HURON, S.D. — As De Smet farmers and young parents who also work off the farm full-time, Rob and Darcie Lee say it’s not easy to make time for leadership development, but it’s important to their future, so they are making it a priority. The couple will represent South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) as members of the 2019 Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program.
“We can always come up with reasons not to do things. But we accepted the fact that there will never be a good time to give up five weekends, so we prioritized this and we’re going to make it work because it is worth it,” Rob explains.
And, the couple is fortunate to have grandparents living nearby to help care for 3-year-old Everett and 6-month-old Rosene.
The Farmers Union Enterprise Couples Leadership Program was developed to substantiate and empower future leaders for rural America and Farmers Union through leadership, citizenship and policy development training. Each year, one couple from each of the five state Farmers Union organizations which make up Farmers Union Enterprise, are selected to participate.
Throughout the 2019-2020 year, the Lees will attend five seminars. They will join with farm or ranch couples from North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“We are both excited about the networking opportunity to get to know other farm and ranch couples,” says Darcie, who is a nurse, working at Horizon Health Care Clinic in De Smet.
“There is value in being around like-minded individuals who you can bounce ideas off one another, and look at things from a different perspective,” says Rob, who along with raising crops, works as a crop insurance adjuster for Precision Risk Management. “We share the same interests and we are working toward the same goal, albeit on different farms – making a living from the farm and keeping it going for the next generation.”
Preserving the family farm for the next generation is a legacy Rob inherited from his dad, Roger. “My dad brought us up telling us, ‘don’t ever sell the farm.’ And, he has worked to pay down the land so that it’s a bit easier on me and my siblings,” Rob explains. “I catch myself thinking this same way and trying to figure out ways to pay off the land so that when Everett is old enough to farm, it’s easy going for him.”
Roger, who has been actively involved in SDFU for decades, introduced Rob to Farmers Union. Rob helped lobby Congressional leaders on behalf of South Dakota agriculture during the 2018 D.C. Fly-In and then took the policy advocacy skills he gained in D.C. and put them to work during SDFU Legislative Day in Pierre.
In addition to gaining leadership and advocacy skills to benefit their farming heritage, Rob and Darcie also enjoy the lifestyle they have living and working on their family farm. They value raising their children on the farm.
“I enjoyed my life growing up on the farm, I could just wander, and my parents knew I was OK. It’s nice to give our kids that kind of lifestyle too,” Darcie explains. “I enjoy seeing the world through our kids’ eyes. Everett gets so excited for the garden. He eats whatever we raise because we grew it in the garden.”
Recently, the couple diversified their farm when they purchased a small herd of alpaca. They plan to raise them for their fiber and provide Everett and Rosene with the opportunity to raise livestock.
To learn more about programming South Dakota Farmers Union provides to young producers, contact Karla Hofhenke, SDFU executive director, at 605-352-6761 ext. 114.