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Young Farmers & Ranchers from Across Midwest Gather in Deadwood to Focus on Future of Agriculture

By Lura Roti

Young farmers and ranchers from across South Dakota, North Dakota and Oklahoma came together in Deadwood Jan. 20-21 to gain skills and information to help them succeed on their families’ farms and ranches.

The Young Producer event was hosted by South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) in coordination with Farmers Union organizations in North Dakota and Oklahoma.

“Bringing young producers together to gain personal and professional skills has long been the focus of South Dakota Farmers Union Young Producer events,” said Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. “And networking with other producers has always been a key component and benefit. This year we thought we’d enhance the networking opportunity by collaborating with other states’ Farmers Union organizations.”

Fifty young producers attended the weekend event and based on enthusiasm for this new concept, Hofhenke expects the numbers to increase.

Ipswich producer Lance Perrion said he will definitely attend future events. This is the third Young Producer Event Perrion and his wife, Sarah, have attended.

“It is interesting to visit with producers from across our state and other states because it gives me a different perspective and a broader understanding of what they are trying to do to help themselves,” Perrion said.

Together the couple raise crops and cattle and operate several custom ag businesses.

In addition to learning from other producers, Perrion found value in the marketing workshop led by Janelle Guericke, a Mitchell Technical College ag business instructor.

“You know, farming is like any industry, you need to change with the times and evolve and stay at the forefront, or you are going to get left behind,” Perrion said.

Addressing Perrion’s comment, Guericke said farmers of her dad’s generation did not have to worry about the different types of marketing contracts and tools. “If my dad needed money, he went and sold some of his crop. But agriculture is a business, and today it’s a big business. So, young producers need to be able to understand all the marketing tools available, so they can understand which tool will work best for them.”

Implementing interactive examples, Guericke ensured the young producers understood how various marketing tools worked.

“I want to keep these young producers on the farm,” Guericke said. “To stay on the farm, they have to learn how to market their crops and livestock.”

After Guericke’s presentation, Parade rancher Travis Spiel asked her some questions about marketing small grains. “I appreciated how she explained different options because it is difficult for me to find the best avenue to go down.”

Spiel attended the event with his wife, Mercedes. In addition to Guericke, the young producers also heard from a panel of experts discussing challenges as well as opportunities in the beef industry. They also engaged in a communication workshop where they learned about their own and others’ personality traits led by John Beranek, Intersection Consulting.

“Communication is big. I learned a lot from John’s presentation that I will use,” explained Carleyn Petersen. Petersen lives with her husband, Cole, on his family’s ranch near Parade.

Supporting family farmers and ranchers through policy and education is fundamental to the mission of National Farmers Union (NFU), explains Aberdeen farmer Jeff Kippley. Kippley serves as National Farmers Union vice president.

“It was great to see so many young producers energetic about our organization and hear from them on what they like or want to see changed at the national level,” Kippley said. Doug Sombke agrees. As President of SDFU, he and the presidents of Oklahoma and North Dakota Farmers Union organizations took time to sit down with the young producers to discuss common challenges ahead of the national policy discussion that will be held during NFU Convention held March 2023.

“Supporting the next generation of family farmers and ranchers is the reason our organization exists. And as president of SDFU, it is my mission to do what is right for family farmers and ranchers,” Sombke said. “Family farm and ranch agriculture is not only important to the families engaged in raising our food, but it is important to consumers because family farmers keep competition in the markets. We all think food prices are out of control today. If all farms were owned by food processors, we’d really be in trouble.”

Policy is the reason Oklahoma cattle producer, Dillon Travis got involved in Farmers Union. He appreciated the opportunity this event provided to discuss common challenges with other producers.

“We are all in this together. This becomes obvious when you meet with producers from other states,” said Travis, who raises hay and cattle in north-central Oklahoma with his wife, Kaylee. “It is important to me that I make time to fight for the rights of farmers. And I definitely sleep better at night knowing I am part of an organization who will fight for me and other farmers.”

Learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union supports young producers at www.sdfu.org.


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