Every year the Farm Forum presents the Farm Family of the Year award at the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce Ag Appreciation Banquet. The purpose of the award is to recognize a family who best represents farming and ranching and the spirit of agriculture in northeastern South Dakota. To be eligible, the recipients must be actively engaged in farming or ranching, with the majority of income derived from production agriculture.
Our 2018 Farm Family of the Year is the Don and Hazel Schaunaman family from rural Aberdeen.
Don and Hazel moved to and rented the farm from Hazel’s parents, Herman and Sophia Wendt in 1953. Don and Hazel purchased it in 1958 from the heirs of Hazel’s parents. This farm has been in the family, the Wendt’s, since the late 1890s. Family members currently involved in the operation are Don and Hazel along with Craig and Carolyn, Kirk and Kim, Chad and Mysty, Emma, Sam, Kayla, Kelcy, Karly, Adrianne and Dylan.
Craig began farming with Don in 1977. Kirk returned to the farm after graduating from South Dakota State University in 1983. Craig and Kirk took over the operation together in 1993 upon Don’s retirement. Don and Hazel’s oldest grandson, Chad, joined the operation in 1994 while attending college at Northern State University. The Schaunaman Farm has always been a diversified grain and livestock operation and, like most farming operations, in the beginning hogs were part of the livestock along with cow calf. Sixty years ago, cereal grains (spring wheat, rye, oats, barley) were a bigger part of the grain production with very little corn in the rotation. Sunflowers were also in the rotation in the 1990’s. The family has always had a combination of owned and rented land, with the majority of the land owned.
The current operation still remains diversified with grain and livestock. The grains have shifted to more row crops of corn and soybeans with spring wheat still in the rotation on some of the land and alfalfa utilized by their Livestock. They maintain a cow calf operation, marketing them locally. The management of the farm is maintained with Craig and Kirk. Chad is a vital part of the day to day operation focusing more on the equipment and technology.
“Take care of the land and it will take care of you” has always been part of the mindset that has been instilled for generations. As technology has advanced, they have utilized zone management of their fields in both fertilizer application and variable rate seeding, along with yield mapping, to better utilize resources and meet yield goals. Livestock records have been maintained so the cattle herd can be age and source verified. Conservation has always been important, from the planting of shelterbelts to crop rotation utilizing today’s equipment that allows no-till or minimum tillage. They also participate in CSP and CRP programs. Their goal has always been to make things better today but also enhance it for the generations to come.
Giving back and being involved has always been important to the Schaunaman family. Don has served on the Northern Rural Electric Board, USDA Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, and Farmers Home Administration Boards in the 1970s-80s. Don was also active in the National Farmers Union and the National Farm Organization. Hazel was a 4-H leader for 13 years and is still a strong supporter of 4-H along with Don. Don and Hazel have always been active in their church and local organizations. Craig and Kirk have continued in this service, serving on Extension Board, Ethanol Board, Drainage Board, and Farmers Union Board. Craig also served 10 years in the South Dakota Legislature and recently was state executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency. The next generation also has a strong commitment to agriculture, participating in 4-H and Farmers Union.