Extension specialists honored on retirement from Aberdeen Regional Center

Farm Forum

The ideals of South Dakota’s Extension mission were celebrated last week with the retirement of two specialists from the Aberdeen Regional Center.

Karen Slunecka, family resource management field specialist, and Mark Rosenberg will complete their SDSU Extension work Sept. 19.

Family specialist

As a mentor to many in the community, Slunecka provided reliable, trusted information to many through her 32 ½ years in 9 counties, according to Marj Zastrow, co-worker and SDSU Extenion Nutrition Field Specialist.

Slunecka has worked for SDSU since 1981. A native of the Gettysburg area, she has a degree in Home Economics and Extension from SDSU. For most of her career, she was based in Faulkton, but Slunecka served a multi-county region out of the Aberdeen Regional Center for SDSU Extension. Slunecka was appointed as a SDSU Extension Family Resource Management Field Specialist in 2011. Her many contributions to the home economics, 4-H and finance-related programs are significant. She received many state and national awards, including the 2014 SDSU F.O. Butler Excellence in Service award.

Slunecka’s dedication to excellence extended to leadership within her community.

She was Board of Education Chair when Joel Price of Faulkton started in Faulkton as Superintendent.

“I worked with her for 6 years in that capacity as well as with her as an Extension agent,” Price said. “She was a tremendous advocate for education and worked tirelessly during an initial district reorganization process with Cresbard, Ipswich, Mellette/Northwestern, and Faulkton. That change was very difficult for everyone involved, but her leadership provided the guidance and stability necessary for the reorganization to pass with over 95% approval in all four districts.”

Agronomy expert

A native of southwest Minnesota, Rosenberg has been employed by SDSU and Extension since 1982, after earning a degree in Agricultural Education and Extension from SDSU. He served as the Spink County Extension agent for nearly 30 years before being appointed as the SDSU Extension Agronomy Weeds Field Specialist in 2011, also working at the Aberdeen Regional Extension Center. Rosenberg has been instrumental in the pesticide education programs in South Dakota and is a knowledgeable and trustworthy agronomic adviser. Rosenberg has been honored as Extension Weed Fighter of the Year, received numerous county agent awards, plus a number of other statewide and national awards.

Not one who likes the spotlight, Rosenberg is a man who was instrumental in getting things done. Darrell Deneke, SDSU Extension Integrated Pest Management Coordinator for SDSU Extension has known Rosenberg since the days when the two worked in neighboring counties in the early 1980s. As Deneke was located in Hand County, the two collaborated on a lot of projects.

“Now I’m on campus focusing on weed control, so we’ve continued to work together a great deal,” Deneke said. “Mark has always been real active in developing programs for 4-H kids. With farmers, he was real popular in the agronomic area, particularly in dealing with weed control programs.”

Fighting noxious weeds and being out in the field was a passion for Rosenberg. He’s worked a lot on biological control of leafy spurge by using leaf beetles. His work with test plots provided a great deal of information for farmers.

In his years in SDSU Extension, there have been huge changes in farming. He’s been very involved in the precision ag conference, which has become very popular. “He really shines at behind the scenes stuff, taking care of all those details no one really knows need to be done,” Deneke said.

Farmers now have their own consultants and agronomists who now work with Extension personnel to identify and come up with solutions to crop problems.

Some of Mark’s extension colleagues shared a story about his first TV interview. He was asked about the condition of the winter wheat crop after a hard freeze. “When it’s dead, it’s dead.” That statement stayed with him through his career.


Karla Trautman, SDSU Extension Associate Director, presented gold retirement pins and praised the work of the two individuals who have impacted the community and served as role models. Their dedication to the land grant ideals has been top notch with putting the needs of the constituents before themselves, setting the bar high for those who will follow them in their roles.

“The Extension regional centers are very robust, and it’s the staff that makes that happen,” Trautman said. “The learning community groups are very active places and all function differently. The dynamics happen because of the people who are there.”

Trautman said the regional Extension centers have generated some excellent feedback. The usage has grown, especially with ages 18 to 49. Feedback shows this is the way the public wants to use Extension personnel.

By using the regional centers and having an online presence through iGrow, the clients can use the information in a variety of ways, Trautman said. This group finds information on iGrow and follows up with phone calls. They are the ones who come to field days and access videos and podcasts.

The positions at the Aberdeen center will be advertised with some changes to the descriptions, but they will be in the framework of food and family and agronomy.

“We thank Karen and Mark for serving all of South Dakota,” Trautman said. “At this point in their careers, it has been a fabulous ride. We hope that retirement fuels new passions for them. Both Karen and Mark have been phenomenal assets to the system and will really be missed.”