Roger Scheibe Selected as 2017 AgVocate of the Year

Posted: 1/2/2018

January Featured Partner Profile


Roger Scheibe (L) accepts the 2017 AgVocate of the Year award from Ag United President, Richard Vasgaard (R). 

A collection of more than 50 milk bottles from South Dakota creameries dating back to the 1940s is just one of the ways that Roger Scheibe recognizes the role of the dairy industry and dairy farming in our state.


Over the past 43 years, Roger has worked in a number of roles, all with a focus on serving and supporting South Dakota’s dairy farm families.  He has been a dairy farmer, an inspector for the state’s agriculture department, an economic developer recruiting new dairies, an ag lender and now as representative of families in the checkoff and state trade association.


Roger was recognized as the 2018 AgVocate of the Year by the board of directors of Ag United for South Dakota at the organization’s annual luncheon in December.  The fourth annual AgVocate award recognizes South Dakotans for their work in sharing their story of modern farming with the public.


For the past nine years, he has served as the Industry Relations Manager for Midwest Dairy and is also the Executive Director of the South Dakota Dairy Producers Association.  Scheibe retired from Midwest Dairy at the end of December 2017.


Roger was raised on a dairy farm near Wolsey, South Dakota, and attended South Dakota State University where he earned a B.S. in dairy science and manufacturing. For the past nine years, he has served as the Industry Relations Manager for Midwest Dairy and is also the Executive Director of the South Dakota Dairy Producers Association.  Scheibe retired from Midwest Dairy at the end of December 2017.


“Roger’s dedication and service to agriculture in many roles make him very deserving of the award,” said Richard Vasgaard, Centerville farmer and president of Ag United.  “His focus has always been on finding ways to support dairy farmers in our state.  We wish him the best as he moves to retirement.”


Roger with his 2017 AgVocate of the Year award, a hand painted milk bottle.

The dairy industry has evolved and changed over the years, and so have the consumers who purchase milk and dairy products.  As people are multiple generations removed from living on farms, there are more conversations about how food is raised and grown, said Roger.


“Some of my favorite experiences have been the opportunities to spend time with people who are not directly connected to a farm and be able to answer their questions,” he said. “Whether it is at an open house, a bus tour or event like the Sioux Empire Fair, it is rewarding to see the ‘aha’ moment when you make a connection and people understand not just what farmers do, but the reasons why they do things.”


Roger notes that his own family reflects this trend.  He and his wife Kay have three grown children, two grandsons and a granddaughter.  Even though their children are not working in production agriculture, they recognize the importance and economic impact of farming today.


“We’re all connected to ag in one way or another – as the second and third generations removed from farm, they are a good sounding board and reality check,” he said.


The next generation of dairy farmers and livestock producers will need to be prepared to answer more questions and share the stories of their farms and families to build confidence with the public. 


“Volunteering for open houses, hosting virtual tours, adopting school classrooms are all ways that today’s farm families are reaching out to connect,” he said. “It is more than giving students a book with cows and sheep, it gives people the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the farmers who actually raise crops and animals.”


He noted that organizations like Ag United for South Dakota, Midwest Dairy Association and others provide those connection opportunities in a variety of ways.


A number of factors – economic, technology, and lifestyles – have combined to change the size and distribution of dairy farms across the state as well.


“For a number of years, there were many cases where the next generation was not encouraged to come back to the farm, so when the parents were ready to retire, the cows were sold,” said Roger.  “The commitment to milking cows two or three times a day, plus caring for calves, crops and managing the farm business led to significant ‘quality of life’ issues.”


The dairy development program in the late 1990s had the goal of bringing new dairies or expanding existing farms to help revitalize smaller rural communities in the state.  With each cow representing $26,000 in economic impact and about 85 cents of every dollar staying in the community for services, wages and supplies, dairies represent a major economic engine, he said. 


“Now there is another transition driven by technology. We’re seeing a resurgence of interest from the next generation of dairy farms of all sizes - especially smaller farms - with the advent of robotic technologies.  ” he said. “Young people are seeing that robotic milkers, automatic calf feeders and other tools can help manage the schedule and quality of life issues that previous generations faced, and help them provide even better care for their animals.”


While the opportunities exist for the younger generations of dairy farmers and livestock producers, Roger sees concern that planning and zoning and permitting issues may prevent young people from building new barns or facilities that will help them get their start. 


“We need to find ways to work together with farmers, families, neighbors and local officials to take the emotions out of the process so we can give young people the opportunity to partner with their parents or other family members to build a foundation for their future, and the future of agriculture in our state,” he said. 


Watch Roger receive the award at the Annual Luncheon below!


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