Tournament funds education for ag’s next generation

Farm Forum

HURON — If you were to meet 17-year-old Keely Thompson today, you wouldn’t guess that the vice president of the student council, treasurer of the New Underwood Activities Fund and member of the Rodeo Team, was once a shy girl, who was content to sit on the sidelines.

When asked what brought her out of her shell, Thompson doesn’t hesitate. “Farmers Union youth programs; they helped me break out of my shell, gave me social skills and gave me the confidence to speak in front of people,” says the New Underwood High School senior, who is actively involved in her family’s ranch.

Thompson is one of more than 3,000 rural youth who participate in Farmers Union youth leadership programs each year.

Hosted throughout the state, Farmers Union funds several leadership-focused activities designed specifically to provide rural youth, ages 6 through 18, with leadership and life skills as well as insight into South Dakota’s number one industry of agriculture.

“I’ve enjoyed all the opportunities it’s provided to me and now that I’m a camp counselor, I’m able to mentor younger kids,” she said.

Golf for rural youth

Thompson and rural youth like are the reason Jim Wahle volunteered to organize this year’s Farmers Union Foundation Open June 18 at Spring Creek Golf Course in Harrisburg. He hopes to raise at least $10,000 for Farmers Union leadership education. The tournament will be a four-person, best ball format.

“Investing in rural youth is investing in the future of South Dakota’s number one industry,” said Wahle, who farms near Salem and serves as District 2 Farmers Union President.

He adds that along with leadership development, Farmers Union education programs also teach rural youth about the cooperatives which play an integral role in many rural communities.

“Those of us who live in rural South Dakota depend heavily upon cooperatives and its important our youth understand how they work,” he said. “I bank at a cooperative, I get my phone and internet service from a cooperative, I purchase most of my farm inputs from a cooperative, I buy my fuel from a cooperative and I sell most of my grain to a cooperative.”

To learn more about Farmers Union youth leadership programs, visit

Wahle is currently looking for team and hole sponsors, to learn more, contact the state Farmers Union office at 605-352-6761 ext. 114 or