during calving and lambing season.  

“On the most hectic days, we may have 30 lambs or 20 to 30 calves born,” he said.  “Our goal is to keep them warm and dry to give them a healthy start.”

D.J. grew up on the farm and came back to join the operation full-time after college graduation.  He farms with his father, Joe Buseman.  His mom, Kim, is a kindergarten teacher in Marion, South Dakota.  D.J.’s wife, Danya, is the agronomy training coordinator for Hefty Seed Company and also helps with the farm when she can. 

Like most farms, the Busemans have evolved their business over the years.  They now focus on raising beef cattle. Of the several calves born from their cow herd each spring, the Busemans raise about 90 Angus bulls to be sold to other farmers and ranchers.  The remaining calves are typically raised to about 700 pounds and sold as feeder calves. 

They raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and oats and have started planting cover crops that can be used for grazing in late summer and fall.  They have also expanded their sheep flock in recent years. 

“Both my grandparents had sheep and we had a small flock at our farm when we were growing up and my sisters and I showed them for 4-H,” he said.  “When I graduated from college and returned home, I took over the flock and began keeping replacement ewes and occasionally buying additional ewes.”

They now have a flock of 160 Hampshire Suffolk cross ewes.  IMG_0314 (1).jpg

“Raising sheep is a great sideline whether you have cattle or are strictly crop farming,” he said. “Sheep really don’t take much labor with the exception of lambing season, and your return on investment may be higher than other livestock right now.”

For the Busemans, calving and lambing season begin with beef heifers (animals having their first calf) in mid-January, then sheep in February and the remaining beef cows in March. 

All animals are watched carefully the first several days to make sure they are nursing and healthy. Lambs stay inside a heated lambing barn for about the first four days, then are moved to another barn depending on their health and the weather conditions. 

“We keep a close watch on all the livestock as they grow and as the seasons change. The health of the livestock is the most important factor we deal with,” said D.J.  “We give vaccinations as the livestock get older to prevent sickness that could occur as they grow. We always make sure the livestock have a balanced diet and we supplement mineral.”

Ensuring that young animals are protected from extreme temperatures and winds is a top priority, and the Busemans use a combination of barns and shelter to make sure calves stay warm and dry until the weather cooperates and they are strong enough to be outdoors. 

For D.J., the hard work and long hours of calving and lambing season pays off as the animals grow.

“The most rewarding part of raising livestock is seeing the babies grow and change over the course of the year,” he said.  “You work hard to get them up and going in the cold, then get to see the progress through the green grass of the summer.”

IMG_0450.jpgBecause the Busemans sell both bulls and bucks (male sheep) to other farmers for breeding in their own herds and flocks, they also get feedback on how those animals perform 

“When customers call and tell us how happy they are with the calves out of our bulls, or how well their lambs grew out of my bucks, it makes it even more worth it,” he said. 

Continuing the family tradition of farming is important to D.J. He lives on the farm where his grandparents live and his dad grew up, and now has the opportunity to work with his father every day.

“A rewarding part about farming is working outside and alongside my dad on the farm that he has worked to keep going his entire life,” said D.J.  “There will always be challenges in farming and ranching. I think it is important to eliminate risk where you can, and have faith that the Lord takes care of you in situations that are out of your control.” 

Fri, 08 Mar 2019 09:14:00 -0600
Being a South Dakota Dairy Ambassador IMG7756140329640158941.jpgBy: Angel Kasper 

Although I didn’t grow up on a dairy farm my love for it started at a young age. As a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was tag along with my dad and grandpa when they went to visit my uncles dairy farm. I loved talking to cows, feeding the calves, and playing in the hayloft. 

When I was old enough to help out at the dairy I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to learn more about what went into dairy farming and of course, spend more time with the cows. While working on the farm I learned how to milk, detect sickness in our livestock, administer medication, and so much more. 


I look back at my experience helping out on the dairy farm and I took away much more than just learning how to milk a cow. I learned about passion and love for an industry as I watched my uncles Danny and Mike continue to devote themselves day after day to their farm and their beloved cows. I learned about the bond a farmer can have with his animals and the sacrifice that goes into taking care of them. I learned about tradition when my uncles would teach me about farming practices passed from one generation to the next. I learned about pride and being proud of producing a clean wholesome product. Being on the dairy farm taught me so much more than just farming, it taught me to love what you do! I loved the experience that I had working on the dairy, but being able to work with such great role models and farmers made it even better. 


This past year I had the opportunity to serve as a one of the first five South Dakota Dairy Ambassador. I served alongside Katelyn Groetsch, Nelson, Sanne De Bruijn, and Jenna Van Wyk. We were chosen to travel all over the state representing the industry we all loved so much, dairy. We attended a variety of different events from Central Plains Dairy Expo to the South Dakota State Fair, to the very first Dairy Experience Forum. At these events, we had the opportunity to grow our knowledge of the dairy industry, but also talk to multiple consumers about dairy farms and the products they produce. 


While serving as an ambassador, I not only grew my passion for the dairy industry butalso found what I loved to do, advocate for agriculture. Throughout the year, I had the opportunity to meet a variety of people from consumers and producers, to my fellow ambassadors, to our advisors Tracey Erickson and Tom Peterson. Because of the many conversations about dairy that I had, I learned how to share the story of agriculture in a positive light.


For me being an ambassador wasn’t about just getting to travel all over South Dakota to the many events. It was about sharing the story of agriculture and the many amazing men and women within it. It was being able to talk to consumers about my love for the dairy industry and the wholesome products that come from it. Being able to answer their questions and help put their mind at ease about the products they were buying was a highlight of my experience because I knew they were able to make a more informed decision about the products they were putting on their tables.

I am so thankful for the opportunities and experiences growing up on a farm gave me. Working on the dairy farm not only grew my love and passion for the dairy industry; it grew my story in agriculture. Being an ambassador helped me learn how to share that story. 


Listen to this weeks Farmers Daughter radio segment: SD Farm Families - Farmer's Daughter Feb4th.mp3

Mon, 11 Feb 2019 11:42:00 -0600
January Agvocates We would like to thank Kevin Scott for participating in the Harrisburg Family Stem Festival at Horizon Elementary. At this event, Kevin taught students about the use of technology in agriculture. We would also like to thank Richard and Joyce Vasgaard for helping us with our Rapid City school visits. Next month our volunteers have a busy month planned with visits to 50 classrooms across South Dakota! 
Thu, 07 Feb 2019 11:23:00 -0600
Rural Dictionary: Cover Crops Cover Crop.jpgFarmers have many ways of improving soil fertility, sustainability, and preventing soil erosion. One way farmers do this is by planting cover crops, which are typically planted after a crop like corn or soybeans is harvested.  According to SDSU Extension, cover crops are generally defined as crops planted between cash crops to cover and protect the soil.



Paul Hetland from Mount Vernon, South Dakota, is one farmer who plants a mix of cover crops, including radishes, turnips, oats, barley, field peas and flax, before growing corn.  The cover crops are important parts of his soil health plan, providing a number of benefits such as reducing erosion during winter, improving water absorption and conserving nitrogen.  Learn more in this articleand watch a video.





Wed, 06 Feb 2019 15:11:00 -0600
Working Together to Ensure Safe, Reliable Water Supply A plentiful supply of quality water is something we depend on, and often take for granted.  It takes a complicated network of engineering, equipment and processes to ensure a safe, reliable supply of water for small towns, big cities and agriculture needs in South Dakota.  

In South Dakota, seven water development districts are an important part of ensuring our state’s water supply – connecting communities and rural residents to work to together to promote conservation, development and proper management of the water resources in the district.Region 7_SD.JPG

Gary Duffy and John Moes are both board members of the East Dakota Water Development District,which covers all or part of 11 counties in the Big Sioux River Basin in eastern South Dakota. They serve along with 7 other board members representing an area from north of Watertown to the southern edge of Sioux Falls.  EDWDD is headquartered in Brookings and managed by Jay Gilbertson. The water development district has a staff of four employees and a nine-member board.

The district provides resources to farmers and cities to help preserve or improve water quality along the Big Sioux, and both Gary and John see their role as important to both sharing agriculture’s perspective on water issues, as well as learning from their peers in cities.  

“I’ve learned as much from members representing the larger cities as they have from me about agriculture, said Gary.  “We all have the same goal – we all want clean water to drink.”

Gary has farmed near Oldham, South Dakota, since 1976, originally joining his father and uncle on the family’s farm, and now farming with his cousin.  They raise corn and soybeans and Gary has been active in the South Dakota Corn Growers Association and Corn Utilization Board for a number of years.  

John farms and raises cattle on his family’s farm near Watertown, South Dakota.  They have a 200 head cow herd and also finish beef cattle on their feedlot in addition to raising wheat, corn and soybeans.  He farms with his wife, Donita, and son Bryan and his wife Sarah. 


The Moes family has adopted a number of stewardship practices on their farm, including containing all runoff from cattle pens.  They were recently recognized with the Region 7 Environmental Stewardshipaward from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 

“As a livestock producer, I looked at being on the water board as an opportunity to share what we are doing to be more sustainable in agriculture,” he said.  “Even though many farms are more specialized or larger than they were in the past, they are still family-owned and want to make sure the land and environment is better for the next generation. 

Gary and John noted a number of projects that the EDWDD has funded to research and implement conservation programs in the district, including no-till grass strips to filter water before it enters the creek or river and prevent erosion, limiting cattle grazing near Skunk Creek, and testing water both up- and down-stream from livestock operations.

The district has worked with South Dakota State University on research projects and helped provide information to farmers to boost their water quality efforts.

“As farmers, we are spending money on the fertilizer for our fields. We want that fertilizer to be used by plants, not wasted, and there are a number of practices that we can be implementing to make sure that happens,” said Gary. 

A number of EDWDD programs also support water and sewer systems in small towns in the Big Sioux River Basin, including providing seed money for engineering and research studies to help repair or replace aging systems.  In 2018, the EDWDD was recognized with the “Friend of Rural Water” awardby the South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems for its work in developing and maintaining rural water infrastructure and programs. 

“Everyone has responsibilities to make sure we have clean water and we all – farmers, cities, rural residents and small towns – have to work together,” said John.  







Wed, 06 Feb 2019 12:00:00 -0600
The Effects of Winter on Farm and Ranch Families By: Angel Kasper


Negative 50 degrees, oh my! Many people cringe at the thought of temperatures plummeting to negative 50 below zero in the next few days. For many farmers and ranchers, they do more than just cringe; their heart may sink at the thought of what is yet to come.

I remember the excitement that would fill me when the weatherman would say there was a blizzard on the way. The day of the blizzard I would wake up early and turn on the news channel to see if by chance school was canceled. As a kid snow days were the best! Although I didn't have to go to school, I still had to go out and take care of our livestock.

On my snow days, I would bundle up in layer upon layer to keep warm. Out the door, we went. The cold of winter would bite at your exposed skin the moment you walked out the door, but would eventually become numb as time passed. I would trail slowly behind my dad out to the barn, usually falling a few times from how deep the snow was and how short my legs were. My breath was cold and crisp in the air as it condensed on my hair, freezing it solid to my jacket.

We would start out chores by breaking the ice in our water troughs with a hammer and pulling the ice out of the water. Once we finished this we would refill the water so our animals could drink. It's important to make sure our animals are well hydrated during the winter season so they can focus on staying warm.

cows-blizzard-07-edit4.jpgIn the winter my family feeds our cattle silage. Silage is chopped up corn that is compacted into airtight conditions, typically a silo or sealed bag, without first being dried. One year we decided to store our silage in a bag instead of our silo. We would have to scoop it out with our skid loader and load it into our feeder wagon. Because the silage is wet it can be prone to freezing throughout the winter, especially when temps drop below zero. Our cows weren’t able to eat the big blocks of frozen feed so we would have to break it apart manually. I still remember spending up to forty minutes in the freezing cold and snow hacking away at blocks of silage with an ax or sledgehammer to ensure it was broken up enough for our cattle to eat.

Winter brings many struggles for farmers and ranchers. The examples above are only a few examples of how winter affected my family farm. Sub-zero temperatures and snow can bring frozen water troughs, tractors that may not start which prevents feeding our livestock, loss of power, and can even result in the death of our animals. When the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fly farmers DluYr9DUwAAhkMi.jpgand ranchers are still hard at work in the below freezing, windy, and snowy weather to ensure their livestock are well taken care of. Many times we even see farmers and rancher risking their own lives in dangerous winter conditions to ensure the wellbeing of their animals.

As we gear up for the snow and dropping temperatures this week, please keep in mind the farmers and ranchers, along with the police, first responders, firefighters, and other critical occupations who are still out working in dangerous winter conditions to keep our communities safe and food on our tables.

 Listen to this week's Farmer's Daughter radio segment: 

SD Farm Families - Farmer's Daughter Jan28th.mp3

Tue, 29 Jan 2019 10:06:00 -0600
Growing up in Agriculture By: Angel Kasper 

My name is Angel Kasper and I am13620858_10208476165199303_4041392444168847980_n.jpg excited to be the new Outreach Director here at Ag United for South Dakota. I originally hail from the land of 10,000 lakes, Minnesota. I grew up on a small beef and crop operation in Owatonna. I am the youngest of four girls, and while this sometimes made things interesting in our household, there was never a lack of love, passion, or competitions to be had.   

Growing up on the farm was definitely nothing shy of exciting. Whether it was picking rock, baling hay, or feeding our livestock, there were plenty of chores to do. But there was also a lot of fun to be had. When my sisters and I we weren’t doing chores or being typical siblings, you could find us around the farm getting in mud fights, playing in our old grainery, or swimming in ponds out in our fields made from recent rainstorms. You could also find us just over the driveway at grandma and grandpas, where we shared family dinners, baked cookies, and played cards for hours on end. There was definitely never a dull moment on the Kasper farm. 


When I was older, I started helping out on our original dairy farm just up the road. We had a small tie stall barn where we milked about 50 cows, along with having a large acreage of cropland that we used for growing corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and wheat. On the dairy you could usually find me out in the calf shed taking care of our new babies, spending days in the summer heat baling hay, or in the barn being one of the boys with my Uncles Mike and Danny.

After graduation, I started college at South Dakota State University where I double majored in Agricultural Leadership and Speech Communications. While in college I found myself involved in a wide variety of organizations across campus including Dairy Club, Ceres Women’s Fraternity, Little International, and Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. When I wasn't involved on campus you could find me at Dairy Fest Committee meetings or at a wide variety of events serving as a South Dakota Dairy Ambassador and Miss Minnesota Miss United States Agriculture. In college, I fell in love with advocating for the agricultural industry and continue to grow my passion for it today. I was very excited to start the next chapter of my life working at Ag United after graduation in December 2018.


I am now very proud to be a resident of the Mount Rushmore state, South Dakota. I still look forward to my visits back home and spending time on the farm, especially now that my sisters and her family have moved out to the family farm. I am so excited to watch my three nephews, Charlie, Avery, and Jasper and my niece, Olivia grow upon the same farm that my sisters and I did. I cannot wait to share with them the things that I learned and the traditions that have been passed down for one generation to the next. I am so excited to watch the fifth generation of Kaspers grow up on a farm just like generations before them. 

Looking back, I am so thankful for the opportunities and values that growing up on a farm gave me. It not only helped shape me into who I am as a person but also shaped me into the kind of person I want to be:  someone who loves taking care of the land, someone who is always willing to lend a hand, and someone who values hard work and a passion for an industry that grows us all. 


Listen to this week's Farmer's Daughter radio segment! FARMER'S DAUGHTER - JAN 20 2019.mp3

Fri, 25 Jan 2019 11:23:00 -0600
Welcome Outreach Director Angel Kasper 29425204_2113761925320165_5718936996882153472_n.jpg

We are excited to welcome Angel, who joined Ag United as Outreach Director this month.  Angel is a graduate of South Dakota State University with degrees in Agricultural Leadership and Speech Communications.  Angel brings a strong background in agriculture, having grown up working on her family’s dairy and crop farms in Owatonna, Minnesota. She was active in a number of organizations at SDSU and served as a South Dakota Dairy Ambassador for Midwest Dairy in 2018.  Watch for blog posts and updates from Angel and make sure to say hello at one of our events this year.

Fri, 11 Jan 2019 15:01:00 -0600
Featured Farmer: 2018 Agvocate of the Year ffed816f-ac96-4b9d-988f-2a18cb04f634.jpg

Each year, more than 600 students from 16 elementary and middle schools in southeastern South Dakota have the opportunity to check out farm equipment, see corn and soybean plants and learn about how these crops are used in our everyday lives.  The Field to Table event hosted by Valley Ag Supply in Gayville, South Dakota, each September gives students hands-on experience in how today’s farmers raise crops and livestock.


To recognize these efforts, Valley Ag Supply and owners Greg and Tara Pirak were presented with the 2018 AgVocate of the Year award at Ag United’s annual luncheon in December.


The Field to Table event was started by a local farmer and the Valley Ag team had helped host the event over the years.  When the farmer was ready to retire in 2006, Greg and Tara decided to continue the program. It continues to grow each year with support from area farmers, Valley Ag Supply vendors and many others.  


“We design the program as an in-field classroom with lots of stations and hands-on opportunities,” said Kathy Nelson.  “An important part of working with schools is making sure that activities are consistent with classroom standards established by the state.”


Greg was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, with no exposure to farming or agriculture.  He attended the University of California-Davis and was intrigued by a class in tractor driving.  This class and his love of nature sparked his passion for agriculture and he majored in agriculture.  A job with Cargill brought him to Yankton, South Dakota.  


Tara grew up in Akron, Iowa. Growing up Tara was involved in agriculture by helping out on her family’s dairy farm.  After graduating high school, she perused a bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. 

Greg and Tara Pirak met in 1999 while Greg was working on his MBA degree at University of South Dakota.  They not only began datingbut became business partners.  They founded Valley Ag Supply, which has grown to employee 17 people at two locations and provides agronomy, crop protection, fertilizer and custom application services.  They have three sons – Brett, 15; Derrick, 15; and Will, 11.  


Greg died suddenly on August 16, 2018, at age 48 from a fatal blood clot. 


The 2018 Field to Table event was held just a few weeks later, thanks to the help of many Valley Ag Supply employees, product sales representatives, neighbors, and customers.


“There was no discussion of postponing or canceling the event. Telling kids how cool agriculture is was Greg’s passion, so the show went on,” said Tara Pirak.  “Valley Ag Supply will continue the Field to Table tradition to honor Greg and keep sharing the story of agriculture to the next generation.” 

Fri, 11 Jan 2019 14:04:00 -0600
Rural Dictionary: Crop Yields and Bushels per Acre During the winter, one-acre.pngSouth Dakota crop farmers are busy reviewing how their crops performed the previous year and making plans for the next growing season.  After harvest, farmers calculate how much corn, soybean, wheat or other crops were produced on their field.   Crop yield is the term for the amount of harvested production per unit of land.  In the U.S., crop yield for grain and oilseed crops is typically measured in bushels per acre.  


Acre– unit of land used to measure cropland in the U.S. An acre is 4,840 square yards, and there are 640 acres in one square mile.  A common comparison is that one acre is about the size of a football field.  (If you’d like to get technical, a football field including both end zones is actually 1.32 acres in size … but it is still a great way to visualize the concept!)  The amount of food that can be grown on an acre depends on the type and fertility of soil, climate, rainfall and the crop itself. 


Bushel – a unit of measurement that dates back several centuries according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.  At one time, farm products were measured by how much would fit in a “bushel basket.” Today, a bushel has a weight equivalent for each crop.  For example, 56 pounds of soybeans equals one bushel, and 60 pounds of corn equals one bushel.  

At the end of harvest, South Dakota farmers calculate the total number of bushels produced in a field and divide it by the total number of acres to get the yield for that field.  The most recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts that the average soybean yield for South Dakota farmers in 2018 is 49 bushels per acre, and average corn yield is 166 bushels per acre.  

Thanks to today’s precision agriculture tools, farmers can measure the productivity of their fields in a variety of ways, allowing them to produce more food more sustainably than ever before.

Fri, 11 Jan 2019 12:32:00 -0600
Reflecting on a busy year at Lazy J Dairy IMG_0943.JPG

As the calendar year comes to a close, it is a good time for reflection and planning ahead.  For the Jungemann family of Lazy J Dairy near Wolsey, South Dakota, 2018 was a year to remember.  


In late December 2017, they finished construction and began using a new milking parlor and expanded freestall barns for their cows.  This new construction and expansion have allowed them to improve the ways they care for animals, leading to better cow health and milk quality, and making the farm safer and more efficient for family members and employees.


Both Russell and Janet Jungemann were raised on South Dakota dairy farms.  They were married in in 1980 and have been dairy farming together for the past 38 years.  They started Lazy J Dairy with five cows, then quickly grew to about 40 cows. In 1992, they purchased a neighboring farm and began milking in a larger parlor.  Around 2007, they expanded and began milking 480 cows. The recent expansion included a new milking parlor and added more space to their barns so they are able to milk 900 cows.


Their four children are grown and still enjoy spending time on the farm.


“Our kids pretty much grew up in the barn,” said Janet.  “The girls helped milk and the boys fed dairy cows and young stock.”


Five years ago, their oldest son, Lucas, bought into the family farm.  Lucas and his wife Kari work full-time at Lazy J Dairy. They have a son, Vonn.  


The daughter Libby Flemming and her husband Jamie work full time for the National Guards locally.  They and their children, Brooklyn, Mya, Reagan and Jaiden, love spending time on the farm and help out often.   Their son Adam lives and runs a videography business in Sioux Falls. He enjoys helping out with harvest. 


Emily Stahl is their youngest daughter and also the farm’s veterinarian.  She and her husband Cody farm near Bridgewater, and Emily practices with Creekside Veterinary Clinic in Mitchell.   They have a daughter, Ally.


“Russell and I have loved raising our family on the farm and teaching them about hard work and the rewards of owning your own business,” said Janet. “We are now enjoying sharing that with our grandchildren.”


By expanding their freestall barns, the Jungemanns now have space for their entire herd to be housed indoors, out of the South Dakota weather.  Cows have access to feed and water 24 hours a day, and sand-filled stalls to lie on.


“In the past, some cows had to walk outside in all types of weather to get from their pens to the milking parlor,” she said.  “Now they are always able to stay clean and dry, and it is better for our workers to not have to go outside to retrieve cows as well.”


The Jungemanns upgraded the design and equipment in their milking parlor, allowing them to expand from 500 cows to 900 cows without requiring additional employees. The new parlor’s  parallel design reduces walking distance and time for employees and allows cows to enter and exit the parlor more quickly.


“Cows spend less time waiting and in the milking parlor itself, which means they are able to spend more time in the barn,” she said.  “We’ve seen a big improvement in animal health.”


All the cows in the Lazy J herd are also outfitted with identification trackers that allow dairy workers to constantly monitor them for possible health issues.  The trackers connect with scales in the milking parlor to record how much milk a cow gives during each milking session, and they also track activity level and rumination.  When there is a drop in activity or rumination, the tracking system sends an alert so the cow can be checked on.


“It gives us the ability to catch health issues before they become a big problem,” said Janet.


For example, cows could be monitored and given an electrolyte boost to ward off health issues that would have required medication later.  Or, if a cow is running a fever during a regular health check, they can review records to see if there are any other signs of illness before making a decision on treatment.


“By combining all the information and technologies, we can have a better picture of what is going on,” she said.  “It helps us make a better decision about what medications might be appropriate, or whether the cow is likely to get better on her own.”


The Jungemanns have hosted a number of events on their farm, including an open house in July 2018.  More than 400 people attended to see the farm and enjoy burgers and ice cream. They also host a number of school tours each year.


“We enjoy sharing what we do and it is so important to give people who aren’t familiar with agriculture the chance to see how we care for our cows and how the milking process works,” said Janet.


Mon, 03 Dec 2018 19:23:00 -0600
The #1 lesson I learned from working at Ag United 2085.jpegI have had the opportunity to work at Ag United for SD for almost five years now. As Outreach Director you’ll often find me behind the scenes of open house events, bus tours, and restaurant crawls, and behind the computer screen writing press releases, blog posts, and radio spots. All of those things are fun, but the best part of this role has been working with farmers and agriculture professionals across South Dakota.


I grew up on a farm and my family raised beef cattle, so I have been familiar with this type of farming for a long time. However, over the past five years I have learned so much about how dairy, pork, poultry, corn, and soybeans are raised. This experience has given me an even deeper appreciation for the variety of agriculture in our state. Even more important though, is that each farmer I worked with was truly trying to do their best to care for their land and livestock. 


This experience has led me to believe that there is no one “right” way to farm. There’s room for all in South Dakota agriculture. No matter the product, farmers are working to ensure that the food they produce is safe for their own family and the hundreds of other families that will eventually eat the food they raise. So the overarching takeaway after five years is this: if you have questions about the food you eat – ask a farmer! Most farmers are ready and willing to share what they do on their farm.


This week, I’ll be moving on to a new job. The lessons learned and experiences I gained promoting agriculture in South Dakota will stay with me.  Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers that shared their time and knowledge, the Ag United board for their input on the direction of our activities, my boss, Steve Dick, for his guidance, and my family (Tim, Sandy, Sawyer, and my husband Shad) for their unwavering support. Thanks for the memories!


Listen to Rebecca's radio segment here: Rebecca Christman Farmer's Daughter.mp3

Fri, 09 Nov 2018 15:21:00 -0600
Featured Farmer: Ruben Walder: Raising the National Thanksgiving Turkey ruben2.JPGFrom family gathering and favorite dishes to football games, traditions are an important part of the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, South Dakota will be in the spotlight at one of the country’s highest profile holiday traditions.


For more than 70 years, a National Thanksgiving Turkey has been given to the President of the United States by the National Turkey Federation.  This November will mark the first time that the national turkey has been raised in South Dakota. 


Ruben Waldner, farmer from Huron, South Dakota, was asked to raise the official bird this summer.  The turkey will be presented at the White House by Ruben and Jeff Sveen, chairman of the board of Dakota Provisions, who is currently serving as president of the National Turkey Federation. 


Ruben has been raising turkeys for more than 30 years and is responsible for about 160,000 turkeys each year on the Riverside Colony, a Hutterite colony of about 125 people.  All turkeys in Ruben’s care are housed in indoor, temperature-controlled and ventilated buildings with carefully-prepared feed, but he does admit that the Washington-bound birds are getting a little special attention.


“We keep them nice and dry and they get new wood shavings for bedding every month and a little special feed,” he said.  “It is a great honor for me to raise the national Thanksgiving turkey.”


The process of selecting the national bird began with a pen of 50 young tom (male) turkeys that have been raised together.  Ruben has been watching them carefully and will select two turkeys to travel to Washington in late November. 


The selection will be based not only on the turkeys’ size and appearance, but also their personality.  The pardoning ceremony and media appearances mean that the chosen turkeys need to be able to stand still and be calm around people and unfamiliar situations. 


Ruben will accompany the turkeys on the drive to Washington, D.C., where they will stay at the five-star Willard Hotel.  While two turkeys make the trip, only one will be recognized at the official ceremony.

 Ruben Waldner 2.JPGRuben Waldner and the Presidential Turkey

The tradition of pardoning the national turkey was formalized in the 1980s, and after the White House ceremony, both turkeys will travel to their permanent home at the “Gobbler’s Rest” on the campus of Virginia Tech University. 


Dakota Provisions is a state-of-the-art turkey processing plant in Huron that was founded and owned by 40 Hutterite Colonies.  The plant processes about 5 million turkeys each year, which are distributed to food service, restaurants and retail locations around the country.


Watch a video with interviews from Ruben and Jeff here and keep watching South Dakota Farm Families and National Turkey Federation social media to see the national pardoning ceremony and South Dakota turkeys in the spotlight!

Fri, 02 Nov 2018 09:51:00 -0500
Ag United for SD Summer Internship 2019 POSITION TITLE:  Intern, Summer full-time position located in Sioux Falls, SD (Position is also shared with SD Corn, and Midwest Dairy, intern will complete some activities for these organizations.)



*Weekend of SD State Fair is a required activity. Other start and end dates depend on applicants school schedule.



Please send cover letter, resume, and at least 2 references to


Intern will work out of and be supervised by the Ag United for South Dakota office in Sioux Falls, SD.



Agriculture United for South Dakota is a coalition of farm organizations formed in 2005 with a goal of keeping family farms and ranches growing. Coalition members of Ag United includes: the South Dakota Cattleman's Association, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Pork Producers Council, the South Dakota Soybean Association, the South Dakota Dairy Producers and the South Dakota Poultry Industries Association. 

Ag United works toward promoting and advancing farm and ranch families and rural communities with four guiding principles:

  • Developing communications on the connection between farm life and South Dakota's economic and social well-being.
  • Engaging those who do not tell the truth about agriculture and food production.
  • Educating consumers about the importance of food production.
  • Providing assistance to South Dakota farmers and ranchers. 


Assist with planning and carrying out events. This is a snapshot of some of the activities that will be completed over the summer. 

  1. Farms After Five farm tours – Designed to take South Dakota consumers to the farm, this position aid in organizing details for these events including the farms, ag professionals on the bus, participants, lunch, promotion and materials for the day.
  2. Open Houses – Several open houses are hosted through-out late spring to early fall.  Open houses are an opportunity for the public to visit South Dakota dairy, hog and beef farms. Intern will assist with promoting the event, obtain sponsors and ordering supplies for this event. 
  3. Sioux Empire Fair, State Fair – Work the dairy booth at both events and promote dairy to consumers. At Sioux Empire Fair, SD Corn will also have activities the Friday and Saturday of the fair.
  4. South Dakota Corn Golf Tournament – Help with set up, registration, serving food, ect.




Public Relations

  1. This position may require an occasional blog post on a timely agriculture related issues.
  2. Develop marketing and promotional materials for various Ag United events and programs. 
  3. Communicate with the general public and answer questions about today’s agriculture
  4. Manage social media accounts and online activities.  This includes but is not limited to:
    1. Ag United’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and YouTube accounts. 
    2. Ag United’s website.




  • Answer various email and phone inquires.
  • Perform daily office management duties such as ordering office supplies, making copies and mailing.
  • Other duties as assigned.





  • Reports to work and completes tasks in a timely manner
  • Adheres to all policies and procedures
  • Acts as a role model within and outside the organization
  • Performs duties as workload necessitates
  • Maintains a positive and respectful attitude
  • Maintains a demeanor that creates positive team atmosphere
  • Communicates regularly with supervisor
  • Travels as directed for various meetings and events.



  • Enrolled in a bachelors degree program. 
  • Agricultural industry career experience or an ag background preferred.
  • Must have excellent communications skills with the ability to work with the public.
  • Excellent organizational skills, time management, customer service and problem-solving skills.
  • Ability to multi-task several projects and activities at one time.
  • Strong work ethic and able to work independently or as part of a team.
  • Ability to work with computer systems including Microsoft Office and design programs.
  • Available to work weekends and evenings to implement programs and events.
  • Have reliable transportation to and from work.
  • General design, picture and video editing skills is helpful. 



Working conditions include farm settings and a normal office environment, travel within the state. Some lifting is required. Must have valid drivers license. Proof of car insurance is required to drive company vehicle. Some weekends and evenings will be required.


This job description is only a summary of the typical functions of the job, not a comprehensive list of all possible job responsibilities, tasks and duties.  The Executive Director reserves the right to amend and change responsibilities to meet business and organizational needs as necessary.  Employee may be asked to perform other duties as assigned.

Fri, 02 Nov 2018 09:47:00 -0500
Rural Dictionary: Turkey Terms 20080617_farmers_164.jpg


Hen – The female turkey. A hen will lay about 100 eggs in 6 months. Hens don’t gobble, instead they make a clicking noise. Hens are also raised for meat and are most often sold as a whole turkey, like the kind we eat at Thanksgiving.


Tom – The male turkey. Males are bigger than females when they are full grown, often weighing in at about 45 pounds. These turkeys are most often used for deli sliced turkey. A tom can father up to 1,500 poults every six months. Only Toms gobble!


Poult – A baby turkey. Both hen and tom turkeys are raised for meat, however they are raised separately. After the turkeys are hatched they move to the farm at one day old where farmers ensure they have fresh food and water to get off to a good start.

Thu, 01 Nov 2018 14:19:00 -0500
October Agvocates October Agvocates.png

During October farmers fought early snow and heavy rains as they worked to get crops out of the fields. At Ag United, our farmer volunteers also helped us as we sent out the first videos for the Adopt A Farmer program and hosted the Sioux Falls Poultry Crawl!


Adopt A Farmer

Peter Bakken

Clint & Kelly Brandlee

Bruce Burkhart

Philip Eggers

Greg Moes

Adam Mohrhauser

Lyle Perman

Jim Petrik

Doug Sieck

Heidi Zwinger


Sioux Falls Poultry Crawl

Cody Chamblin

Bob Drake

David Hoefer

Jason Ramsdell

Peter & Katy Sonstegard

Ruben Waldner

Jordan Woodbury

Richard & Joyce Vasgard

Wed, 31 Oct 2018 15:26:00 -0500
Guest Blogger: Erin Little, Swine Researcher agunited1.pngHello, my name is Erin Little, I am a part of the research team at the Pipestone Vet Clinic and am working on a master’s degree in swine genetics at South Dakota State University. My husband Derek and I live near Colman, SD on a small cow-calf and lamb operation we started when we first bought our acreage two years ago. I spend many days in the pig barn then come home to help Derek on the farm with our two dogs, Boomer and Blue. We both received our bachelor degrees from South Dakota State University and are dedicated Jackrabbit fans. Originally, I am from south central Minnesota where I grew up on a small hobby farm. Growing up, I spent time in my grandparents’ nurseries watching them care for the young pigs.

agunited2.pngIn high school I worked at a large sow farm, it was a great experience and opportunity to dive into commercial production. It was clear to see the amount of effort and care that went into each piglet, regardless of the size of the farm. As I was handling the day-to-day care of the sows and piglets, I would raise many questions about differences in management techniques, products used or various production parameters. Looking back, that was where my drive for swine research and innovation developed.

Nonetheless, I didn’t necessarily realize a career in swine research was for me until I started working with the Pipestone Applied Research (PAR) group when I was a senior in college. I now manage one of our research barns, aid in protocol development and data analysis. The research barns look very similar to a commercial 2400 head wean-to-finish barn, with a few exceptions i.e. more pens and an automated feed system that allows us to track feed consumption of the pigs. Personally, I am involved in both the day-to-day care for the pigs and the trial development, to me that shows the uniqueness of production-driven research. I get to help in barns where we conduct applied research trials that answer relevant questions that are important to producers. It gives them data-driven answers that they can have confidence, with proper management, will be repeatable in their facilities.  I am proud to be a part of company that emphasizes the importance of, and aligns their values with, independent producers.

Erin and her husband, Derek

I started my master’s program in the fall of 2017. I spent a few years working for PAR before returning to school. I hope to combine my practical experiences working in the research barns and knowledge acquired from SDSU to improve the health and production on farms and I believe that we can do this without compromising pig care.

As we move forward, I see transparency and information distribution being a key component when connecting with consumers. It goes beyond completing well-conducted research, as producers, we need to distribute and relay information on a strong and amicable platform.  Above all, I think it is great to see how welcoming the swine industry is to innovation. As a whole, we understand that sustainability, efficiency and welfare are extremely important and research is a great tool to drive the industry forward.


Listen to Erin's Farmer's Daughter radio segment here: 10.29.18 FD Erin Little.mp3

Mon, 29 Oct 2018 11:21:00 -0500
Fall on the Farm IMG_3742.JPG 

The calendar and the cool weather both tell us that fall is here. Leaves are changing colors, and crops are turning a golden brown signifying that it’s time for harvest.


On the farm the changing weather signifies to farmers that it’s time to prepare for winter. Farmers are in the field harvesting crops and working to get ready for the months of snow and cold ahead.


Right now, farmers are working on harvesting corn and soybeans.  This is the time of year when all the hard work farmers put in last spring is ready to pay off.  Despite a wet spring and wet fall, some farmers have already been able to get in the field. Like everything else in farming, harvest depends entirely on the weather. When the crop is ready and the sun is shining, farmers will work all through the night to get the crop in at the right time. 


Peter Bakken, a farmer from the Garretson area took us along for a ride in the grain truck as his farm was working to harvest wet corn. The corn will be stored and used to feed cattle at their feedlot throughout the winter. Watch as he shares about harvest on his farm.




As we get ready for harvest 2018, we are wishing all of our farmers a bountiful harvest with minimal equipment break downs, lots of sandwiches and coffee to keep you going, and good weather. Happy harvest from South Dakota Farm Families!


Listen to this week's Farmer's Daughter segment here: 10.1.18 FD Harvest.mp3

Tue, 09 Oct 2018 10:25:00 -0500
2018 Fall Photo Contest IMG_2297.JPGSouth Dakota Farm Families is hosting a fall photo contest! Submit your best photo via social media or send us an email to enter by October 31. After the submission period, fan voting for the best photo will be held on the South Dakota Farm Families Facebook. The photo with the most combined likes, share, and comments will be our "Fan Favorite" winner! Ag United staff will also select a photo for the "Fall Favorite" winner. The winner in each category will receive $25 in Beef Bucks. 


Learn more about the contest entry rules.


Fall photo contest entry rules.

  1. Enter by posting your photo on our Facebook page, or mention us in your post on Twitter (@SDFarmFamilies) or Instagram (@SDFarmFamilies). You can also email photos to
  2. Photos must be fall themed, but aren’t required to be farm photos.
  3. To be considered photos must be entered by October 31.
  4. Photos must be taken by the individual that submits them.
  5. One entry per person allowed.


Winner will be announced after voting in November!

Thu, 04 Oct 2018 15:04:00 -0500
October Rural Dictionary - Nursery Barn, Finishing Barn It's Pork Month! Take a minute to learn a couple common pig terms.

IMG_0596.JPGNursery Barn


Pigs are weaned at 3 to 4 weeks of age. At this time, they are ready to leave their mother and eat solid food. Pigs will often be moved to a nursery barn where they live for 5 to 8 weeks, or until they are about 50 pounds. When pigs first move to this barn, they are kept very warm at 80* F. As the pigs grow the temperature is gradually decreased to ensure they are comfortable. The pigs are fed a specialized diet that changes as they grow.



Mehlhaf Barn.JPG

Finishing Barn

After pigs leave the nursery they are moved to a finishing barn. Pigs are kept in groups of similar size to reduce fighting. Here pigs have free choice feed and water. The barn is kept at about 70 degrees and pigs are safe from the extreme cold and heat. Pigs will live here 4 to 6 months, until they are ready for market at 280 pounds.

*Pigs may also go directly from weaning to a finishing barn where they farmer takes extra care to ensure the baby pigs get off to a good start.

Mon, 01 Oct 2018 11:40:00 -0500