Rural Ramblings News from Ag United. Wed, 22 May 2024 08:56:39 -0500 October Featured Farmer: Ruben Waldner ruben 2.jpg

With nearly 40 years of experience raising turkeys in South Dakota, Ruben Waldner has seen a number of changes in how animals are cared for, how they are housed, the technologies that make it possible, and even the birds themselves. 

Waldner is responsible for raising 150,000 turkeys a year on the Riverside Colony, a Hutterite colony located near Huron, South Dakota.  He began raising turkeys in 1986 as the colony transitioned away from dairy farming and was looking for a new enterprise.  Today, the colony raises corn, soybeans, and turkeys and hogs. 

Turkeys arrive at the colony the same day they are hatched and are raised for about 20 weeks.  They are processed at Dakota Provisions in Huron, South Dakota.  The plant is a cooperative owned by 44 turkey growers and processes a variety of turkey products, including deli meats served at well-known chains like Firehouse Subs.

A number of technologies ensure that birds are kept comfortable in barns regardless of South Dakota weather conditions.

“The barns are all controlled by computerized ventilation systems.  As temperatures and wind speeds change, curtains are automatically raised or lowered to keep a consistent temperature and level of ventilation,” said Waldner. “When it is extremely hot, a sprinkler system turns on for 10-15 seconds, then off for a minute, with the goal of keeping the birds’ heads wet, but their feathers dry.” 

He said the combination of misting animals with steady ventilation can have a 10 to 15 degree wind chill effect on the birds, which makes a significant difference in keeping them healthy during hot weather.

Systems to deliver feed and water to the birds are also automatic, with three feed lines running through the barn to provide access to all birds.  Drinking systems have changed to feature smaller nipple systems that birds peck at to get water instead of sharing one larger trough, keeping birds healthier.

Outbreaks of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, have been the most significant challenge to farmers in recent years, prompting a number of additional biosecurity measures to keep birds healthy.  Avian influenza is often carried by wild birds, with migratory season posing the highest risk as geese and ducks migrating through the area increase chances of introducing disease to flocks.

 “We secure the barns to keep wild birds and rodents out and we have several biosecurity practices for people entering the barns and cleaning pens when birds are moved,” he said.  People entering the barns put on different coveralls and step into a disinfection bath, then change again before entering another barn.

“The nicer and more comfortable you can keep your barns, the better the birds will treat you by staying healthy and growing like they should,” said Waldner. He noted that the genetics of the turkeys they raise has evolved for the birds to be larger at 20 weeks of maturity. 

Waldner said he was chosen to care for turkeys because of his love for animals, which hasn’t changed over the years.  He is also excited about the technologies and improvements that have allowed farmers to take better care of their animals and land, and be more productive, including adjusting the number of seeds are planted in an area of the field depending on the type of soil and its productivity.    


Thu, 05 Oct 2023 21:16:00 -0500
August Featured Farmer: Heather Beaner Heather Beaner.jpg

It’s no secret that agriculture is a driving force in South Dakota’s economy and rural communities.  Heather Beaner, manager of her family’s farm, Wal-Di Inc, is looking ahead to how new technologies and investments can make agriculture even more productive and build stronger connections between farmers and their rural neighbors and communities.

Beaner farms with her husband, Matt, near Mellette, South Dakota.  They have a son, Gabriel, and raise corn and soybeans.

Beaner grew up on her family farm, then spent 12 years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a JAG officer attorney after graduation from the University of South Dakota School of Law.  She came home to farm with her father, Wayne Larson, in 2011.  Larson is now semi-retired and Beaner has transitioned into the management role.  

“I am excited about the technologies that are being developed that allow farmers to control pests and weeds in a more precise way,” she said.  “All the manufacturers are working on ways that we can apply less herbicide and more precisely control weeds.  If we can use less and be more precise, it is good for both farmers and consumers.”

Beaner is actively involved in a number of volunteer and agricultural programs in her local community and statewide, including serving as the secretary of the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, which oversees the soybean checkoff in the state.

“The Soybean Promotion & Research Council is looking for the best investment for both the South Dakota farmer and consumers, investing in research to increase production more sustainably, such as new varieties and better pest management, as well as developing new markets for soybeans,” she said.  “This includes new markets overseas, as well as research for new applications of soybeans, such as those in industrial applications.”

Sharing information about modern agriculture and soybean production is also an important priority.

“It is fun to see people’s eyes light up when we share information about how the soybeans they drive by are used in so many ways,” she said.  “It builds a better connection from the farm to the table and builds understanding about what farmers are growing and how it impacts each of us every day.”

She is also a member of the board of directors for Agtegra Cooperative and a Land O’Lakes Regional Council Representative and serves on a number of boards and advisory boards for state agriculture and education organizations.  She is also an active volunteer in her local American Legion Post, FFA Supporters and church. 

“Volunteer service is the cornerstone of South Dakota’s rural and ag organizations,” she said. “Our rural and conservative way of life that allows me to farm freely and successfully would not exist without these boards and organizations populated by servant farmers.”

Beaner emphasized the importance of farmers and organizations working together to improve practices and share their story with fellow South Dakotans and consumers around the world.  

“Agriculture is the number one industry in the state and the backbone of most communities,” she said. “Raising food for the world is our heritage, future, and God-given responsibility.”

Thu, 24 Aug 2023 11:13:00 -0500
July Featured Farmer: Schultz Brothers Dairy Schultz 1.png

For more than 80 years, dairy farmers have celebrated National Dairy Month in June to celebrate the role of milk and dairy products in healthy diets and the impact of dairy farming on rural communities and economies. 

Schultz Brothers Dairy near Freeman, South Dakota, stepped up their June Dairy Month outreach over the past few years by partnering with processors and organizations to provide free milk and dairy products to community members.

The farm was started in its current location in 1981 by Mike and Vicki Schultz near the farm of Vicki’s parents.  They grew to about 150 cows and began the first expansion of 700 cows in 2001 to allow sons John and Jeff to join the dairy farm after they completed their education at South Dakota State University.  John and Jeff are the third generation to operate the family dairy.

The family currently milks 2,200 cows and raises their calves and heifers.  They grow crops for the dairy on about 4,000 acres and also purchase additional feed from neighboring farmers. New and upgraded facilities over the years have helped them grow and carry out the family’s farming legacy and support growth in their community. 

“We are glad we had to opportunity to return to the area and support our community.  We can now look ahead and give more family members the opportunity to return if they wish,” said Vicki Schultz.  “We hope that our local processors and businesses in our area continue to also grow and benefit from what production agriculture brings.”

They are currently expanding the farm’s feeding area with a commodity building to store feedstuffs for cows.

Each family member has a role on the farm, and the next generation are actively involved in the farm as well as school, church and other activities.  John is the herdsman with responsibility for the cows and calves and manages the employees. His wife Becca is a physical therapist, and they have two children, Penelope (11) and Harrison (9).  Jeff is in charge of feeding animals and raising crops and fieldwork. His wife Yolanda is a CPA and they have three children, Axle (13), Olivia (12), and Ava (9). 

Mike helps with crops and feeding out dairy steers, and Vicki is the bookkeeper and does various errands.

The dairy has been partnering with dairy organizations and companies for several years to provide dairy products during June Dairy Month.  Coupons are placed in the local newspaper that can be redeemed for a free gallon of milk donated by Schultz Bros Dairy.  The local AMPI plan also donates butter and cheese for the program.

“Our community has been so excited for the giveaway each year, and we always receive lots of verbal and mailed thank yous,” said Vicki.

The family is involved in the community by hosting tours and participating in local parades, including throwing out their signature Cow Tales candy.   In August, they will be a stop on the Freeman Development Corporation “Farm Crawl” event.


Wed, 26 Jul 2023 17:38:00 -0500
May Featured Farmer: Shane Odegaard Shane 2.jpg

Spring is in the air across South Dakota, with temperatures warming and snow melting.  As homeowners look forward to planting and caring for their lawns, farmers and ranchers are also gearing up for a new growing season.

Shane Odegaard and family members at Odegaard Family Farms near Lake Preston, South Dakota, are planning and preparing equipment for planting corn and soybeans and are busy with calving season for their beef cows.  The family cares for pigs on their farrow-to-finish pork farm year-round, raising pigs from birth until they are ready for market.  In addition, they have a contract nursery barn where they raise pigs from about 15 pounds to 60 pounds.

Shane Odegaard is a partner in the family farming business along with his brothers Justin and Shaun, uncle Randy and cousin Michelle Kooima, and her husband Heath.  His mother, Sharon, is retired, but remains a partner in the operation.  The business was incorporated in 2005, bringing together two partnerships into one after the unexpected death of Shane’s father and brother in a farming accident.

Each family member is responsible for an area of the farm, from raising corn and soybeans, managing the on-site feed mill, or work in the contract nursery or sow farm and finishing barn.

“Everyone has their own expertise, but during busy times like planting and harvest, it is all hands on deck, and we help wherever we can,” he said.

The family’s business has evolved over the years, and so has the technology and practices to make them more productive and sustainable.

“Sustainability can mean a few different things,” said Odegaard. “It starts with being profitable so that the farm can continue into the future.  It also covers all the things we do to conserve energy, water and other resources.” 

Odegaard noted a number of changes they have made in pig barns to be more energy efficient as well as provide better care for the pigs.  Raising pigs in wean-to-finish barns reduces the number of times animals are transported and newer feeders allow 24/7 access to water and feed, but minimize the amount of spilled or wasted water.  In addition, manure from pig barns is a valuable fertilizer asset, reducing the amount of commercial fertilizer they purchase.

“It is a benefit for our carbon footprint and the soil,” he said.

New technologies are also allowing the Odegaards to conserve costs and be more productive in raising crops.  Equipment on planters and sprayers allow them to vary the rates of fertilizer or seed in different areas of a field, and automatic shutoffs prevent overlapping or overapplying products.  This ensures that only the right amount of each product is applied where it is needed most.

Odegaard has been involved in a number of community and state organizations, including serving as president of South Dakota Pork Producers and on the Ag United board of directors. He is currently serving on his local development corporation, looking to bring businesses and industry to the community. 

“Getting involved at any level is important – whether it is small scale or at a state or national level — to give back to organizations that helped you succeed,” he said.

Shane has four daughters.  Ashley is a nurse and married to Ethan who farms with his family.  Danielle is a freshman at Northern University, Callie is in eighth grade and Emsley is in sixth grade. 

He is excited about the future of agriculture and opportunities for the next generation, especially in livestock production, noting the diversification of pork farms across the state.

“Some are farrow-to-finish like we are, some have invested in a cooperative sow farm where they receive a certain number of weaned pigs each year, and some are contract growers who build a barn and raise pigs on contract,” he said. “Many families and young producers are finding that raising pigs and contract growing has provided a way for the next generation to come back to the farming business.”


Mon, 15 May 2023 15:00:00 -0500
March Featured Farmer: Travis Mockler Travis Mockler.jpeg

Travis Mockler and his wife, Jill, raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa, oats and wheat on their farm near Centerville, about 15 miles north of Vermillion. They also raise beef cows and calves that are born each fall.  They have two daughters: Lacey is a freshman at South Dakota State University and Kylie is a sophomore at Beresford High School.

Mockler grew up east of Vermillion and after attending college he worked for area farmers for about 10 years before he and Jill purchased their own farm in 2004. Over the past few years, they’ve started farming together with her father and brother to share labor.  Jill leads the business banking team at First National Bank in Sioux Falls in addition to her active role on the farm.

He is currently in his 12th year on the board for South Dakota Corn Growers, having served a nine-year term and rejoining the board three years ago.  He also serves on the board of directors for Ag United for South Dakota.

“Farmers and livestock producers need to be part of the conversation, especially as we make up a smaller portion of the population and people are three and four generations removed from living on farms themselves,” said Mockler, noting that farming practices and technologies are always changing and it is important to keep sharing information.

Over the years, Mockler has added a number of precision agriculture technologies to his farming operation to allow him to be more efficient and precise when planting or applying fertilizer.

“Every field I have is set up on a grid sampling system, which allows us to measure the nutrients in the soil and understand what it actually needs to grow a productive crop,” he said.  With technology on planters, Mockler can adjust the number of corn seeds and amount of fertilizer depending on the type of soil in each part of the field.  It saves the cost of over-applying fertilizer and seeds and is also better for the environment.

He has also made changes in raising beef cattle, switching from spring calving to fall calving several years ago.  Calves are born in August or September instead of early spring. 

“There are fewer issues with weather during calving season, in fact sometimes we’re more worried about heat than cold for the cows at that time,” he said. “The calves are up and running quickly in the fall, too.”

He has also served as a member of the Clay County Commission for 11 years.

“I originally ran for county commission after a number of conversations with friends I had graduated high school with who commented that they would love to move back to the area to raise their families, but there were no opportunities.  I realized that would be the future my kids would see and wanted to be part of making sure opportunities would be available,” he said.

Looking to the future, he is excited about the opportunities for agriculture in Clay County and across the state.

“My daughter commented the other day that ‘this is where I want my kids to be raised,’ which is one of the most rewarding parts of farming and raising a family here,” said Mockler.

Tue, 21 Mar 2023 16:44:00 -0500
February Feature: Marv Post Marv Post.jpeg

South Dakota has made headlines around the country recently for growth in milk production, with an 11% increase from November 2021 to November 2022.  Marv Post, dairy farmer from Volga, SD, reflects on the changes in the state’s dairy industry and the opportunities for the future.

Post said that while the average size of dairy farms in the state has grown significantly since he and his wife, Joy, built their 70-cow dairy in 1982, the focus on keeping cows comfortable and healthy is still the most important focus for farmers.

“As dairy farmers, we’ve always known that keeping cows comfortable is important, but it has become an even higher priority today,” said Post. “If we treat the cow well, she responds with increased milk production, and that increase in milk production per cow also means a more efficient, sustainable farm and sustainable dairy industry.”

New technologies and management practices like robotic milkers, activity trackers, and more allow farmers to be even more precise in caring for cows and monitoring their health and production. Cross-ventilated barn designs make barns comfortable for both animals and the people who care for them during the extremes of South Dakota weather, too. 

Post notes that the growth of dairy cow numbers along what’s known as the I-29 corridor, which includes South Dakota, northwest Iowa, southwest Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota, is exciting and drives economic growth for rural communities and the states.

“We’ve seen it over the last 15 years as dairy has grown in South Dakota.  The more cows we have, the infrastructure to support those cows and farms also grows, providing jobs and business opportunities.  It is positive for communities and tax base,” he said.  According to the International Dairy Foods Association, South Dakota’s dairy industry directly and indirectly created 14,700 jobs and had a total economic impact of $4.85 billion last year.

He said that in talking with dairy producers who have recently built or are planning to build new dairies in the state, the decision to farm in South Dakota is driven primarily by the access to affordable, high quality feed supplies and a market to sell their milk into.

Expansions in cheese plants like Valley Queen Cheese Factory have provided markets for the milk produced in the I-29 Corridor, although Post noted that current plants are at capacity and more plant growth is needed for growth in dairy farms to continue.

He grew up on a small farm near Volga, and while he wanted to farm right after high school, the opportunity wasn’t available to join the family farm and working for other farmers wouldn’t help him grow his own business.  He earned a degree in Dairy Manufacturing at South Dakota State University and had a successful career working at Kraft Foods and Land O’Lakes before purchasing his own farm from a retiring farmer.

 They currently milk 80 cows and have expanded their cropping operation over the years.  The Posts were also partners in a 1,200 cow dairy farm for a time that they purchased and sold to new owners. 

Marv and Joy have four grown children and enjoy spending time with 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

He has served the dairy industry on a number of boards and leadership positions over the years, and is currently serving on the National Dairy Board, Midwest Dairy South Dakota Division and Corporate Boards, and as Vice President of Ag United for South Dakota.  He has also served as the Chair of South Dakota Dairy Producers since its founding in 2009. 

Dairy Drive.jpeg

“At the time when South Dakota Dairy Producers was founded, the state’s agriculture leaders recognized that there was no one speaking for South Dakota’s dairy farmers and industry,” he said.  “We’ve worked with Ag United, Midwest Dairy and other partners to tell the story of modern dairy production.  We can’t expect the government or anyone else to tell our story, we have to step up and do it ourselves.”

Post is also excited about the role that dairy production in South Dakota has across the U.S. and around the world.

“It is exciting to have the opportunity to serve on the export committee of the National Dairy Board and to see the growth of U.S. dairy exports going to other countries,” he said.  “About one out of every five tanker loads of milk that is produced here is exported.  We are filling the nutritional needs of countries around the world.” 

For more details about South Dakota’s dairy industry, read a recent article from DairyStar and visit South Dakota Dairy Producers website.

Tue, 14 Feb 2023 10:00:00 -0600
January Feature: Cory Eich Cory Eich Headshot - SDCF.jpeg

Winter is time for connection, planning, learning for South Dakota farmers

What do farmers do when harvest is finished in the fall?  While the growing season for crops may be over during South Dakota’s cold winter months, farmers and ranchers are busy caring for livestock, planning for the year ahead and attending meetings and conferences to learn, connect and help determine the future of agriculture policy and outreach in the state.

Cory and Leanne Eich have been farming and raising livestock near Epiphany, about 60 miles northwest of Sioux Falls, since 1981. Cory is the fourth generation to farm on the land that his family homesteaded, having joined the farm after graduation from South Dakota State University in 1981.  Cory and Leanne have two grown daughters, Rachel and Leslie.

Today, they raise beef cows and calves along with corn, soybeans and alfalfa.  They farm with Eich’s nephews Kelly Endorf and Ben Endorf. 

For the Eichs, caring for cattle herd in winter means extra steps to ensure that animals have water.  They have cattle in several locations grazing on cornstalks, so that requires turning hydrants on or off, or hauling water.  Snowstorms, such as those in December and early January, also mean the possibility of moving cattle to more protected locations.

“With livestock there is never really a down time for us, just less daylight to get the work done,” he said.  He noted that both his nephews have school age children, so they also go to a lot of boys and girls basketball games.

They also plant cover crops following corn and soybean harvest to help protect soils during the winter months and improve soil health for future crops.  Cattle can also graze on cover crops.

“With unpredictable weather conditions in South Dakota, cover crops don’t always work out the way we want them to, but the benefits for soil health are worth the effort,” he said.

Eich has also been very active in agricultural organizations on a local, state and national level for a number of years, keeping him busy all year, but especially during meeting season in the winter.

He has been a member of the McCook-Miner-Lake Cattlemen’s Affiliate of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association for more than 25 years, and served on the state South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA) Board for 15 years. He was president of SDCA in 2013-2014.  He is also serving his second term representing South Dakota on the national Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board (CBB), which oversees the beef checkoff collection and programs.

SDCF Logo.png

Eich is also a founding member and current board member of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation, and a member of South Dakota Corn Growers Association and South Dakota Soybean Association. He is also a member of the Ag United for South Dakota board of directors.

“It is always important to have a voice in things that have an influence on your operation instead of just talking about it at a café or bar,” he said. “Participating in statewide meetings also provides an opportunity to get a different perspective from producers from different geographical regions.”

Conferences and meetings also provide an opportunity to learn about new products or technologies that can help improve their farm.

“There are so many changes, new products, regulations to keep abreast of, so we need to attend seminars whenever possible,” said Cory.  “Companies, farm organizations and extension put a lot of resources into these events. It’s also great to get out of our comfort zone and connect with other farmers.”

Tue, 10 Jan 2023 10:15:00 -0600
Looking Ahead for 2023 Looking Ahead for 2023

January 3, 2023


The board of directors for Agriculture United for South Dakota is reviewing the organization’s mission, structure and staffing for 2023 and beyond. Since its founding in 2004, Ag United has been an important part of our state’s agricultural foundation, reaching thousands of students and consumers with information about modern agriculture, advocating on behalf of South Dakota farm and ranch families, and providing support for livestock production, including county zoning hearings and livestock seminars.  The open house events, tours, school programming, and other activities have made a tremendous positive impact in building relationships and securing support for South Dakota agriculture in communities of all sizes across the state.

The board and the coalition organizations that founded and continue to support Ag United are committed to continuing the organization’s efforts and work.  However, just as South Dakota’s agricultural industry has evolved over 18 years, so has the work and focus of Ag United.  Now is the right time to take a fresh look at Ag United’s programming and structure to ensure it is delivering the most impact for the next 18 years and more.

Please join us in thanking Heidi Zwinger for her work as Outreach Director and Interim Executive Director.  She has accepted a role as Marketing Coordinator at Summit Contracting.  Not only do we appreciate Heidi’s leadership and work over the past few years, we also appreciate her help in a smooth transition while the Board reviews staffing options.  The Ag United newsletters, social media and other accounts will be managed by a team of contractors and coalition organization employees to keep communications and outreach running smoothly.

Thank you for your continued support of Ag United and South Dakota’s farm and ranch families.  We look forward to updating you soon as the Board reviews options and makes decisions to ensure a strong future for our organization and foundation we’ve built.


Ag United Board


South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association

South Dakota Corn Utilization Council

South Dakota Dairy Producers

South Dakota Farm Bureau

South Dakota Pork Producers Council

South Dakota Poultry Industries Association

South Dakota Soybean Checkoff

Tue, 03 Jan 2023 05:16:00 -0600
December Feature: Managing Stress During the Holiday Season Dec Feature Photo.png

While the end of the year and holiday season are typically seen as a time of joy and celebration, it can also be a very stressful time of year.  Shopping, holiday events and gatherings can add both financial and mental stress to families.  These can be even greater for farm and ranch families, said Alan Hojer, legacy consultant and manager of the Keeping Farmers Farming program at First Dakota Bank in Yankton, SD.

By their nature, farming and ranching are stressful businesses, requiring producers to manage through unknowns like weather, market prices and regulatory policies that they can’t control. The end of the year is especially challenging as most farmers are compiling financial information to prepare for year-end and tax season, looking at their profitability, and making plans for the next growing season.

Hojer works as a consultant with farm and ranch families in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska to help them with the process of succession and transition planning.  He is a native South Dakotan who also farms with his wife, Pam, their oldest son, Blake, and his wife, Jennifer.

“It is unique because I’m living the process that I help other people go through,” he said.

One of the most effective ways to manage the unknowns of farming is to establish financial and management systems.

“Many operations don’t know where they are going from a planning or financial perspective, so it keeps them in survival mode and increases stress and anxiety,” he said. “Having a financial system and plan for the future allows producers to take a bigger picture to see the business, understand the impacts of weather, legislative policies, and more, and help take the unknowns and make them into knowns.”

Working with family members also has both positives and potential challenges, said Hojer.  

“When you have a family business, you really don’t get to select your lifelong business partner; it was selected for you at birth,” he said.  “In many places in the business world, if there is someone that doesn’t fit or want to belong in the culture, changes are made.  However, that isn’t always possible in a farming operation where business partners are family members.”

Dec Feature 2.jpeg

Families who take a step back to identify each person’s strengths and interests and design roles in the farming business that are a good fit, are able to turn their differences into a benefit for the operation as a whole.  

Hojer encourages families to start business planning processes early and surround themselves with resources to help them with decision making and planning. 

“Get informed and surround yourself with the team of attorneys, accountants, consultants and others that you trust,” said Hojer. “When you are talking about thousands or even millions of dollars of assets and multiple generations of families, you need to make sure that the people you have in the room are ones you can count on during the most difficult challenges.”

Planning is important for every size of farm and it is never too early to begin developing a transition plan.

“If you are going to transition the operation to the next generation, the decisions you make today will impact your children tomorrow,” he said.

Even with the best systems and teams in place, stress can take a toll on farmers’ and ranchers’ mental and physical health, especially as many feel the pressure of the legacy of the family business.

However, Hojer emphasized the need for farmers and ranchers to recognize the true value of their skills and talents.

“We often de-value ourselves like the work we do every day isn’t important, but the skillset that today’s farmers and ranchers have is incredible – marketing, fabrication, accounting, animal health, agronomy and crop production, human resources — it is a broad base of skills that is necessary to run an agricultural business,” he said.

There are a number of resources available in South Dakota to help families identify signs of stress and provide support for those going through challenging times. 

  • The Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1.800.691.4336. It is free and confidential support with Avera’s skilled professionals.
  • The Behavioral Health Voucher Program offers funding assistance and support for mental health services for farmers, ranchers and their families. For more information, visit, call the SDSU Extension at 605.688.5125 or simply call 211.
  • To find a local mental health provider in your area, visit or call the South Dakota Treatment Resource Hotline at 1-800-920-4343. Services can be in person or via telehealth and financial assistance is available.
Thu, 15 Dec 2022 17:47:00 -0600
National Ag Census is Valuable to Farmers, Ranchers, Community and State Ag Census FB (Facebook Post).png

November Feature – National Ag Census is Valuable to Farmers, Ranchers, Community and State

Every five years, farmers and ranchers have an opportunity to impact agriculture policy, economic development, and ensure their communities and rural areas are accurately represented. The National Census of Agriculture is conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to provide a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.

The census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures. Even small plots of land – whether rural or urban – growing fruit, vegetables or some food animals count if $1,000 or more of such products are normally raised and sold during a census year.

“The ag census shows the nation the value of U.S. agriculture,” said Erik Gerlach, state statistician for USDA NASS based in Sioux Falls. “It provides basic statistics to inform all decisions, whether it is at the national and state level for farm policy and rural programs, or at the local level to impact individual operations.”

Erik Gerlach.jpeg

The 2022 Census of Agriculture will be sent out to farmers and ranchers in November 2022, with a response deadline of February 2023. Data will be released in spring or summer of 2024. Information reported from the 2017 census can be found here.

“The census is critically important to rural development and economic development because the data it generates is used by both government agencies and businesses of all sizes to build their future plans for rural infrastructure, locating businesses and more,” said Gerlach.

Banks, crop insurance companies and lenders also use census data for developing risk management tools for producers, so any industry that supplies inputs or credit to farmers and ranchers is indirectly impacted by the census.

Another example Gerlach cited is the need for both small and large animal veterinarians across the country. When programs look to award grants or other funds for veterinary scholarships and placement, knowing the number of animals and need for veterinary service in an area must be documented.

A benefit to rural communities through census data is expansion of rural internet services. By highlighting where access is needed, it can help bring funding and support to expand this critical resource.

Tyler Urban farms near Sioux Falls and is also a crop insurance specialist with First National Bank in Sioux Falls and says that while he understands hesitancy to share information by completing the census, there is true value in providing accurate and transparent information.

Tyler Urban.jpeg

“When companies are looking to invest in new assets such as a terminal elevator, fertilizer plant or other expansions, there has to be data to prove there is an opportunity. If farmers don’t fill out information, it is harder to show the true potential in an area,” he said. “There is true value in providing correct data for the government and transparent data is better for the industry as a whole.”

Urban highlighted the need for increased processing capacity for livestock across South Dakota and the country.

“If we all answered the census accurately about livestock, including how many and what they are worth, it could have an impact on encouraging and supporting more processing capacity and small lockers in the state,” said Urban.

Gerlach noted that there is a process that statisticians use to estimate data to fill in the gaps when farmers and ranchers don’t complete the census, but it can’t replace the information provided directly by farm and ranch operators.

“You can only fill in the gaps so well,” he said. “South Dakota was 49th in the country in response rate to the census in 2017, so we are encouraging everyone to participate and make sure we are represented.”

The results of the census have benefits across the entire food system, to consumers and residents of larger cities.

“As consumers want to know more about their food and where and how it is produced, the census provides tremendous information and can drive important research,” said Gerlach. “Census information is not only used for business plans for companies, but also researchers at South Dakota State University, South Dakota’s Department of Ag and Natural Resources and more use to analyze the food system, food security, as it is the foundation that allows them to get grants and other funding to further their research.”

Gerlach is one of two full time USDA NASS employees in South Dakota along with contractors who conduct personal interviews with producers throughout the year.  Across the country, NASS conducts hundreds of surveys every year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture to provide timely and accurate information for the industry, producers and communities.


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Wed, 09 Nov 2022 10:17:00 -0600
Featured Farmer: Clint Overskei Overskie family.jpeg

Each year, we celebrate National Pork Month in October to recognize efforts of farm families to bring an affordable, high quality supply of pork products to our grocery stores, restaurants and homes. Raising pigs in South Dakota is also providing opportunities for the next generation to return to family farming businesses and supporting rural communities. 

Clint Overskei farms with his wife, Brandi, and his parents, Joel and Donna Overskei, near Nunda, South Dakota. They raise pigs, cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat and hay on the farm that was originally homesteaded by the family in 1887. Clint and Brandi are raising their own family on the farm, with five children between the ages of 2 and 9.

Overskie kids 2.jpeg

“When I finished college in 2003, we started building modern barns to finish, or raise pigs to market weight, then in 2013 we began investing in Pipestone System sow farms,” said Clint Overskei. “Owning a share is a way to ensure that we have a steady supply of healthy pigs without the investment in facilities and animals to raise sows on our own.”

Independent farmers who invest in Pipestone Systems sow farms receive weaned pigs that they raise. The Overskeis have increased their investments over the years and now have shares in three sow farms. They raise some of the pigs in their own barns, and also contract with 10 to 15 area families to raise the others.

“Buying land is expensive and it is hard to find new land to rent, so raising livestock is a way for a lot of families to add cash flow and be able to bring the next generation into the farming business,” he said. “Livestock production in general skews toward younger producers and helps bring back another generation to the farm.”

He noted that all of the families they work with are between 25 and 45 years for age.

“Raising pigs supports a lot of young families in our area, and they in turn support our rural communities,” he said.

Several years ago the Overskeis also built a feed mill to process the corn that they feed to their pigs. They feed all the corn they grow on their own farm and purchase another 1 million to 1.5 million bushels a year from area farmers for the feed mill. Some of the milled feed goes to their pigs as well as other pig farmers.

Overskie combine.jpeg

“The feed mill has also been a great way to add value to locally-produced corn, create jobs and boost the local economy,” he said.

 The vast majority of feed for the pigs they raise comes from a very local area, said Overskei. Corn is raised within 10 miles of the farm, soybean meal comes from Volga, which is 10 miles away, and distillers grain from ethanol plants within 15 or 25 miles.

Today’s farmers are also adopting a number of new technologies to improve both sustainability and animal care. The temperature and ventilation control systems in the barns rely on advanced technologies to keep pigs comfortable during the extremes of South Dakota weather, while conserving propane and electricity.

One hurdle that South Dakota pork producers are looking to overcome is the need for additional processing capacity in the region.

“We’ve known that there is a bottleneck between the farmer and consumer in the processing and packing area, but the shutdowns we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic really brought awareness to the issues,” he said. “Adding more processing space in the state will benefit the region with more jobs and keeping dollars from the animals we raise closer to home.”


Mon, 17 Oct 2022 09:45:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Clay Conry Clay Conry Mic.jpeg

Connecting ranchers with new ideas and practices to better manage their land, animal, people and financial resources has been the goal of the Working Cows podcast since it launched nearly five years ago.  After recording more than 250 episodes, host Clay Conry is excited about the network of ranchers working to improve their businesses and putting “paradigm changing practices” to work.

Conry and his family own and operate a small ranch near Faith, South Dakota, where he has served as the pastor of Prairie Home Church since December 2018.  He grew up near Belle Fourche, South Dakota, where his parents Cliff and Cheyenne, built a first-generation cow-calf operation.

“Growing up, I was involved with the ranch, but it wasn’t my favorite thing at the time.  I went away to bible college in Milwaukee and experienced living in a metro area for two years,” he said.  “I remember coming home and getting of the car in western South Dakota and smelling the fresh air and recognizing it wasn’t a bad place to be.”

He returned to Belle Fourche and spent 12 years as a youth and associate pastor at an area church.  He also worked parttime on the ranch to supplement the family’s income, and his father suggested taking continuing education courses to better understand the business and management of the ranch.

“I participated in the High Plains Ranch Practicum created by University of Nebraska and University of Wyoming, “he said.  “It gave me a new framework for looking at and thinking about ranching.”

The experience not only sparked a new approach to ranching and managing key aspects of the business, it also launched the Working Cows podcast.  A comment from one of the practicum leaders that the conversations were so valuable to a larger audience that they should be turned into a podcast started the ball rolling.

“I thought, I have experience with posting sermons, so I could probably handle the technical parts of it, and I could ask people questions about cows,” said Conry.

Five years later, Conry said he has been blessed by the experiences of talking with innovative guests and with the network of listeners who reach out to share their own stories and connect with each other.  He has interviewed more than 200 people from not only across the U.S., but also around the world.

The podcast focuses on what Conry highlights as “paradigm shifting practices” that give ranchers new ways to look at how they manage four pillars of resources:  land, money, people and animals.  A key element is for ranchers to see themselves as entrepreneurs and business owners to ensure that their operation is financially stable.

“We talk a lot about the lifestyle of ranching, but we have to start with making the best business decisions to ensure the financial sustainability of the operation,” he said.  “There are lots of opportunities if we are willing to look first as business owners and entrepreneurs, and be willing to think differently and operate differently to get a better return on our investments of both time and money.”

For example, calving in sync with nature is a practice that times the animals’ highest nutritional needs with when the grass quality and nutrition content is typically the highest.

“Deer and antelope have timed their season of birthing with the highest quality forage.  It comes down to sustainability,” said Conry. “The biggest expense many ranches face is supplemental feed costs, but if we can time grazing to let the land produce more of the nutrition the cow needs, it is better for the animal, the land and the financials.”

Balancing the emotions of working with people and animals is also key, he said.

“We have to manage our people with an eye toward emotion,” he said.  “We know that there are going to be times when stress levels are high and it will draw down our emotional ‘bank account,’ so we need to make sure we are putting positive deposits into that account on a regular basis.”

At the same time, keeping emotions to a minimum when managing animals is better for both the bottom line and health of animals.  Staying calm when working with cattle minimizes their stress and allows them to perform better.

Conry Family.jpeg

Conry has put many of the practices to work on the ranch he manages with his wife, Miranda, and four children: Braden, Calvin, Charley, and Glover.  They’ve built their operation around the time and resources available.

“My full time employment is pastor of Prairie Home Church, so the amount of time I have to spend working at the ranch has to be very efficient and effective,” he said.

The family has a custom grazing operation, bringing in other people’s cows during the growing season to graze.  They also raise sheep, noting that sheep thrive in the drier climate and are easier for kids to manage and work with.

Learn more and listen to the podcast at

Wed, 14 Sep 2022 14:47:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Community Supports 4-H Program with New Building Grant Co 4H2.jpgGrant Co Building.jpeg

4-H Achievement shows and county fairs are the highlight of the summer for many young people across the state who have spent months caring for animals and preparing projects. These events provide an opportunity to display their projects, share what they learned with judges and celebrate successes with friends and family.  In Grant County, the 2022 Achievement Days was exciting for young people and the entire community as they hosted the first event in the county’s new 4-H Complex building.

Sara Koepke, 4-H Program Youth Advisor for Grant County, said the new complex located in Milbank is more than a building.  It represents several years of planning and fundraising and the commitment from the communities to 4-H and extension programming.

Conversations about a new facility on the county’s 4-H grounds in Milbank started in 2018, followed by a fundraising campaign and breaking ground in August 2021. The previous 4-H exhibits building had reached capacity as it hosted multiple 4-H events and programs throughout the year as well as the county’s food giveaway and community events.  

“We had the final walkthrough June 9 and have been slowly working to get everything into the building,” said Koepke.  “We’re excited to be hosting Achievement Days here and it will be the first chance that most people in the community will have to see the finished building.”

The 4-H complex features a simple floorplan that can be used for a variety of events and programs.  It includes a large multi-purpose area that can be transformed into meeting rooms.  It also has a large kitchen, offices for the county 4-H program, which had been previously located in the basement of the county courthouse, as well as storage.

The project is just $150,000 shy of reaching its $1.8 million fundraising goal, said Koepke.  Gifts of $500,000 each from two major donors – Valley Queen Charitable Foundation and Leo Flynn Estate – provided a strong foundation to fundraising, with the rest of the funds coming from community members, 4-H alumni, businesses and organizations.

“It has been fun to hear from and receive donations from so many 4-H alumni and people who have a passion for 4-H,” said Koepke.  “Often donations come with notes or conversations about how they or kids they know have been impacted by the 4-H program and the importance of providing a positive learning environment for young people.”

Koepke has been the 4-H program youth advisor in Grant County for nearly 10 years.  She grew up in Litchfield, Minnesota, and was an active 4-H member for 10 years.  She attended South Dakota State University.

“My mom worked in extension while I was growing up, so I had a phenomenal role model,” she said. “I grew up in the 4-H program, so to be able to be on the other side of it as an adult is a rewarding experience.”

4-H is the largest youth development program in the U.S., reaching almost 6 million young people through extension programs led by 100 public universities across the country.  In South Dakota, 4-H teaches life skills and leadership to youth in four program priorities of Agriculture, Science, Health and Wellness and Leadership.

“The time that young people put into a 4-H program is heartwarming because these kids are building life skills to prepare them for a future career,” she said.  “It’s allowing them to gain confidence in a positive learning experience through working with animals or participating in Youth in Action events, then take those life skills to be productive and caring citizens as they continue to grow.”

The 185 members of Grant County’s eight 4-H clubs shared their hard work in the three days of the county 4-H Achievement Days.  The event featured shows and judging of goats, beef and dairy cattle, pigs, sheep, as well as poultry, rabbits and companion animals.  4-H members also brought display exhibits such as foods and nutrition, photography, hobbies and collections, visual arts, child development, and home environment to name a few.  Youth in Action events held earlier featured opportunities to showcase learnings and communications skills in a fashion review, communications and special foods projects.

Koepke said that hosting the 2022 Achievement Days in the new 4-H complex was a celebration for the entire community, recognizing their support of 4-H and youth programs.

“With higher temperatures than usual, our 4-H Achievement Days was great! Our community 4-H BBQ  was able to be held indoors where 550 people from the community enjoyed a delicious meal and camaraderie while being surrounded by the amazing talent of Grant County 4-H,”  said Koepke.

Tue, 09 Aug 2022 11:53:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Tanse and Tonya Herrmann 07_26_20_HerrmannFamily_187.jpg

A search for top quality hay for their own horses has grown into a busy and successful business serving horse owners across the Black Hills and northeast Wyoming for Tanse and Tonya Herrmann of Whitewood, South Dakota.

In 2012, the Herrmanns were looking for small square bales of hay to feed horses as they traveled to rodeo competitions.  Due to significant drought conditions and low production that year, they didn’t find any in their local area, so Tanse traveled to Timber Lake to purchase some bales from a friend.  They sold the extra bales they didn’t need (primarily to cover the cost of repairing the borrowed trailer they used for transporting), and the idea for The Hay Shed business was born.  They began by buying several hundred small square bales at a time to fill their barn loft, selling those to other horse owners, then re-stocking again. 

“We were uniquely equipped to serve the horse market because we were and are our own customers. At the start of our business we set high expectations for quality and what we wanted the end product to be,” said Tonya. “We own all of the hay we stock, and it comes to our yard before it is sold.  We offer a guarantee to our customers and are careful that anything we sell, we would be willing to feed to our own horses.”

The Herrmanns also began to purchase equipment to be able to raise and put up hay from their own acreage and land they farm on a share agreement with neighbors.  They currently stock all sizes of small and large square and round bales and have an inventory year-round to serve horse owners in the region. 

“We learned a lot as we started to raise our own hay crops, with our focus on quality over quantity,” said Tanse.  Cutting the hay at the right maturity level is key to the nutritional quality of the product.  Baling at the right moisture level and providing protection from the elements is critical in storing any hay, especially square bales…which aren’t square at all, they are more rectangular in nature.

The Herrmanns focus most of their own production on small square bales and smaller round bales, especially four-foot wide round bales that can fit in the back of a smaller size pickup truck and be moved by homeowner-sized equipment or even by hand.

“About 85 to 90 percent of our customers are purchasing a small amount of hay in a pickup or on a flatbed trailer at a time,” said Tanse.

They see their role as unique in making the connection between farmers and ranchers and the horse owners that are their customers. They only produce about 10% of the total volume they sell, so have a trusted network of hay growers and truck drivers to make sure The Hay Shed is stocked for their variety of customers. Their experience and expertise in agriculture provides the perfect foundation.

Tanse grew up in Chamberlain, South Dakota, and earned a degree in Ag Education from South Dakota State University.  Tonya grew up on a crop and hog farm in southwestern Minnesota and also attended SDSU. After graduation, Tanse began working with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Belle Fourche, Sturgis, and now has an office in Rapid City.  After commuting the 400 miles between Belle Fourche and Brookings to see each other for awhile, Tonya transferred to Black Hills State University to complete her degree and continue college rodeo.

They were married in 2004 and have two children: Tully, 13, and Tayzi, 10.

“We are still our own customers, with our own horses and competing in rodeo events,” said Tonya. They serve horse owners in a variety of disciplines from rodeo competitors, endurance riders, hobby trail riders, as well as kangaroos, and have even provided hay to elephants when the circus was in town, and to the tortoises at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City.  They also sell straw and a special high quality roasted grain for horses, “Roasted to Perfection.”

Tanse now serves as the state grazing lands soil health specialist for South Dakota NRCS, focusing on outreach and education to share the importance of soil health and practices that farmers and ranchers can take to improve and advance soil health on their own land.  He speaks to students from kindergarten through college, as well as training K-12 educators and works with an extensive network of partners such as South Dakota Grassland Coalition, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, Pheasants Forever, US Fish & Wildlife Service Partners Program, and many more. 

“As partners in conservation, we don’t all pursue the same things in the same way, but we all believe that productive, healthy soils are achieved through purposed decision-making and management at the field scale,” said Tanse.  One of his favorite parts of the role is the rainfall simulator that demonstrates the value of soil health principles like having plant residue and living roots in fields to minimize water runoff and wind erosion.  “Seeing is believing.  There are lots of folks who have begun to turn the wheels of change on their own operations after seeing these demonstrations and examples.”

Hay operations can be difficult to advance soil health because aggressively cutting or raking the hay prior to baling can disturb the soils, making them more prone to erosion.  In addition, hay crops are often a monoculture with one crop species in the field for a season or more which can be troublesome when attempting to enhance soil health, said Tanse.

The Herrmanns have adopted a number of practices on their own hay fields such as not disturbing the soil when raking hay, planting multiple species of grasses, monitoring soil for nutrient fertility levels and organic matter.  These are consistent with five principles of soil health — soil armor, minimizing soil disturbance, maximum plant diversity, live roots year-round, and integrating livestock — which must be applied in ways that meet each farm or ranch’s specific geography, soil, and management needs

Mon, 11 Jul 2022 16:07:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Andrew Jensen Andy Jensen Poultry.jpeg

While students in the Sioux Falls school district are on summer vacation, one of the district’s newest teachers is working to build new curriculum and learning opportunities for students in the fall semester.   In spring 2022, the district announced that agricultural education classes will be available with the addition of the Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources Career Cluster at the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Academy beginning this fall.

Andrew Jensen will serve as the district’s first agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor, and is excited about the opportunities that the new program will provide to students in the state’s largest school district.

“The most exciting part about ag education is giving students that haven’t grown up in production agriculture the opportunity to see how food is produced,” he said.  “Students learn where their food comes from, and it makes them better consumers.  We’re not only creating better students for an agriculture and food chain workforce, we’re creating better consumers who have a better understanding of agricultural practices.”

The agriculture program in Sioux Falls is being built around core areas, including agricultural biotechnology, animal science and pre-veterinary science, horticulture and landscaping, natural resources, and ag leadership. 

Jensen notes that the programs will be tailored to provide students without experience in production agriculture exposure to many segments in the agriculture industry, including some coursework tailored to an urban setting, such as growing microgreens in the greenhouse or learning about small animal and companion pets in animal science.   

Students will also learn about the wide variety of careers available in agriculture, especially as technology is quickly changing and providing new tools for farmers to increase productivity while providing better care for animals and protecting natural resources.

“Agriculture is our state’s leading industry and a key part of the Sioux Falls economy,” said Jensen.  “Providing an opportunity for Sioux Falls students to learn more about the wide range of careers and jobs in agriculture will position them for success in their future.”

Jensen grew up on a small family farm near Wakonda, South Dakota, where the family raised stock cows, hogs and crops.  He was very active in 4-H at his club, county and state levels. He attended South Dakota State University and earned a degree in General Agriculture, with plans to work in the Extension Service and with 4-H programs.  In his role with South Dakota Extension, working with students in fourth grade classrooms sparked an interest in teaching, and he pursued alternative certification to be a teacher and then completed education coursework.

“Becoming an ag education teacher was the best decision I ever made,” he said.

Jensen comes to Sioux Falls after serving as ag education instructor and FFA advisor at Chester Area School District for six years and at Stanley County in Fort Pierre before that.  

He is also excited about the addition of the FFA program at the CTE Academy.  The Sioux Falls CTE Academy FFA Chapter has already been chartered for the 2022-23 year.

“There is a place for everyone in FFA,” said Jensen.  “FFA sets itself apart from other student organizations because students can build public speaking, communication and leadership skills as well as focusing on specific areas that they want to learn and compete in.”

Jensen said the Sioux Falls program will follow the “3 Circle Model of Agriculture Education” which includes FFA, classroom instruction, and Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE).  FFA members can compete in a number of Career Development Events (CDE) ranging from livestock evaluation and agronomy to agricultural business management to food science and technology, or Leadership Development Events (LDE) that include public speaking, ag sales, communications, parliamentary procedure, and more.

“Even if a student doesn’t pursue a career in agriculture, employers love to see FFA on a resume because they know it means students have developed a work ethic, as well as communications and leadership skills,” he said.

Mon, 13 Jun 2022 10:57:00 -0500
Farmer's Daughter: Erin Wagner Hello, I am Erin Wagner and this summer I am AgUnited’s intern. Growing up on my family’s farm near Primghar, Iowa, I learned many life lessons as well developed my passion for agriculture. From loading and sorting hogs, learning how to drive the tractor and grain cart during harvest season, to halter breaking my show steer for the annual O’Brien County Fair I have always had a direct connection to agriculture. I knew I wanted to pursue a career where I could still be involved with agriculture, and never knew upon going to college at South Dakota State University that the sky was the limit on what I could do. I am currently studying Agriculture Leadership with minors in Advertising and Leadership and Management of Nonprofit Organizations. I keep myself busy with my involvement serving as an Ambassador of the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Science, serving as an club officer for Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow, member of the Pep Band, and working at the Miller Wellness Center on campus. 

I am looking forward to my summer here at AgUnited as I look to learn, grow, and elevate my passion for agriculture through the summer.  I am most excited to help plan and organize events and run the different social media channels.

Make sure to check us out on Facebook at South Dakota Farm Families or our website for more information!


Erin Pictire .JPG 

Fri, 20 May 2022 11:24:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Jorgensen Land and Cattle Jorgensen-Partners-Photo-Greg-Martin-Cody-Bryan-Nick-scaled.jpeg

Precision technologies helping South Dakota family deliver better beef, preserve land

When people think of technology in agriculture, most think first of autosteer tractors, GPS systems, yield monitors and more for raising crops like corn and soybeans.  However, the Jorgensen family of Ideal, South Dakota, is using innovative technologies to raise better quality beef, improve how their animals graze on pasture, protect the health of their soil, and more.

The Jorgenson family originally homesteaded the land in the early 1900s and have raised crops and cattle for more than 100 years, growing the business to about 15,000 acres and raising 5,000 Angus bulls to sell to other ranches and beef producers each year.  They also operate a hunting lodge and host pheasant hunters each season.

“We are able to utilize much of our land in three ways: raising crops to feed cattle, grazing cattle, and creating habitat for pheasants,” said Cody. “In many places, people are able to do one or two of those things, we’re blessed to be able to do all three, which is better for the soil, land, cattle, and our family.”

Cody Jorgensen is a member of the fourth generation of the Jorgensen family involved in the farm and livestock business.  Other members of the family management team are his father Greg, uncle Brian and cousin Nick. 

Cody’s grandfather Martin Jorgensen, Jr., began the family’s focus on building a strong, high-performing line of bulls.  He began performance testing bulls in the 1950s, keeping records of health and other traits so that ranchers who bought them could improve the genetics of their own cattle herds.  Over the years, the Jorgensens have maintained the same level of discipline and added new technologies to better understand the genetics and performance of their bulls.

“Historically we’ve kept records on animals so we know what traits will be passed down, but now we have the technology and data to back that up and be more precise,” he said. “We have a DNA analysis on all the bulls in our herd and encourage our customers to have DNA testing on their cows so we can do an even better job of meeting their needs.”

A better understanding the health and other traits of each animal results in healthier bulls, cows and calves that result in a more efficient, high quality and affordable beef supply for consumers, said Cody.

“If we know that animals are going to be healthier and perform better at every step in the chain, it is better for everyone,” he said.

The Jorgensens are also testing new technologies to better manage their cattle grazing in pastures. Virtual fencing, developed by Vence, is a system where animals wear collars with an attached sending unit. Virtual fences are programmed using satellite positioning technology.  As animals get close to the virtual fence, they hear an audio tone warning, then if they continue to get too close, they receive a non-harmful shock.

Jorgensen cattle with collars.jpeg

As the technology and collars that cattle wear continue to improve, Cody believes that virtual fencing will be a game changer in the industry, especially for the rotational grazing practices that they have been using for about five years.

Their grazing land is divided into 30 to 40 sections, or paddocks.  Instead of spreading out across the entire pasture, cattle are moved from one paddock to another throughout the growing season.  Each move means fresh grass for the animals and allows other paddocks to re-grow, and means pasture is grazed evenly throughout the season.

“It has lengthened our grazing season and we saw a lot of benefits during drought conditions where we were able to make the most of what we had,” said Cody.

Virtual fencing will make the labor intensive part of moving cattle in the rotational grazing system simpler, and also allow the Jorgensens to graze cattle in areas that might have been challenging to install fences or monitor in the past. 

These new technologies, combined with sustainable agricultural practices are helping the family ensure that the land can support raising crops and animals for generations to come.

“Every acre that we raise crops on is no-till, with some being in a no-till system for 35 years,” said Cody.  “We only receive 17-18 inches of rain a year, so we need to do everything we can to conserve moisture and keep it in the soils.  We’re also trying to build the organic matter to get the soil back to its most native state.”

Learn more about the family and Jorgensen Land & Cattle on their website and Facebook page.

Mon, 16 May 2022 10:12:00 -0500
April Profile: South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership SDARL Class XI.jpg

For 22 years, the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (SDARL) program has focused on providing South Dakotans from across the state with the tools, confidence and connections to make their rural communities and South Dakota agriculture stronger and more vibrant.

 Ten cohorts have completed the 18-month program since the first class launched in 2000, with the eleventh group underway.  Each cohort includes around 30 individuals ages 25 to 55, who are working in farming, ranching, or an allied field such as ag finance, inputs, biofuels, transportation, and others.  The goal is to bring together a group that represents all agricultural disciplines in the state so that everyone learns about leadership together and benefits from diverse experiences.

 Each cohort meets for 12 seminars that are usually three days in length and held at locations across South Dakota. One week is spent in Washington, D.C to gain insights into policy-making at the national level. The class allocates two weeks to study in a foreign country, examining the global nature of agriculture and the challenges of feeding the world.

 Cindy Aman and Brandon Hope are both members of SDARL cohort XI, which launched in fall 2021.

SDARL Cindy at Gettysburg.jpeg

 Aman and her husband Darwin own and operate Hillsview Farms near Hillsview, South Dakota, along with their three sons, Andrew, Sam and Alex.  They run a cow/calf operation and feed the calves all the way to finished weight. They also have a herd of registered Polled Herefords and sell bulls annually off the farm. They raise crops for feed for their own cattle and also sell corn and soybeans to market.  She has a B.S. in Animal Science with a Business option and a minor in Economics from South Dakota State University.

 She had followed the SDARL program for years and thought of applying several times, but didn’t feel she could make the expected time commitment. 

“Now as an empty nester, not currently serving on any board of committees, I decided it was now or never,” said Aman.  “I had always heard good things from SDARL alumni, and think the program has a lot to offer with a very educational agenda every seminar.”

 Building relationships with the other cohort members has been one of the most valuable parts of the program for Aman, especially bringing together people of various age differences and all areas of the ag industry to collaborate with each other. Several speakers have highlighted the importance of advocacy in agriculture and that everyone is in charge of their own story and messaging. 

 “Through SDARL, I have learned that there isn’t always someone else to serve in leadership roles.  We all need to ‘stand up, step up, and get to work’ as Dana Dykhouse told us,” said Aman. “I will try to bring the positivity back to my family and community.  We are all responsible for our actions and the future of the ag industry is dependent on us.”

SDARL Brandon Hope.jpg

 Brandon Hope is a fourth-generation farmer from Sinai, South Dakota.  He returned to his family’s farm in 2010 after receiving his B.S. in agriculture from South Dakota State University and working in landscaping for two years after college. He shares operation of their 2,100-acre corn and soybean farm with his father where they are always looking to adopt new technologies and practices to stay on top of the ever-changing agricultural industry. Hope and his wife, Leah, have three children: Westin (12), Bryston (5), and Vivian (3).

 He has appreciated the unique learning opportunities at each of the seminars so far, including tours and hearing from Coach John Stiegelmeier and Dana Dyhkhouse at SDSU, learning about state politics and meeting leaders in Pierre, and a weeklong trip to Washington DC where they met with various leaders and toured Gettysburg National Cemetery.

 Hope said the SDARL experience has helped him understand himself better and open up to new perspectives in making decisions for his business and community.

 “There are so many different ways the world is viewed today, and the experiences of others must be taken into account.  I think about how the decisions will not only affect me, but also those around me,” he said.  “Having an open mind and not shutting down others’ ideas because they aren’t your own is key to finding the right answers to problems.

 He is looking forward to continuing to develop his leadership skills and build on the training opportunities.

 “SDARL has given me so many tools from public speaking to networking to just listening, that I can use in my community, business and personal life,” said Hope.

 “Our mission at SDARL is to identify and develop leaders for agriculture and rural communities in South Dakota,” said Don Norton, SDARL CEO. “It’s wonderful to see class members grow in their understanding of the skills, knowledge, and character of leaders. The 326 graduates and class members of our flagship program are making a significant impact in our state, and we all benefit from their engaged leadership.”

 In addition the to the 18-month program, SDARL also offers the SDARL Learning Network, which includes lifelong-learning programs for alumni and leadership training for partner organizations, such as commodity board members, FFA advisors, community non-profit boards and rural community leaders. Learn more about SDARL at


Tue, 12 Apr 2022 12:07:00 -0500
Best Wishes to Steve Dick Steve farewell.png


It is a bittersweet day at Ag United for South Dakota.

Today is Steve Dick’s last day as Executive Director at Ag United.  We appreciate his leadership in building and growing our organization over the past 17 years, and wish him the best as he takes on a new role as the State Executive Director for USDA Farm Service Agency in South Dakota.  He will start the new role on April 11.  

Ag United was founded in 2004 by a coalition of ag organizations with a mission of promoting and advancing farm and ranch families and rural communities in South Dakota.  Over the years, Ag United and South Dakota Farm Families have built connections and shared information about modern agriculture with tens of thousands of South Dakotans at programs including farm open house events, Farms after Five and Know Your Milk bus tours, restaurant crawl events, and participation at popular events like Family Fest and Expo for Her.  Each year, farmers and ranchers are adopted by dozens of classrooms and farmers host pizza parties for National Ag Day across the state. And, Steve and the Ag United team have supported farm and ranch families in 32 of South Dakota’s counties with zoning help for local and county hearings for expansion or new construction projects.

“We wish Steve well in his new role and want to thank him for his years of leadership,” said Richard Vasgaard, Centerville farmer and president of the Ag United board of directors. “We appreciate his dedication and commitment to growing agriculture in South Dakota.”

Steve brought both a production agriculture and policy and outreach background to the creation of Ag United, and both have been valuable as he worked with organizations as well as farm families, consumers and local officials.

Tue, 05 Apr 2022 09:14:00 -0500
Emery Pearson: Opportunities in FFA Emery Pearson: Opportunities in FFA



Guest Blog written by Emery Pearson, Tri-Valley FFA

This week on our radio commercial, we very briefly introduced what CDEs and LDEs are in the FFA world, as well as so much more that FFA does. If you missed the segment this morning on KELO It’s your Agribusiness, no worries, you can always listen to it using the link at the bottom of this page, but let's get back to our CDEs.

CDE stands for Career Development Event. This event is aimed to give you real-life skills that you can apply to one of the many wonderful jobs currently available in the agriculture industry and just jobs in general. CDEs are a type of FFA contests that all members can compete in. These competitions contain many different categories within every field, from Vet Science to Agronomy, CDE’s have got it all, but what exactly is vet science? In this competition there are a series of tools and equipment you have to learn about and many different types of animals from parasites to sheep. Then you take a test over all the tools and species that you have studied. At this point, you may be asking yourself about the other Development Event we mentioned at the beginning, which is an LDE.

FFA Vet science.jpeg

For LDE also known as Leadership Development Events, there is a whole different set of categories to compete and gain knowledge in. Leadership Development Events are meant to teach you leadership skills so that you can one day use them to run your own business or to advance your career with skills that are necessary to your job. One of the many events you can choose from is AG Broadcasting. For this particular event, you get a packet to look over full of information. You have an hour to pick the topics that you want to talk about and make a five-minute “Radio” show to put on. Within those five minutes, you also have to have a 30-second commercial that you prepare before you go to the competition. The commercial can be about anything that you choose as long as it is Ag-related. Another example of an LDE is known as Parliamentary Procedure. Within this event, you and your team, consisting of six other members, study and rehearse as they run through the layout of an official Business meeting as it would be held at an FFA conference. Together, with the help of your team, you go in front of a panel of judges and present your best version of the meeting with a topic that was assigned to you. There are so many more CDEs and LDEs that could be discussed for hours, but for now, to learn more visit the official website for South Dakota FFA.

One competition you will go to within these events is known as district. If you place in the top three individually or your team places in the top two, you will attend your state conference. If you place first in your event, you get the opportunity to compete at the national level. Nationals is the biggest event held by the FFA organization. Over 50,000 people attended the last national convention. At nationals, you get to witness all of FFA coming together, CDEs, LDEs, agriscience, and more.

Now that you know the basics, please be sure to encourage yourself and those you know to learn more about this amazing organization how to do this.

Listen to the KELO It's Your Agribusiness segment here


Tue, 01 Mar 2022 09:10:00 -0600