Meet the 2016 Eminent Farmer/Rancher and Homemaker honorees

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — South Dakota State University Colleges of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and Education and Human Sciences will recognize four individuals with the Eminent Farmer/Rancher and Eminent Homemaker Honor during a banquet Sept. 23 at the McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor Center, Brookings.

Tickets are $25 and are available from the Office of the Dean of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, Berg Agricultural Hall 131, SDSU Brookings, S.D., 57007 or by calling, 605-688-4148 by Sept. 15.

The 2016 Eminent Farmers/Ranchers honored are Hugh Ingalls, Meade County and Al Miron, Minnehaha County. The 2016 Eminent Homemakers honored are Janet Hurlbert, Clark County and Rose Stee, Brookings County.

Established in 1927, the Eminent Farmer/Rancher and Eminent Homemaker awards recognize individuals for their contributions of leadership and service to the community on the local, state and national level.

Each year SDSU selects four individuals to honor based on confidential nominations from across the state. The nominations are reviewed by a committee of SDSU faculty members, administrators and SDSU Extension personnel and are approved by the Deans of the Colleges of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and Education and Human Sciences.

The honorees’ photos join the more than 300 portraits of Eminent Farmers/Ranchers and Homemakers which are displayed in the “Hall of Fame” portrait gallery located in Berg Agricultural Hall on the campus of South Dakota State University.

To learn more about each of the honorees, please read their profiles below.

Hugh Ingalls, 2016 Eminent Rancher, Meade County

Hugh Ingalls, 86, got his start ranching with a registered Black Angus heifer his dad, Lawrence, gave him in 1942.

Ingalls was a timid 11-year-old. The heifer stood out in the show ring as it was the first black calf shown at the Western Junior Livestock Show in Rapid City.

“Everything else was red and white,” recalls the Stoneville native and 2016 Eminent Farmer/Rancher.

Ingalls walked away with a blue ribbon and his heifer continued to perform well outside the show ring. “She is the foundation of my herd; she had all heifer calves for quite some time,” he says.

Although at the time Black Angus cattle weren’t grazing their neighbors’ rangeland, the breed is a long-standing tradition in the Ingalls family. In 1895, Ingalls’ great-grandfather, James Ingalls, purchased his first Black “Aberdeen” Angus bull. Grandpa, Albert Ingalls, brought the breed to Meade County when he homesteaded in 1908.

Ingalls’ great-grandfather, James, was a first cousin to Charles Ingalls, the father of pioneer author, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Today, Ingalls’ great-grandchildren make the seventh generation of Ingalls to raise registered Black Angus.

“The breed is traditional for the family, but as a kid, they were the ones that didn’t have horns or get sun burnt bags, and by comparison they are a good milking cow and good mothers.

The family is credited by the American Angus Association with having the longest continual history of registered Black Angus in the United States.

Known for calm disposition and performance, commercial cattle producers have come to count on Ingalls’ Angus genetics. Like his father before him, Ingalls sells private treaty.

“I like the personal contact it allows me to have with the buyers. You spend a little more time with them – which is why we hesitate to change,” Ingalls explains.

Today, Ingalls and his wife, Eleanor, remain actively involved in the day-to-day ranch operations. “We have two hired men who help, but I still cut all the hay, keep everything fed and help with calving. I’m thankful I can do this. I just don’t tag calves anymore. I don’t want to buck up against those mother cows anymore,” says Ingalls, with a chuckle.

His passion for the land and cattle is evident. “If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’d better find a different project,” he wisely explains. “When you choose a vocation, you want to do the best you can with it. If you aren’t interested in what you’re doing, then you’re not enjoying the best part of life.”

Encouraged by his dad, Ingalls pursued a two-year agriculture degree at South Dakota State University. This began a life-long relationship with the University, its researchers and faculty.

Ingalls was among the first South Dakota cattle producers to participate in production testing in 1956, and for the last 30 years, he has sold his steers to the SDSU Research Feedlot.

When Ingalls returned to the ranch full-time in 1949, he was determined to continue his family’s legacy and work to raise better cattle and take care of the land. “There is always a sense of accomplishment when you see where you were and where you are at the end of the day. I enjoy that sense of accomplishment even today.”

Growing up a child of the Depression and raised primarily by his father, after his mother died in childbirth, Ingalls says his dad, Lawrence, instilled a strong work ethic and faith in his children; an example Ingalls followed when he and Eleanor raised their six children: Marie Shilling, Peggy Rahn, Dan, Kenneth, Beth Hotchkiss and Laila Brownlee.

“We were taught to do the best with what you have. There was a lot of work and we never had much, but we didn’t expect much either,” he explains. “When I was young, attending church and Sunday School wasn’t a question. That consistency had a strong influence on me.”

Ingalls further explains the important role his faith in God has had on his life. “My faith has given me purpose in life and direction. I wouldn’t want to go through hard times and tough decisions without knowing there was something better to look forward to.”

Along with his faith, Ingalls, a humble man who isn’t comfortable talking about himself, also attributes hard work and “bull-headedness” with getting him and the ranch through tough times. “You stick with it and do the best you can. Be conservative and have your family close around you, helping you.”

Over the years Ingalls has gone out of his way to help young ranchers throughout his community, loaning them cattle to help them get a strong start. Following Oct. 2013 Storm Atlas, Ingalls offered to loan cows to young ranchers to help them through devastating livestock losses.

“I was concerned at the time for young operators so we did what we could to help them – pretty much everyone survived,” he says.

Getting involved when there is a need for leadership has been as much a part of Ingalls’ legacy as his ranch. As a young father he was a Sunday School teacher. “I am naturally timid, so it wasn’t easy for me to teach, even though these were kids – I thought I was too young to teach, but that’s where they needed help,” he says.

Over time, as he was called to lead, Ingalls overcame his fear of speaking in front of groups. He and Eleanor even took a Dale Carnegie class together.

Through the years he has actively served his community and South Dakota’s beef industry. Ingalls has served as chairman of the Meade County School Board, President of Black Hills Angus Association, chairman of Mead County Farm Bureau, Sunday School teacher, chairman of the S.D. Angus Association, member of South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, chairman of the South Dakota Delegation of the American Angus Association, Faith Stock Show Committee, Central States Fair Board, South Dakota Beef Industry Council, and President and Director of the South Dakota Beef Improvement Association.

Ingalls has been recognized for his contributions to agriculture and the beef industry including: Outstanding Young Farmer (1961); American Angus Association Centennial Angus Herd Award (1983); Black Hills Angus Association Outstanding Angus Producer of the Year Award (1990); Black Hills Stock Show Stockman of the Year (1995); South Dakota Angus Association South Dakota Honored Angus Family Award (1998); South Dakota State University Friend of the Beef Industry Award (2004); Rapid City Chamber of Commerce Ag Producer of the Year (2005); Black Hills Angus Association Distinguished Service Award (2007); Black Hills Stock Show Hall of Fame Silver Spur Award (2010); American Angus Association Aberdeen Angus Heritage Foundation inductee (2010); South Dakota Beef Industry Council Prime Promoter Individual (2015); and the American Angus Association Century Award (2015).

“It is always rewarding to work with other ranchers toward a common goal,” Ingalls says.

Al Miron, 2016 Eminent Farmer, Minnehaha County

Farming is all Al Miron wanted to do after high school. As one of nine children, there just wasn’t room on his family’s operation. So Miron became the first person in his family to pursue education beyond high school. In 1969 he received his Ph.D. in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota.

“The fickle finger of fate has played a large role in the way things turned out in my life,” says the 2016 Eminent Farmer/Rancher, a third-generation farmer. “I also believe in a divine guiding source and know that things often happen for a purpose.”

Early in his college career, Miron ran out of funds, so he returned to his family’s Hugo, Minn., farm to work. At the time, he didn’t have a timeline for returning to school. The following quarter he was back in the classroom and didn’t look back. “It gave me the incentive I needed to return to school, and I guess I was maturing and realized education was more important than I’d given it credit before,” he says, adding that small scholarships helped him pay tuition. Today, Miron donates to scholarship programs at South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.

Ultimately, it was his degree which enabled Miron to farm. For nearly 40 years he worked as a livestock nutritionist for CHS and Land O’Lakes.

Shortly after moving to Sioux Falls to begin his work with CHS, he saved up enough to purchase a farm near Crooks. Starting small with 160 acres and no equipment, Miron leased the land.

In the fall of 1975 he tilled his fields. Spring 1976 he planted his first crop. It turned out to be a drought year.

“It was a disaster crop,” Miron recalls. “It got me thinking of ways I could preserve moisture. The more I thought about it, the more I realized we had a situation where we almost always experienced some lack of moisture during the summer and too much moisture in the spring and fall which created erosion. I knew it wasn’t sustainable.”

Along with working full-time as an animal nutritionist, farming on the side and raising his family – Miron and his wife, Joan, have three children – Miron dedicated himself to developing a sustainable solution.

He started implementing minimal tillage in 1977, moving to completely no-till practices in 1988.

“I was no-tilling before it was cool, so to speak. I read everything I could on the topic, but there wasn’t much information on it. I had to come to a lot of my own conclusions through trial and error,” Miron explains.

Improvements he witnessed in his fields kept him motivated. “I saw results right away. I observed good performance in the crops, preservation of moisture and lack of erosion,” he says.

Growing up a farm kid and the research background he had from graduate and doctorate work helped Miron.

“My educational background and my interest in agriculture production combined to help me,” he says. “As a rule, I try to learn something, if not every day, as often as possible. We need to stay alert and attuned to what is happening to reason to our best ability.”

Nearly 30 years of no-tilling later, his fields continue to yield exciting results. “Today, my organic matter is 4.5 percent. When I first started farming in 1976 it was on average 2.4 in most areas of the field and as low as 0.7 percent in other areas.”

As a benchmark, Miron explains that 125 years ago, before the native prairies of South Dakota were tilled under, organic matter in the soils was about 5.5 to 6 percent.

Organic matter is valuable. Miron explains that for every 1 percent increase in organic matter, an additional 1,000 pounds of nitrogen is present in the soil. As for the soil’s ability to retain moisture? For every 1 percent increase in organic matter, the soil is estimated to retain an additional half to 1-inch. Currently, Miron’s soil is capable of holding 1 to 2 inches of water and making it available to the crop.

“That’s a big deal in South Dakota,” he says.

Miron didn’t keep the good news to himself. Since retirement in 2009, he has advocated for improved soil health, sharing his knowledge with growers across South Dakota, the U.S. and internationally. His Crooks farm is host to tours and SDSU research projects annually.

“The soil is not just a spot to anchor roots and provide mineral nutrients to a plant. There is interaction with biological health in the soil between the bacteria and fungi that provide nutrients to the plant. If we increase that bioactivity, we have potential for greater productivity,” Miron explains.

Miron is a founding board member of the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, on the boards for the Southeast Research Farm and the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council. He is a volunteer with the South Dakota Voices for Soil Health, the American Society of Animal Science (he is a registered Professional Animal Scientist) and instrumental in helping the NRCS implement the South Dakota Soil Health Mentor program.

“It’s important for all of us to make some contribution to society. Soil health is the area I feel I can work in and have some influence,” explains Miron. “To see conservation practices adapted by more farmers gives me the satisfaction that we will have something to leave for future generations.”

Janet Hurlbert, 2016 Eminent Homemaker, Clark County

A flock of sheep or piano lessons? This was the decision which launched 11-year-old Janet “Zugschwerdt” Hurlbert’s 4-H career.

“I didn’t like the piano bench much. My parents could see that I was more interested in the farm, so they said they would either pay for piano lessons or help me buy some sheep for a 4-H project,” explains the 2016 Eminent Homemaker from Clark County of the flock of registered Columbia sheep which ended up helping her pay for college.

Hurlbert’s 4-H involvement extended beyond sheep to several other projects including the South Dakota State Fair pie baking contest, which she won as a high school senior. In addition to a college fund and gaining practical skills, Hurlbert attributes 4-H to her ability to see projects through.

“4-H taught me that you don’t start projects you don’t intend to complete.”

Launching successful projects and seeing them through is something Hurlbert has become known for. As several community members put it, “If you want something done, you ask Janet.” Whether that is the annual United Methodist fundraising turkey dinner she organizes along with a team of volunteers to feed more than 400; the many organizations she has actively led; or the events – local and statewide – which she has orchestrated; throughout her adult life, Hurlbert has embraced the challenges and opportunities to serve her community.

“That’s how I grew up. My dad was a 4-H leader; my mom was actively involved in Farm Bureau,” she explains.

A life-long attendee of the South Dakota State Fair, even as an adult, Hurlbert and a friend would enter more than 50 exhibits in the South Dakota State Fair each year.

“I grew up going to the State Fair. My mom would bake a homemade peach pie and kept it in the back window of the car to keep it warm.”

As a young newlywed, her dad, Lee, encouraged her and her husband, Roger, a farmer, to become involved in Farm Bureau. Although she worked and had three young sons, Russ, Randall and Jeffrey, Hurlbert became active in her local Farm Bureau. She became the County Women’s Chairman, then accepted a district leadership role and today serves as the State Vice President of the Women’s Leadership Team.

Hurlbert, as a member of the Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Team, was instrumental in launching the Book in a Bucket program which helps educate school-age children and their teachers about production agriculture in South Dakota. “A bucket contains a book about a specific farm animal and everything that goes into raising it. This way, if the teacher has some time to fill, they simply check out the bucket and have an activity for their students,” explains Hurlbert.

For example, the Beef Bucket contains a range cube, corn, hay, syringe – to help explain how farmers and ranchers treat animals that are sick — and an ear tag – so students understand how animals are labeled and tracked.

“Farm Bureau gives farmers and ranchers a voice – it helps us advocate for our state’s number one industry,” Hurlbert says.

Along with working as secretary for the Clark County Extension Office, throughout her career, Hurlbert spent her nights and weekends helping Roger on his family’s farm. “I had the best of both worlds. We lived in town and Roger commuted to the farm – so it was easy for me to travel to work and the boys to be involved in school activities. Then, after work, I could go out and help on the farm and clear my head.”

Once their boys were grown, Hurlbert became actively involved in the local American Legion Baker Unit 209 Auxiliary. Always patriotic, after her first year of membership, Hurlbert was asked to serve as the local president. Qualified for the task, she was soon elected to serve as District President and then, in 2013, Hurlbert serve as the President of the South Dakota American Legion Auxiliary.

In this role, Hurlbert traversed the state of South Dakota, traveling more than 30,000 miles to visit many local American Legion posts. “Honoring our country and veterans and what they have done so that we have the freedoms we enjoy today has always been something I am passionate about,” Hurlbert explains, of serving the state’s 13,950 legion members.

Hurlbert has always enjoyed leading. “A good leader listens and hears what is needed. Then, they go to work and see that what is needed gets done. They help lead the group to work together to get things done.”

Over the years, Hurlbert has served as president of the United Methodist Women’s Circle, advisor for the football and wrestling cheerleaders, has served on the South Dakota Farm Bureau Women’s Committee, S.D. Farm Bureau Leadership Team, served as delegate at the American Farm Bureau Convention and advisor for the Annual Youth Citizenship Seminar. Hurlbert is also a founding member of the Hustling Homemakers Extension Club.

For more than 25 years she has been a member of the American Legion Baker Unit 209 Auxiliary, chairing many committees and serving as local president, district president, second vice president, first state vice president and 2013 President of the South Dakota American Legion Auxiliary.

Recognized for her efforts, Hurlbert was named American Legion Auxiliary Unit Member of the Year.

“Without people giving back in these small communities, there would be nothing done,” Hurlbert says.

Rose Stee, 2016 Eminent Homemaker, Brookings County

Ask Rose “Lee” Stee how many children she has and her response will surprise you.

“I tell people I have 500,” jokes the retired Brookings County Extension Educator and 2016 Eminent Homemaker.

In truth, Stee has two grown children, Robyn Jensen and Ryan Stee, but after nearly 30 years working with 4-H youth, she has opened her heart and life to hundreds of 4-H members. “My 4-H youth were top priority to me as were my own children.”

Stee’s passion for 4-H is deep-rooted. Growing up in a Kingsbury County farm family, she explains that the neighbors were 4-H leaders so as soon as she was old enough, her mom encouraged her to get involved.

“I raised a flock of sheep that sent me through college, which was my favorite 4-H project. I was also involved with foods and nutrition, canning, gardening and horse projects. Horses were a big part of my childhood – I always loved horses and I still do,” Stee explains.

As a teen, Stee served as a Junior Leader. “I loved being a 4-H Junior Leader and teaching the children how to take care of their own sheep or horse projects or how to cook something nutritious,” says Stee of the role that eventually led her to pursue a degree in Home Economics Education.

“My mom said, ‘You like being a junior leader and teaching others so much, maybe you should think about that as a career,'” she said.

A 1973 graduate of Mount Marty College, Stee began her career working for the

University of Minnesota Extension Service on the Mahnomen Indian Reservation. Within a few years she was working as an Extension Home Economist on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation and serving five counties in western South Dakota. She worked on the Pine Ridge Reservation in various capacities and with different organizations – all of which focused on improving the health, nutrition and overall well-being of children and their families.

“I’ve always loved working with the entire family. Even when what I did focused on youth, what I learned was when I taught something to youth, they would go home and teach their parents,” she says.

Even though she wasn’t solely working in Extension, Stee explains that she loved her work. “I was living the 4-H motto, ‘To Make the Best Better.’ That’s really what my entire career and life has been about. Everything I did was to make life better in rural America. I wanted to make lives better and to make lives better, you have to make a positive impact on families and communities.”

Stee moved closer to home in 1979 when she married Ronald. A few years later she landed her dream job – working as the Brookings County Extension Agent. “I always wanted to work in Brookings County because it was progressive. The entire community was very supportive of youth,” explains Stee, who returned to school at SDSU and received a master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling with an emphasis on Educational Psychology in 1984.

Although Stee’s personal 4-H experience was quite traditional, now that the county she worked for was more urban, she began to look for ways to introduce 4-H to youth who didn’t have farm ties or live on acreages. At that time, 50 percent of the youth in Brookings County lived in town.

In addition to the traditional 4-H livestock projects, she helped launch Radio Club, Rock Club, entomology, rocketry, Entrepreneur Club, CHARACTER COUNTS, Sports Fishing, and pet projects and shows (dog, cat and rabbit) at the local Achievement Day.

“Everything we could do, we did because there were always youth who wanted to do it. If there were youth who wanted to do something, we ran with it. We had fantastic 4-H leaders who helped us get the job done,” Stee says.

Stee also encouraged 4-H leaders with livestock to lease livestock projects to 4-H members living in town. Members could then visit the leaders’ farms to take care of the animals. “Our Brookings County 4-H Leaders were tremendous and many opened doors for youth,” she says. “The big thing about 4-H is you don’t have to be a child of affluence to be in 4-H. It’s the kind of activity and program that welcomes everyone.”

Together with fellow Extension Agent, Mel Foster, and area ag agents, Stee also started a 4-H Summer Horse Camp at Oak Lake. “For three days we would teach 50 kids about horsemanship; how to take care of horses and themselves and how to keep themselves safe around horses,” explains Stee, who has owned horses her entire life and continues to ride her horse, Tango, several times a week. “Learning how to take care of animals of all kinds teaches children responsibility. It improves their self-esteem. As they learn about caring for their animal, you see them learn a lot about taking care of themselves.”

Working with local sportsmen, Stee was instrumental in expanding the 4-H shooting sports and archery programs to more than 100 members. “The main thing that we all wanted was to make sure the kids were safe. We knew they were going to hunt – that’s just part of living in South Dakota – so we wanted them to know how to be safe.”

Partnering with the local after school programs in Brookings County, Stee began presenting 4-H programming to participating youth.

“You can get so much more done when you partner or work in teams throughout your community,” Stee explains.

This was the case with the Brookings Area Coalition on Aging. Stee was among a group of community members who saw the need to make intergenerational connections throughout the community. The Brookings Area Coalition on Aging not only helped connect volunteers with seniors in need of help, but also encouraged seniors to visit classrooms as Golden Mentors.

“Many kids don’t have access to grandma or grandpa – and seniors have so much wisdom to share,” Stee says.

Through her work with the Brookings Area Coalition on Aging, Stee worked with other community members to start the Brookings Volunteer Service Bank. Stee explains that the Brookings Volunteer Service Bank is a practical way to give and receive needed services.

“Basically, for every hour of volunteering you do to help others, you build up or ‘bank’ time for when you need help. There are many people who live in Brookings who don’t have relatives who live close by to help. So, if they volunteer, then if they need help from another volunteer, they can use the hours they have banked.”

Along with working full-time and raising her family, Stee has been actively involved in service organizations. She served as vice president and membership chair of the Big Sioux Chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees and founding board member of the Brookings Volunteer Service Bank and the Brookings Youth Mentoring Program. She has been recognized for her service to youth and community with the 4-H Distinguished Service Award, presented by the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents; Meritorious Service Award from the National 4-H Organization; Meritorious Award from Epsilon Sigma Association; and the South Dakota Family and Consumer Sciences Meritorious Award.

Retired since 2009, Stee continues to volunteer her time to Brookings County 4-H and the community of Brookings.

“In Brookings, I’m still known as the ‘4-H Lady.’ I have loved watching my 4-H kids learn and grow. I love running into past 4-H members who now have children of their own in 4-H,” Stee says. “My mom used to say, ‘Leave this world better than you found it.’ Through 4-H and SDSU Extension, I think I’ve been able to do my part.”