Youth develop skills during S.D. Farmers Union 2014 State Leadership Camp

Farm Forum

HURON — Rural youth from 27 counties across South Dakota attended the South Dakota Farmers Union 2014 State Leadership Camp held at Storm Mountain Center just outside Rapid City.

During the week-long camp youth who have completed the seventh grade through high school developed leadership and communication skills as they organize and operate five cooperative businesses.

They also learned about the Farmers Union, other cooperative businesses, participated in leadership workshops, listened to guest speakers and participated in talent night. A tour of the Black Hills, hiking, volleyball, basketball and fun cooperative games completed the camp experience and left campers with lasting memories and many new friends, explained Jackie Dethlefsen, a 2014 graduate of Stickney Public High School.

“Camp takes you away from what is familiar and gives you the opportunity to really be yourself and develop leadership skills,” said Dethlefsen who has been attending Farmers Union youth programs since elementary school. “I used to be the shy kid in the corner, but the Farmers Union program broke me out of that shell. I now can walk up to just about anyone and have a conversation with them.”

Dethlefsen was one of six students to plan the camp agenda and activities as a member of Farmers Union 2013/2014 Junior Advisory Council. “In this leadership role I learned a lot about organizational skills – you can’t procrastinate when others are counting on you,” said Dethlefsen who will be attending the University of Sioux Falls this fall.

Dethlefsen’s camp experience is not unique, explained Bonnie Geyer, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director

“We make sure camp is fun, but also informational. It’s our hope that through camp, youth learn more about themselves, gain confidence, make friends and glean a clear understanding of the cooperative system, agriculture and farm safety,” Geyer said.

Along with the Junior Advisory Council members, a team of four summer interns also helped Geyer with State Leadership Camp.

Helping keep things running smoothly to ensure a positive experience for the 88 campers who attended camp was a role that Summer Intern, Liz Reddy took seriously.

“I had such great experiences attending Farmers Union camps when I was younger, so this is my way of giving back,” said Reddy, a sophomore attending Northern State University.

During camp the 2014/2015 Junior Advisory Council was elected. These students are responsible to plan the 2015 State Leadership Camp, they include: Ashton Reedy, Philip; Kiana Brockel, Shadehill; Dowain Kerner, Gregory; Jason Hanson, Britton; Tyler Novak, Yankton; and Alyson Hauck, DeSmet.

Bob Janish Memorial Friendship Award

Dowain Kerner of Gregory was awarded the Bob Janish Memorial Friendship Award during State Leadership Camp. Each year this award is given to a camper who exemplifies the most friendship toward other campers throughout the week.

It is given in memory of a former state camper and Junior Advisory Council member, Bob Janish, who was killed in a tragic accident in 1980.

To learn more about Farmers Union Youth Programs, contact Geyer at, 605-352-6761 ext. 125 or visit