Golf tournament funds leadership education for agriculture’s next generation

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Farm Forum

HURON, S.D. – Fun and raising funds for the next generation of agricultural leaders is the focus of the 2016 Farmers Union Foundation Open Golf Tournament which will be held June 21, 2016, at the Lakeview Golf Course in Mitchell (3300 N Ohlman St., Mitchell).

The tournament will be a four-person, 18-hole scramble. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. (CDT); shotgun start is at 9 a.m.

All event proceeds benefit Farmers Union Education Camp Programs, Leadership Development Programs, Young Producers Group and Youth Farm Safety Awareness.

“Investing in rural youth is investing in the future of South Dakota’s number one industry,” said Jim Wahle, SDFU Board member who helped launch the S.D. Farmers Union Foundation endowment by investing the first $10,000. Wahle farms near Salem and serves as District 2 Farmers Union President. For several years he has been the event’s organizer, but this year he’s entrusting the planning to Kecia Beranek, S.D. Farmers Union Communications Specialist.

Each year more than 3,000 youth, farmers, ranchers and rural leaders participate in S.D. Farmers Union leadership and farm safety programming, such as district day camps, weeklong leadership camps, Young Producer Events, Rural Economic Leadership Development (REAL) and Jr. REAL programs.

“Golf is a fun way to fundraise. It’s a social sport that brings people together in a relaxed setting,” explained Beranek, who has been golfing since elementary school and belongs to a local league in her hometown of Miller. “This tournament is not about prizes or money, although there is a small monetary prize presented – it’s all about giving back to the Foundation to support camps, farm safety, young producers, Jr. REAL, and REAL, which all help develop leaders.”

Celebrating a century of service to South Dakota farm and ranch families and rural communities, education and leadership development have been a focus of the organization since its beginning, explained Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

“Although agriculture is our state’s number one industry, there are fewer and fewer folks involved. So those who are actively involved in production agriculture or serve in a supporting role need to also be equipped with the leadership skills necessary to advocate for the industry – whether they are 6 or 60,” Sombke said.

Wahle added 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 it’s important our youth understand how they work. 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,” Wahle said.

To learn more about Farmers Union youth leadership programs, visit www.sdfu.org.

Beranek is currently looking for team and hole sponsors. To learn more, contact the state Farmers Union office at 605-352-6761, ext. 113 or kberanek@sdfu.org.