Rural Ramblings News from Ag United. Tue, 22 Jan 2019 06:08:36 -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
South Dakota Farmer Takes National Role 2018061795182127.jpg Steve Rommereim with daughters Lara and Leah and grandson Milo.

Celebrating National Pork Month each October provides an opportunity to recognize the impact that farm families who raise pigs have on our food supply, economy and communities. This year’s celebration is even more significant for Alcester farmer Steve Rommereim, who is currently representing South Dakota as president of the National Pork Board.


The staff and 15 board members of the National Pork Board are responsible for the education, promotion and research activities that the Pork Checkoff carries out on behalf of America’s pork producers. 


Steve began his involvement with local and county pork producers’ associations in 1985 and served in a number of volunteer and leadership roles over the years, including 10 years on the board of South Dakota Pork Producers and serving as president.  He was appointed to the National Pork Board five years ago and was voted to a one-year term as president in June 2018.  


He also is past president of Agriculture United for South Dakota and serves on the South Dakota Animal Industry Board.


“Serving in this role is a privilege and I’m excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “South Dakota isn’t one of the largest pork producing states, but our production is growing and we are fortunate to have many resources for raising pigs.”


Steve is the owner, manager and operator of Highland Swine, where he raised about 10,000 pigs each year.  He also grows corn and soybeans. Steve and his wife Charlotte have been married since 1982. Their daughters Lara and Leah are both married and have careers in agriculture.  They have one grandson, Milo, with another grandchild expected in January.


“We are the fifth generation to farm our land, with plans to transition to the sixth generation in two years,” said Steve.  “One of the greatest accomplishments in the life of a farmer is to have children come back to the farm to continue our heritage.”


Through his roles with producer organizations, Steve has had the opportunity to travel to global markets including Japan, Mexico, Portugal and China to understand the needs of international consumers and export markets.


“As pork producers, we have to remember that we are not only feeding the person buying pork at their local Hy-Vee, but we are also helping feed the world,” he said. “It is important to understand what consumers in global markets are looking for and bring that perspective back to our board and producers.”


A primary responsibility for the Pork Checkoff is to share information about how pigs are raised as well as pork’s role in a healthy diet.   Rommereim notes that just as other industries are working to understand how digital communications can best be used to share information, so is the Pork Checkoff.  They are also working to leverage partnerships with processors like Smithfield, John Morrell, as well as grocery stores and retailers.


“We need to make sure that the people who sell and prepare our product are confident in how pigs are raised, and that we are the resource for them to get information and share it with the end-consumer,” he said.  “It is exciting to work with our partners in every stage of the food chain. While it can be complex, it also comes down to having good relationships and building trust.”


Another important role of the National Pork Board focus is research, including a top priority now is understanding the African Swine Fever disease impacting pigs in China. 


“Our goal is to be proactive and ahead of problems before they occur,” he said. “We are working hard to understand the disease and how it spreads so we can do everything possible to protect herds in the United States”



Learn more about pork production in South Dakota and find recipes to celebrate National Pork Month by visiting South Dakota Pork Producers or following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:21:00 -0500
September Agvocates - Adopt A Farmer Septmeber Agvocates.png

School started in September and so did Adopt A Farmer! Nine farmer were matched with 69 fourth grade classrooms across South Dakota. Each month the Adopted Farmers will create and send videos to each classroom about what is happening on the farm. Thank you for your dedication!



September Agvocates

Peter Bakken

Clint & Kelly Brandlee

Bruce Burkhart

Philip Eggers

Greg Moes

Adam Mohrhauser

Lyle Perman

Jim Petrik

Doug Sieck

Heidi Zwinger


Sun, 30 Sep 2018 14:15:00 -0500
The 6 most common food labels defined Food Labels Collage.pngWhen you go to the grocery story, you’ll see hundreds of labels. All natural, non-GMO, organic, or local, we often have label over load. But what does it all really mean? Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the some of the most common labels we’ve seen in the grocery store.


Organic – The label is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Certified organic foods are grown and processed according to federal standards that address animal raising practices, pest and weed control and use of additives. However, it’s a common myth that certified organic foods don’t use pesticides or herbicides. Instead, non-synthetic versions of these products are allowed.1


Natural – This label is not regulated by USD or Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Generally the term is used to signify that nothing artificial or synthetic has been added to food, but does not address on farm practices.2


No Antibiotics – Labeling is regulated by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). This label can be placed on foods if the farmer has provided appropriate documentation that the animals have never been given antibiotics.3 ALL food, with or without the antibiotic free label is free from antibiotics, as farmers must follow strict withdrawal period guidelines. The withdrawal period is the amount of time it takes for the antibiotic to leave an animals system. Meat is tested for residue at multiple steps in the process. 4  Antibiotics are an important tool for animal health and are prescribed by veterinarian.


No Hormones – This label is regulated by FSIS. The “No Hormones” label is approved for use on beef if appropriate documentation is provided. Estrogen levels in beef are minimally different in implanted beef (3 nanograms) versus non-implanted beef (2 nanograms) compared to an adult woman at 513,000 nanograms and an adult man at 136,000 nanograms.5 The “No Hormones” label is not approved for use on pork or poutry unless accompanied by "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.” as hormones are not used in pork or poultry production.6


Local – This label is not regulated and does not have a commonly accepted definition.When purchasing, look to see if there are any standards as to how local is defined in store. Local means something different to each person, and could mean food from your county, state, or geographical region. Plus for some of us, like those of us in the Midwest, it’s impossible to find local fruits and vegetables during some seasons of the year. 


Non-GMO –This is a voluntary food label and so it may look different on each package. Non-GMO labels are placed on foods that have GMO varieties, and those that do not have GMO varieties of food. Contrary to popular belief only 11 commercially produced foods have GMO varieties. These varieties often protect against pests and or weeds, allowing farmers to use less pesticides and herbicides. GMOs are generally recognized as safe by the scientific community.7It takes an average of 13 years and $136 million to bring a GMO crop to market8and new crops are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FDA, and USDA.9


No matter the label, you can feel good about the food you feed your family. Labels are often a marketing tactic, so know what the label really means (if anything!) before you pay more. If you have questions, talk with your local farmers to learn how they raise the food you eat.


Tune in weekly to catch the Farmer's Daughter segment on KELO 107.9 FM or 1320 AM at 10am on Monday. Did you miss this week's radio segment? Listen to it now:  9.24.18 FD Food Labels.mp3





Mon, 24 Sep 2018 11:14:00 -0500
Take the 10 Gallon Challenge! 10 gallon challenge.pngFall is almost here, and September is a great time to support your local farmers and your local community. Hunger knows no season, and so this fall we are taking the #10GallonChallenge to support our local food banks and our dairy farmers.


On social media, a farm broadcaster put out the challenge to purchase 10 gallons of milk from your local grocery store and drop them off at your nearest food bank. Here at South Dakota Farm Families, we took that challenge and donated 10 gallons of milk to Feeding South Dakota. Dairy products are one of the most requested items at food banks, however they make up only 5% of total donations. This is one easy way to help out the families in your community.


Milk is a nutrient dense food, and like all dairy products has nine essential nutrients to help your body stay healthy.  The top nutrients are calcium, which helps build strong bones and teeth, and protein, which build muscles. These nutrients are important for people of all ages! The 10 gallons of milk we donated were whole milk, which has just 3.25 % fat. Per cup, milk has 8 grams of protein, and 35% of the calcium you need each day.


Now we pass the challenge on to you, pick up 10 gallons of milk and drop it off at a food bank. If you don’t have time to stop at the store, you can donate through HyVee to the Great American milk drive. Just tell the cashier how many gallons of milk you want to donate, and they will add it to your receipt! This fall, we challenge you take the #10GallonChallenge, and then pass the challenge on to someone else.


Listen to this week's Farmer's Daughter segment here: 9.17.18 FD 10 Gallon Challenge.mp3

Be sure to tune in to KELO 107.9FM during the 10 AM hour each Monday to catch the newest Farmer's Daughter segment!

Thu, 20 Sep 2018 12:23:00 -0500
Social Community Guidelines South Dakota Farm Families social media pages are a place to share information about food, farming, and South Dakota farmers. This is a place for open and honest discussion, and we welcome questions about how your food is grown. However, we will not tolerate the following types of posts:


  • Profane, defamatory, offensive or violent language
  • “Trolling”, or posting deliberately disruptive statements
  • Attacks on specific groups or any comments meant to harass, threaten or abuse an individual
  • Hateful or discriminatory comments


If your post or comment falls under one of these categories, it will be deleted. Thanks for being part of the South Dakota Farm Families community!

We welcome you to follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Snapchat!

Tue, 18 Sep 2018 09:53:00 -0500
September Rural Dictionary: Silage Silage 7.jpeg

Silage  (noun) – A crop that is chopped, packed, and sealed to ferment. Most commonly found in the form of corn or alfalfa. The crop is cut while green and has high moisture content. After chopping, the crop is put in a pile, and heavy tractors drive on top to get out extra air. The pile is covered with plastic and commonly topped with tires to create an airtight seal. After sealing, the silage pile will start to ferment. Silage is a nutrient dense feed usually fed to beef or dairy cows. Silage has a sweet smell and many farmers will tell you it’s one of their favorite smells on the farm!

Silage 2.jpeg Silage 8.jpeg Silage.jpeg
Chopping corn for silage. Unloading and packing the pile.

Covering the silage with a tarp held on by

tires to seal in freshness!


Thank you to Ben Stout for the photos! 

Fri, 07 Sep 2018 15:56:00 -0500
Featured Partner Profile: Making Sure Students are Fueled Up and Ready to Learn Gay Anderson_0027-2.jpg“A well fed child is a well-educated child.”

Gay Anderson and her staff at Brandon Valley School District in Brandon, South Dakota, take this statement to heart every day of the school year.  Anderson is the Child Nutrition Director for the school district with responsibility for ensuring that 4,300 students across seven buildings in the district are “fueled up and ready to learn” each day.

Anderson was born and raised in North Dakota. She had extensive food service experience, but not in a school setting.  When her family moved to Sioux Falls area for her husband’s job, she reached out to her children’s school district. 

“I was emailing the Brandon Valley school district about programs for our kids, then asked if they had any openings in food service management,” she said. “It turned out that the child nutrition director position was open. The timing was perfect and I fell in love with the job. 

During the 16 years that Anderson has worked at Brandon Valley, the district has grown from 2,400 students to 4,300, significantly increasing nutrition service needs and staffing.  Each of the seven buildings have a full-service kitchen and serve both lunch and breakfast each day.  The elementary schools also have a “second chance” breakfast later in the morning.

Anderson is also serving as the national president of the School Nutrition Association, which represents almost 60,000 members across the country.  The association provides resources to nutrition directors and advocates for school nutrition issues with legislators and officials in Washington and states. 

Gay speaking to a group about ensuring all students get a healthy meal.

Regardless of district size, feeding students can be a balancing act for nutrition directors.  School programs must meet specific requirements for nutrition and food safety, must be grown in America, while providing meals that taste great and kids enjoy to minimize food waste.

“School nutrition programs are some of the most regulated programs because we have strict calorie, fat sodium guidelines,” she said, noting that all grains must be at least 50 percent whole grain and every meal must include a fruit or vegetable. School nutrition programs are reauthorized with the federal government every five years.

“Food safety is our top priority.  We will always follow usage guidelines and err on the side of caution when it comes to serving food and keeping our kids safe,” she said.  “We are proud of how well our schools do in health inspections. There have been several times when all of the schools have all gotten perfect scores at the same time.”  

Anderson and her staff works to introduce new meals and flavors and new fruits and vegetables to students along with the perennial favorites of pizza and popcorn chicken.  They’ve added Asian foods and a variety of beef meals, and she enjoys doing nutrition education programs with students during the year. 


“The nutrition program is a very important part of education process.  Our staff has the chance to meet every child every day, and those few seconds are an opportunity to make their day,” she said.  “Whether it is commenting on a new haircut or new shirt, or just saying hello, it may be the positive interaction they need.”

Anderson also recognizes the strong connection between her role and South Dakota agriculture. 

“Growing up in a North Dakota farming community, I understand and appreciate the value of the family farm and how we rely on farmers for our food supply and more,” she said. 

Anderson has participated in several events hosted by Ag United, including speaking at Farms After Five tours and the Know Your Milk tour at Stensland Dairy. 

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to share with Ag United tours and meetings to talk about school nutrition programs and how we value what people in agriculture are doing for us,” she said.  “We know that farmers care about what we are serving to students, and I believe that farmers are doing everything they can to keep our food supply safe.”

Sat, 01 Sep 2018 15:12:00 -0500