Faces of agriculture: 2013 S.D. Rural Women in Agriculture conference

Farm Forum

It was a year to remember for the annual South Dakota Rural Women in Agriculture conference. Held October 3-4 at the K Bar S Lodge in Keystone, this year’s theme was “Faces of Agriculture.” During the conference, an early season storm deposited 22 inches of snow in the area (more in other communities), blocking roads and knocking out power all over the western part of the state.

Five guest speakers were scheduled for the conference, and four of them were able to appear. The first speaker after dinner on Thursday evening was Wanda Blair of Vale with her presentation “Ranch Life Humor.” She entertained the audience with stories of exchanges between her and her husband Ed. In one instance, she suggested that perhaps she should be getting paid for her help on the ranch. Ed’s reply was that by the time she finished breaking things, she would actually owe the ranch.

In addition, Wanda described incidents which had happened at their home. During one of these, she was in a pickup trying to pull off a tractor to get it started. Ed was sitting on the tractor giving directions.

Another episode was sorting cattle and the cooperation (or lack thereof) between the two of them. The happy ending to this particular occasion was that the offending heifer was loaded in the trailer and taken to town.

Wanda also expressed her annoyance at the pool cue ball which had been placed over the gearshift handle of the pickup, effectively removing her “map” for shifting.

“I love giving the gift of laughter,” she concluded. “We should share it whenever and wherever we can.”

Following her presentation was Fun Night, in which attendees had several choices of projects and crafts to complete. One of these was Love Bundles, where towels and washcloths were folded around items such as toothbrushes, shampoo, and lotion. They were to be later distributed among women’s shelters in the towns of Lemmon, Martin, and Spearfish.

The second speaker on Friday morning was Olga Reuvenkamp, originally from the Netherlands but now living on a 2,000 cow dairy farm at Elkton. Her presentation was “Aliens in Agriculture.”

Olga and her husband Wilfried relocated their dairy to S.D. in 2006. She gave several reasons for the move.

“At that time the South Dakota Department of Agriculture was recruiting dairy farmers, since 90,000 more cows were wanted in the state. Also, it was apparent that agriculture is the number one industry here, and that it is a land of opportunities.”

Olga herself takes care of the financial and office management duties at the dairy. She and Wilfried hire a few local employees, but milking, feeding, and cleaning are done by Hispanic immigrants. Olga said the Hispanics are good workers. They arrive on time, work hard, and are eager to learn. The Reuvenkamps’ three children are also involved.

Next up was Katie Pinke of Wishek, North Dakota with “Real World Agriculture.” Katie has been an advocate for all aspects of agriculture, from working for an ag advertising agency known as AdFarm to being employed by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to her current undertaking as a 4-H leader.

She uses blogging as a way to connect with non-farming people who often don’t know much about agriculture. She blogs about everything from the food that is served in the school lunch rooms to her love for the prairie.

“In order to blog, you first have to learn to find your voice,” Katie instructed. “Choose your platform but vary your content. Don’t quit entirely even if you must stop for a while.”

She informed the audience that the fastest growing segment in social media is women ages 55 plus. That may come as a comfort to some women who are just getting started in blogging. Empowerment can be a wonderful motivator.

The final, keynote speaker was John Beranek of Sioux Falls with “Kitchen Table Wisdom.” John is a motivator and Executive Coach who helps individuals find balance and joy in their lives. The oldest of seven children from a farming family, many of his life lessons were learned while sitting around the kitchen table. He said that growing up in such a large family, he faced every kind of challenge.

“My parents taught me to be tough and to help others,” he explained, “because you never know when you will need help yourself.”

John divided the women into small groups and posed questions for them to discuss between themselves. Then they gave their answers aloud to the entire group. A few of the questions really required some reflection.

By this time, reports of no travel advised were coming in, as well as news that parts of I-90 had been closed. The Women in Ag were stranded at the lodge. Even with no electricity, they made the best of their situation. They spent most of their time visiting with old friends and making new ones. The lodge staff continued to prepare meals for the women as well as for another group of people who were also stranded. By Sunday the 6th, roads were clear enough for 50 relieved but happy attendees to head for home.

Sponsors for this year’s conference included Farm Credit Services of America, South Dakota Farm Bureau, The Cattle Business Weekly, South Dakota Farmers Union, Zoetis, the First National Bank in Philip, the First Interstate Bank in Sturgis, South Dakota Wheat Growers, Hersruds of Sturgis, the SDSU Extension Service, Dakota Mill and Grain, St. Onge Livestock, West River Telephone Cooperative, Grand Electric Cooperative, Bruce Gordon-Edward Jones, Quentin Riggins, Ridley & Associates, and Butte Electric Cooperative.