SDSU Extension adds two new members to team

Farm Forum

Two people have been added to the SDSU Extension team.

Gared Shaffer, originally from Manhattan, Kan., and Kristi Spitzer, originally from Wetonka, S.D., began work for SDSU Extension in Aberdeen this month.

SDSU Extension is an outreach link for farmers and community members in South Dakota. According to, the organization’s website, SDSU Extension fosters learning communities that “empower citizens to advocate for sustainable change and strengthen agriculture, natural resources, youth, families and communities.”

Shaffer, who is a weeds field specialist, joined in order to be closer to family.

“I looked for the position because I had family here,” Shaffer said. “I have two family members that farm in this area. It’s also a job that deals with the masters program that I was already in.”

Spitzer, a community development field specialist, joined because it gave her a different focus in a field she already had experience in.

“I grew up in Wetonka, but I’ve spent my entire career working in community development, but more focused on alcohol, drug and mental health issues,” Spitzer said. “This was a way for me to have more of a rural focus and more of a regional focus, doing the same kind of work just with a different focus.”

Shaffer’s job helps farmers with chemical needs, making sure pesticide licenses are up to date, making them aware of any regulations and also answering day-to-day questions about any weeds that people have. There is only one other person in the state who does this job.

“So far I’ve got to go around more of the state and see different producers of wheat and issues they are facing right now with diseases, weeds and other things,” Shaffer said. “That was a good experience, and hopefully I can grow upon that and do more things along the lines of that.”

Spitzer’s job is to help grow the capacity of local leaders so they can improve their communities. She helps encourage the development of new social networks in communities, helps communities recognize and develop their assets, increase local decision making and encourage the diversity of involvement. There are five community development offices spread throughout the state.

Community development works with different organizations to help community growth. Those organizations are Stronger Economies Together (SET), Youth Voices, Marketing Hometown America, Business Development Entrepreneurship Training, Sustainable Local Foods Systems and Community Conversations in association with the Bush Foundation.

Although Shaffer has only been on the job since May 23 and Spitzer since beginning of May, both said the job is going well so far.

“In the line of Extension, it’s more learning as you go,” Shaffer said. “They’re not going to sit down and tell you everything you need to do. You kind of develop your position as you go along.”

Both feel that Extension is an untapped potential that is very beneficial for those that use it.

“It’s an unbiased opinion,” Shaffer said. “Every company that interacts with a producer is trying to make money. We are trying to provide all of the products and lay it out for them in an unbiased way for the people. That’s a big thing that separates us from industry.”

Spitzer feels that Extension is crucial for a community.

“We work for the community as a way for them to get information,” Spitzer said. “Whether or not it stops with us or if we are connecting with other colleagues in the state trying to find the answers, we are here for them.”

There will be an open house for the new field specialists on June 2 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 13 2nd Ave SE.