Rural Ramblings News from Ag United. Sun, 17 Nov 2019 10:58:50 -0600 South Dakota Sports Rivalry Goes Beyond the Field and Court  


The athletic rivalry between the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University dates back 130 years to the first football meeting of the two universities in 1889.  Over the years, the schools have competed in more than 560 collegiate athletics head-to-head match-ups in football, basketball, volleyball, softball, women’s soccer, women’s tennis.  They also compete in Summit League competitions for track and field, golf and swimming and diving. 

The friendly rivalry was taken to a new level with the creation of the South Dakota Showdown Series presented by South Dakota Corn in 2012.  The Showdown Series tracks head-to-head matchups and conference championship results in 16 sports with each school accumulating points toward the overall series championship. The Series also recognizes outstanding academic achievement by the schools’ student-athletes.

The school with the most points each year receives a trophy and bragging rights, but the biggest winner in the showdown is Feeding South Dakota, a statewide not-for-profit with the goal of ending hunger in South Dakota.  It has also provided an opportunity for the state’s farmers to share information about modern agriculture in South Dakota.   

“Over the first seven years, the Showdown Series has donated more than $300,000 to our efforts, which has provided more than 900,000 meals to South Dakotans in need,” said Matt Gassen, CEO of Feeding South Dakota.  “That alone is a huge number.  In addition, the partnership has led to relationships with other agriculture organizations and companies as well as increased awareness and fundraising efforts by students and athletic programs at both schools.”

The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council has been the title sponsor of the program from the beginning, in partnership with Learfield Sports on behalf of both SDSU and USD athletic departments.  

“When USD moved back to Division I NCAA competition in 2012, we knew that the in-state rivalry games would capture the attention of students and fans,” said Teddi Mueller, marketing and legislative director for South Dakota Corn.  “It provided a great opportunity for a new program that would start conversations about modern agriculture and food production and support Feeding South Dakota at the same time.  After all, the main mission of South Dakota farmers is to feed people, whether they are around the world or in the communities across our state.” 

Mueller said the Showdown Series has gained momentum and excitement with each season, resulting in new promotions and activities at the series competitions and involvement from more students, coaches, fans and businesses each year.  

“The SDSU and USD football game draws interest from current students and generations of alumni. It's a fun time to take pride and support your institution and thousands of South Dakotans are paying attention. As a former player and lifelong resident of the state, I can tell you that it is a special day,” said Jeff Schultz, former SDSU football player and a dairy farmer from Freeman.  “As farmers become more modern and efficient, less labor is required to produce agricultural products. Events like the Showdown are a good way to tell the public, most of whom no longer have a connection to the farm, that their food supply, which is the most abundant, cheapest, and safest in the world, is being produced responsibly and sustainably right here in South Dakota.” 

The program raised $32,000 for Feeding South Dakota in the 2012-13 season, and has increased to about $70,000 each year.  

According to Gassen, one in nine South Dakotans are considered food insecure, and one in six of those are children.  Feeding South Dakota operates three distribution centers that provide food to charities and organizations in all 66 counties in the state.  

“We know we are probably touching more than 100,000 lives each year through Feeding South Dakota’s efforts,” said Gassen, noting that the organization distributed 15.4 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2019. 

The 2019-20 Showdown Series is underway, with USD currently leading the points standing.  The next matchup is the USD and SDSU football game on Saturday, November 23, in Vermillion.  Excitement is already building … watch for more details about gameday activities on social media!

“The game between the Coyotes and the Jacks was one that you didn’t need any extra motivation to get ready for, this game was about bragging rights for the entire state of South Dakota. In my situation, it was also about bragging rights in my own family,” said Brian Alderson, Hartford cattle feeder and former USD football player.  “The idea that two football rivals can come together to help raise awareness and funds to fight hunger in our state is a testament to the giving spirit of South Dakota farm families.” 

“It has been fun to see how the student athletes and coaches have gotten involved in the Showdown Series and Get Off The Bench programs with videos and photos on social media,” said Mueller. 

Attendees at every Showdown Series game can donate to Feeding South Dakota at donation boxes, and anyone can participate in the “Get Off the Bench” program by donating at




Tue, 12 Nov 2019 14:27:00 -0600
October Featured Partner – Bruce Vollan, Vollan Oil 1564492919046_vollan_oil.jpgIn a typical year, corn and soybean harvest in South Dakota is in full gear throughout the month of October. However, there has been nothing typical about 2019 for many of our state’s farmers.  With wet weather that delayed or prevented planting, many crops are well behind schedule and farmers are hoping that Mother Nature cooperates for crops to mature and dry in time to harvest before winter weather sets in.

For both corn and soybeans, there is an ideal moisture level for the harvested grain to ensure that it doesn’t spoil or lose quality when it is stored and transported.  In some years, the grain dries naturally in the field and is at about 15 percent moisture when the corn is harvested. In other years, farmers need to harvest when the corn is wetter, so they rely on drying equipment in grain bins to dry the harvested grain to the proper levels. 

In most cases, the drying equipment runs on propane, so good relationships with propane suppliers during busy fall months are important to farmers. 

Bruce Vollan, owner of Vollan Oil in Baltic, South Dakota, delivers a full range of fuel and oil products and has started delivering and selling propane to customers in the past few years. He works closely with farmer customers to make sure their tanks are full and equipment is ready to go when harvest and drying season is underway.

“This year especially, everyone is concerned about harvest timing and quality,” he said.  “Our goal is to get propane supplies to farmers quickly when they are ready to run dryers.”

He pointed out that maintaining grain quality could be an even bigger challenge this year because of wet areas of fields that will cause variability in moisture levels within the field.  Farmers will be monitoring grain bins closely throughout the harvest season and while it is being stored. 

For farmers and Vollan Oil, safety is a top priority during the busy harvest season.  

“We can’t stress safety enough to our employees and everyone we work with,” he said.  “This time of year we need to be very cautious and on the look out for potential issues.” 

Vollan Oil was started as Midway Station in 1921.  In 1978, Bruce’s father began leasing the station and eventually bought the Midway Corner property and Wold Oil Company in 1988.  The business became Vollan Oil Company.

Bruce grew up about 7 miles from the business and attended Garretson schools.  His appreciation for farming and agriculture grew as he worked for several neighbor farms, milking cows, caring for pigs and helping with equipment and field work as needed.

“I enjoyed working with the area farms and became the local ‘fill-in’ for chores when they needed help,” he said.   

He began working at Vollan Oil after school and on weekends when he was 16 and started at the station full-time in 1989.  Bruce, his wife, Pamela, and three children live near Baltic. 

The business has evolved and grown significantly over the past 10 years. 

“It was just my mom, dad and myself with a gas station and a fuel truck, then we started branching out to deliveries and have grown quite a bit,” said Bruce. “Adding blender pumps for ethanol use also diversified our products and helped set us apart.” 

With 4 transports and 6 tank wagons and 11 employees, Vollan Oil now provides a full range of fuel and oil products, including ethanol and biodiesel options as well as propane, diesel exhaust fluid and heating oil.  They work with a variety of ag and commercial customers across South Dakota and into Minnesota and Iowa. 

“We work with a wide variety of customers and are able to give them multiple product options and stay flexible to meet their needs,” said Bruce.

As farmers prepare for another harvest season, so are thousands of partner businesses and service provides across the state.  Like Vollan Oil, they each have an important role in making sure that the harvest is safe and productive for everyone involved.  


Fri, 04 Oct 2019 08:15:00 -0500
Featured Farmer Kevin Hoffman image0000.jpgAs summer winds down, many South Dakota gardeners are busy canning and freezing the bounty of their gardens.  Jars of pickles and other produce or freezers full of sweet corn and tomatoes provide a taste of summer even in the coldest South Dakota winters.  

Livestock farmers take a similar approach to some of their crops to provide a high quality and nutritious source of feed for animals all year long.  One example is corn silage.  Rather than wait until later in the fall to harvested the corn kernels, farmers “chop” the entire plant while it is green in August or September then store in silage piles or bunkers.

The chopped corn plants in silage piles are compacted, then tightly covered and allowed to ferment. Favorable bacteria grows and produces acids to prevent spoilage and preserve the plants as a high quality feed source.  

Kevin Hoffman is a dairy farmer from Dolton, South Dakota, who has also been running a custom chopping business across eastern South Dakota for nine years.  He owns and operates the harvesting equipment and trucks to chop and haul feed for farmers, and works with dairy farmers and beef producers to ensure that crops are cut at the right time to ensure the best feed possible.image0000.jpg

Kevin’s business started by buying the equipment for his own farm, then getting calls by neighbors to help them chop their fields. Every year he continued to chop for neighbors then eventually grew bigger.

“By hiring a custom chopper, farmers can still have an affordable option to get quality feed for their livestock without the expense of owning and operating the machinery themselves,” said Kevin.  “My role in livestock farming is to all ow farmers to produce quality feed for their livestock all year.” 

He is busy in May and June cutting alfalfa, rye and oats, then again in August and September for corn silage.  

Kevin grew up on a farm outside of Dolton where he and his wife, Judy, still milk about 70 dairy cows and raise crops.  Their daughter, Rebecka, is a sophomore at South Dakota State University studying dairy production.  She helps with the operation and plans to return after graduation.  

Kevin’s brothers, Steve and Jim, are also involved in the custom chopping business as truck drivers and mechanics.

“It’s a very family-based business and we try to help each other where needed,” he said.  

Because silage is an important part of their cows’ diets, it is key for dairy farmers to chop the corn when it is at the right moisture level to ensure that it has the most nutrients and stores and ferments properly. 

“Dairies are looking for a higher quality feed,” he said. “This changes the when we chop to get the best quality.”

Mon, 09 Sep 2019 14:53:00 -0500
“All Hands On Deck” at Dakotafest Pork Loin Booth Dakotafest magaizine pic by bales.jpghas grown to be the largest farm show in South Dakota, drawing an average of nearly 29,000 attendees from 13 states over its three-day run each year.  The show, to be held August 20-22, 2019, in Mitchell, features product demonstrations, educational sessions and activities, but one of the most popular stops is the Davison County Pork Producers stand featuring pork loin sandwiches.  

Planning for and running the booth is a labor of love for a small group of farmers each year, with the proceeds used to benefit their communities and share information about pork all year long. Throughout the show, the pork producers and a small army of students and volunteers will grill, slice, and serve about 3,000 pounds of pork loin.

Ryan and Amy Storm farm and raise pigs near Ethan, South Dakota, and have been involved with the Pork Producers’ stand for more than 20 years.  

“When we make a sandwich, we don’t skimp,” said Amy.  “We want people to get a great sandwich that shows off our delicious pork.  We also try to keep prices reasonable for families who are attending.”  

During the show, the grills are started early in the morning with the goal of having sandwiches ready by 10:00 a.m.  In addition to friends, family members and industry professional who volunteer at the stand, students from the Mitchell Technical Institute Ag Club help grill and serve sandwiches.

“It is great to work with our own kids and students from the Ag Club, and it is important for them to learn the community side of agriculture and be part of working together in the industry and promoting our product,” she said. IMG_7502.JPG

Proceeds from the stand are used throughout the year to promote pork at state and local level and to provide meat for cookoffs and fundraising events, holiday programs, and other activities. They also provide several scholarships to high school students in Davison County who are pursuing agriculture related degrees.  

The Pork Producers also grill meat for community events, weddings, and graduations, but as members are busier with their own farms and families, the Dakotafest stand is the primary effort each year.

Ryan and Amy dated in high school and married after graduating from South Dakota State University.  They joined Ryan’s parents, Chuck and Dee Storm, in the farming operation in 1998.

“Raising pigs provided the opportunity for us to come back to the farm,” she said.  They build a finishing barn and became shareholders in a Pipestone System sow barn, receiving weaned pigs and raising them in their own barns. They also raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and cattle.

The Storms have three children: Jake graduated high school this spring and will attend Mitchell Tech in the fall studying precision agriculture; Kory is a high school freshman; and Luke is a 6thgrader.  

 “I was born and raised on a farm, and now as a mom, I wouldn’t trade it for any place in the world to raise kids,” she said. “There is no better place to learn life lessons of being neighborly, having a work ethic, caring for animals, and understanding lessons of life and death.”  

Each family member has a role on the farm, and also keep busy with school activities and community groups. 

“Making a farming operation work with the five of us doing the work is not always fun, but we are learning how to solve problems together and work as a team,” she said. 

IMG_7495.JPGIn addition to her involvement in the farm, Amy has a photography business, is an EMT on the local fire department and is president of the school board.  Ryan is active with the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, serving as president a few years ago and a member on various committees.  They are both members of the local township board and involved in their church.  

The Storms and other Davison County Pork Producers members are busy planning for the 2019 Dakotafest booth and looking forward to three days of working together and promoting the industry they love.

“As farmers, our goal is to share our stories and encourage people to enjoy the pork products we work hard to raise,” she said. 

Tue, 06 Aug 2019 10:49:00 -0500
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Wed, 03 Jul 2019 10:25:00 -0500
Right Place, Right time - Farmers Using Technology to do More with Less Patriot_4440_Sprayer_0168_07-13_mr.jpgInnovations and technologies in agriculture are allowing farmers and the professionals they work with to be both larger and smaller at the same time. How is that possible?

Andrew Holland, owner of Yield Pro, a custom application and retail business in Montrose, South Dakota, is a great example. In May 2010, he started his business to custom apply fertilizer and crop protection products on farmers’ fields. He also sells crop inputs like 

seed and fertilizer, and provides a number of services to help farmers be more productive, including soil sampling and precision agriculture consulting.

During busy seasons, Andrew and a team of five employees face tight timelines to apply the right product to fields at the right time.  Each product has a detailed label with specific instructions on application rate and timing for each crop. And, they often have to change plans quickly when Mother Nature deals a challenge like rain or high winds.  

The equipment he uses to apply fertilizer and other products is impressive.  The sprayer has two booms that unfold in the field to a full span of 120 feet (as comparison, a football field is about 160 feet wide from sideline to sideline)!  The sprayer’s tank can hold 1,200 gallons of liquid.

However, when you see sprayer equipment moving through fields, it is important to note that most of that liquid is actually water.  It just requires a small amount – as small as a cup of coffee – of chemical on each acre(about the size of an entire football field). Check out this videoof North Dakota farmer Sarah Wilson explaining that the chemicals used on their farm is really “not a latte.”

Even more impressive than size of modern equipment, though, is the technology that allows Andrew to control the rate and amount of product applied throughout the field, adjusting even the droplet size. Farmers are able to measure and track what is planted, applied and harvested from their fields not just to the acre, but even to the square yard, foot or inch. 

Farmers work with professionals like Andrew to review their fields before, during and after the growing season to make sure they are being as productive and sustainable as possible. 

Soil sampling is an important part of many farmers’ planning process.  Small samples of soil are taken in grids or zones across a field, then analyzed.  A map is created to show the amount of nutrients in each section of the field.  Andrew then works with the farmer to develop a plan or “script” to apply different rates of fertilizer to the fields depending on what areas need it most.  

“I do a lot of variable rate work for my customers, from writing the recommendations and developing the scripts, then uploading to their equipment,” said Andrew.  “This is one area that has helped my customers’ succeed over the past five years.”

This type of variable rate technology is also used for other crop inputs.  For example, planting higher rates of seed in areas of the field where soils are more productive.  

“GPS along with automatic shutoffs on sprayers and planters has allowed us to be more precise on the amount of seed planted and amount of fertilizer and crop protection products we apply,” he said. “We are placing the products where they need to be for the customer to be successful and significantly reduced overseeding and overapplying that may have happened 10 years ago. 

Using GPS systems with autosteer and other technologies, farmers and customer applicators like Andrew can follow the scripts exactly and keep records to review during the season and after harvest.   

“I work a lot with precision data capture to help farmers see realtime results in their fields throughout the growing season,” he said.  “Then we can go back and look at those maps to make recommendations for following years.” 

Andrew was raised on a cow calf operation near Montrose, South Dakota, and also helped local grain farmers.  He and his wife Jessica have two sons: Macon and Angus.

Andrew notes that the technology advancements and improved management practices – whether they are large or small – have an important effect on not just farmers, but rural communities across the state. 

“Many of the local businesses depend heavily on the business they do with our farm families,” he said. “The development of new opportunities for young farm families in rural South Dakota is crucial to the sustainability of our communities.”    

Wed, 03 Jul 2019 09:25:00 -0500
Partner Profile:  Dave Christensen, Valley Queen Cheese Each June, National Dairy Month is a great opportunity to enjoy delicious dairy products and to recognize the people who make those products possible.  From farm to grocery store, it takes a team of dedicated professionals to produce, deliver and process the milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and many more products20180917_VQC_109.jpg we love.

Dave Christensen has been a milk hauler for Valley Queen Cheese for seven and a half years.  He is responsible for transporting milk from farms to the Valley Queen cheese plant in Milbank, but that is only the beginning. Dave and other milk haulers play a critical part in ensuring the quality of each tank load of milk, and ultimately, the cheese that is produced by Valley Queen and shipped around the country.

Dave grew up on a farm near Marvin, South Dakota, and has been involved in agriculture his entire life. He worked on farms of several neighbors, then owned his own tractor-trailer to haul livestock for about 15 years before joining Valley Queen.  Dave and his wife Jolene have two adult children and one grandson.

“As a milk hauler, I am home every night,” he said.  “Valley Queen is a good company that turned 90 years old this year. The dairy producers are good to work with and so are my fellow employees.” 

Each day, Dave picks up two to three loads of milk, each containing 52,000 to 53,000 pounds.  Even during challenging weather conditions like South Dakota has faced this winter and spring, it is critical that milk is picked up from the farm.

“We maintain constant communication with our dairies to ensure milk is picked up in a timely manner,” he said.  “The only time we don’t pick up milk is when the roads are impassable – when travel becomes a safety issue.”

 He also has a milk sampler/grader license that is issued and maintained by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.


“When I pick up milk, I am responsible for grading the milk to verify acceptability and rejecting all milk of unsatisfactory quality,” he said.  “I also use proper measuring techniques to determine the amount of milk picked up, and I am the official collector of samples that are to be used to determine payment and quality of milk.” 

He collects small samples of milk at the farm to measure temperature and check for presence of bacteria and antibiotics.  Farmers use medicines like antibiotics when necessary to treat sick cows, but milk from treated cows must be kept out of the milk supply for a specified amount of time. The milk is also sampled 20180917_VQC_101.jpgfor “components” like protein and butterfat.  These components determine a portion of what dairy farmers are paid for their milk.  

Dave notes that the dairy farmers take a number of steps to ensure the quality and safety of milk, including making sure that animals are healthy and comfortable, and that the barns, parlors and other facilities are clean and well-maintained.  They work hard to provide clean bedding, good air movement and ventilation, water and feed supplies, control flies, and schedule regular check-ups by veterinarians and training for employees. 

The samples that Dave takes at the farm are just the first step.  Valley Queen is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and there are a number of checks and balances to ensure consumers that dairy products are safe and wholesome to consume.

“When I arrive at Valley Queen, a load sample is pulled and tested for antibiotics.  The milk isn’t unloaded until we know that it is negative for antibiotics and safe for human consumption,” he said.  The tanker is also checked for smell, acidity and whether water has been added.  The tanker is washed inside and out at the end of each day.  

Valley Queen Cheese was founded in 1929 and celebrating its 90thanniversary in 2019.  The company was founded when cheese makers Alfred Nef and Alfred Gonzenbach were looking for a new home for their small Wisconsin cheese plant.  Alfred Gonzenbach stopped for fuel in Milbank on his way to Montana to look at a plant site, but was approached by local businessmen and decided to stay in South Dakota. 

The company currently processes 4.3 million pounds of milk each day.  The plant is in the midst of a $53 million expansion that will be completed this summer.  Once the expansion is complete, the plant can process about 5.3 million pounds per day, for a total yearly cheese capacity of 200 million pounds per year.

The plant produces American-style cheeses like cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack, gouda and Havarti. The cheeses are all shipped in 700-pound boxes to customers who slice, shred and chunk cheese into retail and food service packages.  

20180917_VQC_137.jpgIn addition to cheese, Valley Queen produces whey protein concentrate, lactose and anhydrous milkfat. Whey protein concentrate is used primarily in infant formula, sports nutrition and bakery applications. Lactose is used in milk chocolate production and is also exported to New Zealand for use in the standardization of dried milk powders.  Anhydrous milkfat is used in chocolate production, processed cheese and other prepared foods. 

Across the state of South Dakota, the dairy industry is responsible for creating more than 6,200 jobs and generates more than $2.4 billion in economic activity each year — that is about $26,300 in economic activity per cow!  

Want to learn more about dairy farming and see where those delicious dairy products get their start? Click here to check out the list of 2019 open house events and tours.  We hope to see you there!

Mon, 03 Jun 2019 15:52:00 -0500
Growing a Passion Hi, I am Rebecka Hoffman and I am a farmer’s daughter and the summer intern for Ag United. 


I grew up on a small dairy farm outside of Dolton, South Dakota; there I was very active with helping my Dad and Mom run our dairy herd. On our farm, my duties included milking in the afternoons, helping with calves, and spending most summers in the alfalfa fields. During high school, I was very active in FFA and 4-H. In both organizations, I judged and showed dairy cattle. Through these activities and experiences, I have grown to have a strong passion for the agriculture industry.

Working on my family’s farm for as long as I can remember has taught me many lessons and skills. Through working, I have gained a strong work ethic and found it to help me throughout my high school years and my first year of college. I have also learned how to take responsibility, even when things do not go as planned and how to handle unplanned situations. 

In high school as I served as an active FFA and 4-H member, I found myself becoming more passionate about dairy and advocating for the agricultural industry. My passion grew as I was constantly meeting consumers who did not understand what happens on farms or where their foods came from. While working with consumers, my love and passion for the dairy industry grew as I got to share my dairy background with others. Because of my passion for agriculture, I decided to attend South Dakota State University, where I will be a sophomore this fall, majoring in Dairy Production and minoring in Agricultural Business.


After college, I would like to return to my family’s dairy and take over our family’s operation.  On our farm, we milk 80 Holstein and jersey cows. In the future, I would like to expand our herd and update our facilities. I would enjoy running my family’s dairy to continue my love for the dairy industry and to share with consumers about my passion of farming through social media and farm tours.

This summer, I am very excited to learn more about the different types of agriculture, along with helping farmers and ranchers promote their stories. I cannot wait to attend events throughout the summer that help bring the producers and consumers closer together!

Mon, 13 May 2019 16:26:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Celebrating and Supporting Farm and Ranch Families IMG-6262.JPGMore than 500 people gathered recently in Yankton to celebrate and support the role of farm and ranch families in providing a safe food supply and strong communities.  Josh and Deanna Johnson and other organizers of the Farm Families: Speak Up event planned an evening to share their stories with town and rural neighbors and support each other during a challenging time for many farmers and ranchers.  

“We decided to start a conversation as a group to get ideas on how to change the communities’ outlook toward local farmers. Unknown to us, a small group was meeting, planning a benefit for the same purpose,” said Deanna. “We joined as a group and ‘Families Feeding Families: Agvocacy’ began."

For five generations, Josh’s family has lived on and farmed land in southeastern South Dakota near Mission Hill, about 10 miles northeast of Yankton.  Josh’s father, Louie, lives about a mile away from the farm on the family’s original homestead that was settled in 1869.

Today, Josh farms about 800 acres of corn and soybeans and has a 2,400 head swine nursery.  The family also has small herds of Pygmy goats and boar goats.  Josh and Deanna have three children:  Trinity, 16, Mack, 3, and Charlie, 16 months.  55529817_2385086234891538_7773859693016907776_n.png

Deanna has served as a trooper with the South Dakota Highway Patrol for nine years, and sees some similarities between law enforcement and farming professions.

“There are not many people who make a lot of money in either profession. They are more of a calling, a lifestyle of serving the public and making the world a better place. We have a passion in what we are doing,” she said, also noting that both positions were at one time well respected and now both are under attack by some people.

Working together as a family is one of the most rewarding aspects of agriculture and livestock production for the Johnsons.  

“Farming really is a family job. Josh does it full time but if he needs help with pigs, in a field or anything else we help. His father still helps quite a bit and we are a close-knit group,” she said. “It’s fulfilling to put a lot of work into a field and get rewarded with high yields or watch the pigs grow.”

56492560_2460619187296104_5987878992735109120_n.jpgSharing their stories of how family farmers are using modern technologies and updated management practices to provide better care for animals and protect the environment is one of the goals of the Families Feeding Families effort, especially since many South Dakotans are multiple generations removed from growing up on a farm. 

The April 13 event featured a meal, presentation by Nebraska rancher and advocate for agriculture Trent Loos, opportunities to learn more about area farmers, silent and live auctions and a band.  Proceeds from the event will fund future activities to strengthen relationships and build understanding between families.  For more information, check out their website and Facebook page

Wed, 01 May 2019 15:50:00 -0500
March Agvocates Thank you March Agvocates.jpgThank you to our March Agvocates!
March was filled with many fun events. Despite the winter weather our agvocates participates in a variety of events from Ag Week classroom visits, Livestock Seminar, Ag Day at the Washington Pavilion, our annual Families Feeding Families banquet, and our Sioux Falls Beef Crawl. 

Ag Week Visits: 
Gregg Ode 
Bruce Burkhart 
Annelies Seffrood
Adam Krause 
Gary Jardie
Brad Greenway
Peggy Greenway 
Ray Epp 
Heidi Zwinger 
Greg Moes 
Julie Moes 
Shari Thiewes

Livestock Seminar: 
Tom Nealon
Mandi Anderson
Brian Friedrichsen
Kurt Turner
Dan Boehmer
Brad Hohn
Ty Eschenbaum
Clint Overskei
Mike Jaspers
Bob Gale 

Ag Day: 
Kaelyn Platz 
Katelyn Groetsch 
Rebecka Hoffman 
Calissa Lubben
Sanne De Bruijn 
Brooke Engstrom 

Families Feeding Families Banquet: 
Elenore Dick 
Truman Dick 
Richard Vassgard 
Don Rasmussen
Kyle Huniker 
Kayleigh Koch 
Ty Stender 
Julie Hammer 
Jason Appel 
Rich Albretch
Sydney Becker 
Congressman Dusty Johnson 
Reid Rasmussen 
Maia Kennedy 
Karlye Maras

Sioux Falls Beef Crawl: 
Shirley and David Thompson
Stacey and Troy Hadrick 
Scott and Amanda Stahl 
Tim and Kari Ostrem 
Phil Eggers 

Fri, 12 Apr 2019 13:00:00 -0500
Rural Dictionary: Crop Rotation crop-rotation.jpgCrop rotation is the systematic planting of different crops in a particular order over several years in the same growing space. According to SDSU Extension, benefits of good crop rotation are numerous and include reduced soil erosion and improved soil water management, soil tilth, and fertility. Along with this Crop rotation can also reduce pest issues and reliance on pesticides. Rotations also allow farmers to spread their workload and better utilize labor and machinery resources. The risk from weather related incidents can also be reduced with a good crop rotation.

Mark Salvador, Strategic Accounts Manager for Pioneer states, each corn or soybean variety has traits that make them suitable to a farmer’s crop rotation or management practices. Things like root strength, plant standability, tolerance to diseases, rought, insects and herbicides are important to farmers depending on their management style and geography. Watch a Video here.

Fri, 12 Apr 2019 10:54:00 -0500
Making Decisions Ahead of Busy Planting Season image001.jpgWith warmer temperatures, sunshine and drying fields, South Dakota’s farmers are preparing for spring planting.  It is also a busy time for ag industry professionals who provide inputs and services to farmers.  Mark Salvador, Strategic Accounts Manager for Pioneer based in Sioux Falls, and his team are focused on helping farmers choose the right seed products for their farms.    

As farmers are inspecting, repairing, calibrating and getting farm equipment ready for long hours of operation, people in the seed business are busy staging seed products for delivery and working with growers to ensure the proper placement of corn hybrids and soybean varieties. 

Because an entire year’s production and profit often relies on one growing season, the decisions a farmer makes are critical.  Farmers typically have a small team of advisors to help with selecting the right seed, crop protection, fertilizer and other inputs for their farm.  These can include agronomists, seed or crop protection company representatives, staff of local cooperatives or seed dealerships, as well as independent crop consultants.

“Corn and soybean products are designed for specific growing environments,” said Mark.  “Yields can be affected by as much as 30 percent if farmers plant seeds on the acres they were born and bred to perform in. At the same time, planting seeds that aren’t a good fit for that field can easily cost a farmer yield and sap the profit out of an entire field.”

There are a number of factors that farmers take into consideration when choosing seed products, including:

  • Each corn or soybean variety has traits that make them suitable to a farmer’s crop rotation or management practices. Things like root strength, plant standability, tolerance to diseases, image001.jpg rought, insects and herbicides are important to farmers depending on their management style and geography
  • Corn and soybean plants have different “maturities,” which is how long it typically takes the plant to reach physiological maturity and be ready for harvest.  In northern areas like South Dakota, it is important to plant “shorter season” hybrids because our growing seasons are shorter.  Corn hybrids typically reach maturity between 120 and 150 days after emergence.  
  • Farmers may choose to plant a range of products with different maturities so those crops are ready for harvest at different times in the fall. It is one way to spread the workload during a busy season.
  • Each year seed companies launch a number of new varieties and hybrids, so farmers typically plant a combination of new products and older ones that have proven yield and agronomic performance in their areas. 
  • And, cost is always a major factor.  Farmers work with input providers to put together the most cost-effective combination of seeds and other products. 

Technologies are allowing farmers to make more informed decisions than ever before, and keep a closer eye on their crops all season long, said Mark.

“Precision Agronomy tools are booming these days! To save money and to do right by the environment, increasingly we see farmers adopting digital production tools such as variable rate seed and fertilizer applications,” he said.  “By taking a soil map and overlaying it with historical yield data for that field, we can create personalized prescriptions with exact amounts of fertilizer for each area of the field.  We can optimize farm inputs and avoid over-applying plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.”

By combining satellite technologies and modeling software, farmers can also make sure that their crops have the nutrients and protection they need during the growing season.

“We now have a tool called “Granular Crop Insights” that can help predict whether a corn crop will have the nutrients needed to make a full crop and also, if we are running short due to extraordinary weather events,” he said. “It provides some advanced warning and an opportunity to rescue a crop if it appears it will run out of groceries!” 


Finally, we now have subscription-based farm management software that allows our customers to break down farm profitability right down to the specific field. We will soon be able to see profitability at the individual acre basis. Everything we develop in the precision agronomy space is designed to intensify crop management, optimize inputs, drive continuous improvement (sustainability) and increase profitability.

Mark grew up as the oldest of four siblings on a farm on the high-plains of northeastern Colorado.  After graduating fr

om Colorado State University in Fort Collins, he returned to the family farm for a few years before moving to Des Moines to work for Iowa Farm Bureau Federation to work in various aspects of public policy as an advocate for farm and livestock families.  He joined DuPont Pioneer and worked for several years in Des Moines, then moved to Sioux Falls four years ago.  His wife, Courtney, is a dental hygienist.  

“I am passionate about grassroots advocacy, remain a card-carrying member of the Iowa and South Dakota Farm Bureau Federations and the South Dakota Corn Growers Association,” he said. “If and when Courtney and I have spare time, we like to hunt, fish and travel.”

He works with a team of sales and agronomy professionals in South Dakota, and is one of more than 20,000 employees that work for the agricultural division of DowDuPont, which is known as Corteva AgriScience.   

“While there are almost twenty of us working as staff in the South Dakota seed and crop protection businesses, we have nearly two sales agencies per county across the same geography,” he said.  

In addition, a research station in Volga, South Dakota, is seven years old. Scientists work to develop seed products that are suited specifically for the region’s climate and soil types.


Tue, 09 Apr 2019 14:51:00 -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