Featured Farmer: Celebrating and Supporting Farm and Ranch Families
More 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.
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.”
Sharing 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.