SDSU announces 2019 Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community
BROOKINGS, S.D. — The South Dakota State University College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and College of Education and Human Sciences will recognize four individuals with the Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community honor during a banquet on Sept. 20 at the McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor Center in Brookings.
The 2019 Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community are Donna Adrian of White River, Gary Cammack of Union Center, Ludwig Hohm of Yale and Ann Vostad of Volga.
Established in 1927, the Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community Award Program (formerly known as the Eminent Farmer/Rancher and Homemaker Award Program) recognizes South Dakota citizens for contributions of leadership and service on the local, state and national level.
Each year SDSU selects four individuals to honor based on confidential nominations. The nominations are reviewed and honorees are recommended by a committee of faculty members, administrators, SDSU Extension personnel and past recipients. The honorees are approved by the deans of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and College of Education and Human Sciences.
The honorees’ photos join the more than 300 portraits of Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community that are displayed in the “Hall of Fame” portrait gallery located in Berg Agricultural Hall on the campus of SDSU.
Two of Ann Vostad’s main passions are the dairy industry and striving to positively impact the lives of youth, both of which she has dedicated her life’s work to supporting.
Vostad has worked as a substitute teacher and volunteer in the Sioux Valley School District in Volga for 24 years. During that time, she has taught every class from K-12 in the school in which she grew up, met her husband Kevin and graduated.
“I love the variety of being a substitute teacher and it is so rewarding to help the students and watch them grow,” Vostad said. “I learn something new from them every day.”
Every morning before heading to school, Vostad milks cows for Marv Post at Post Lane Dairy, which she has been doing for the past 26 years.
“I love my mornings in the barn,” she said.
Growing up on a dairy farm by Volga, Vostad started learning to milk cows, feed calves and everything else that goes into raising dairy cattle at a young age. After gaining a degree in agriculture banking from Pipestone Vocational Technical Institute in Pipestone, Minn., she and Kevin returned to her family’s dairy farm where they milked registered Jersey’s. Following the dispersal of her family’s herd, Vostad went to work at Post Lane Dairy. In December of 1994, the Vostad’s started their own dairy operation, with Vostad continuing her employment at Post Lane Dairy.
Their three kids, Stephanie Mattson, Ashley Seifert and Thorwald Vostad, showed the family’s dairy cattle in 4-H, FFA and open class shows. The Vostad’s now help several of their grandkids show the cattle in 4-H.
Vostad served as an officer in the South Dakota Jersey Cattle Association. She also regularly writes a grant to the Midwest Dairy Association for dairy products to be served during the academic testing sessions at Sioux Valley Schools and during the Brookings County 4-H Achievement Days.
“I am really passionate about promoting dairy products and the dairy industry,” she said.
When Vostad isn’t teaching or milking cattle, she is often volunteering in a variety of ways at the school. She is the official bookkeeper for the school’s volleyball and basketball teams, even traveling to away games with the teams. She also helps with the FFA chapter, and as a result of her dedication and support of the program, she received an Honorary State FFA Degree at the State FFA Convention this spring.
While her children were in school, Vostad served in leadership capacities with both the Sioux Valley Music Masters and the Sioux Valley Booster Club. Part of her duties with Music Masters included planning a trip for the band and choir students every two years. Additionally, for the past 11 years, the Vostad’s have sponsored three scholarships for three seniors who have been actively involved during their high school careers. Vostad was named a Sioux Valley School District Outstanding Alumni in 2009.
“I believe that being an active part of your community is so important,” Vostad explained.
She also writes Sioux Valley Cossacks sports stories for the local newspaper, something she has done for 15 years.
“Writing for the paper keeps me involved with the kids and I really enjoy going to all the games,” she said.
For the past 26 years, Vostad has also served as leader of the Brookings County West Sioux II 4-H Club. Her children were very involved in 4-H, doing everything from showing dairy cattle, sheep and pigs to special foods, fashion revue and judging. The club’s membership continues to grow under her enthusiastic leadership.
Additionally, she served as president of the South Dakota 4-H Leader’s Board and currently holds the role of secretary for the Brookings County 4-H Leader’s Board. She was named the Friend of Brookings County 4-H in 2011.
“I love what I do and feel so blessed to do it. I am so grateful for the people who have supported and believed in me,” she said.
As a woman immersed in agriculture, the work of Donna Adrian’s hands is clear in many of the activities in her town, her county and her state.
Adrian grew up in a family involved in farming/ranching near White River and attended business college in Rapid City. She married Bill Adrian in 1962 and moved to his ranch in Stanley County. Four years later, they moved to Bill’s homeplace, southwest of the town of White River.
She and Bill lived on the ranch until 1987, then moved to White River to be on better roads to accommodate their family trucking business. They have a family cow/calf operation. Bill at 82, is still riding horseback 10 to 15 miles checking cattle. During the summer months, they take in and pasture steers.
“Family members have cattle with ours and help on bigger jobs,” Adrian shared. “We also have a commercial trucking business. Son Chuck and family moved back from Rapid City this year to help. Daughter Colette Kessler is in Pierre and she and her family also ride and help. Son Kenny has his own trucking business, doing heavy haul for oil fields in North Dakota. The family of our son Jeff (who is deceased) also help.”
She said, “I got started in volunteering when I took the SDSU Extension Master Gardener class in 1997 in White River. Jeff was the County Extension Agent, and he asked me to sign up so he would have at least one person in the class. I think we ended up with 32 and many of us still meet once a month.”
Passing on her knowledge to her grandkids is second nature to Adrian. “When I had the grandkids, they’d go gardening with me. I taught garden classes all over the Rosebud Reservation and they’d go with me. I’d include them in small things so they’d feel involved, not so much to make them work but to appreciate what needed to be done.”
Those skills expanded with time. In a small town, there are lots of roles to fill. “For several years, I was on the Frontier Days Parade Committee. I’d set up the parade, then ride on the float, jump off and help at the community dinner and then when that was done, would work in the Lions Concession stand.”
The best thing she believes she can teach others is to communicate with people. There are many ways to benefit the ag industry and ways to improve the community.
For several years, Adrian wrote garden articles for the south-central area newspapers. This year, she posts items to Facebook highlighting community garden activities. “I really think we are reaching more people with this avenue.”
She says growing food without tilling and square-foot gardening are some of the best practices and techniques she’s tried. She is now teaching others to be successful in growing their own food. “Many think gardens have to be long, beautiful tilled rows of bare soil. It is hard to change the mindset of how to garden. but I find the soil responds to this treatment and it is less work. My motto is ‘less weeds, less work and less water’.”
She has planned and completed individual and community gardens in many Native American reservations and communities in south-central South Dakota, most of which are considered food deserts. Besides starting the garden projects, she teaches classes on how to care for gardens and how to harvest and can produce. One project is the REDCO Food Sovereignty Initiative. Adrian was on the ground floor in planning the project and then acting as a consultant. Last year she started an educational community garden on main street of White River to show various methods of gardening and gardening options that do not require a tiller and acre of land.
When asked what best prepared her to be a leader, Adrian answered: “Probably, my secretarial background. I learned to write the minutes at a meeting, write articles for newspapers, and I was self-taught on the computer. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person than comfortable standing in front of people.” She advises others, “Show up and help plan things you want to see done. If events get planned, they will materialize and people will get involved.”
Seeing a completed project provides great satisfaction to Adrian. “It’s great to look at an improvement made in the community and know I had a little part in it.”
A man of vision, Gary Cammack tapped his leadership skills to develop a thriving regional business in the tiny town of Union Center. It succeeds because he serves the needs of ranchers, not just in the area but across the region. He advocates for rural areas by representing his fellow citizens as a state Senator.
Cammack and his wife Amy carved out a paradise for their family among the rolling hills of western South Dakota just outside their town of 250 souls. Three of his great-grandfathers homesteaded in Meade County.
“I had the privilege of knowing all four of my great-grandfathers well. Getting to know them had a bearing on my values as I grew up. They had a reverence for the land and shared advice and wisdom. I didn’t realize the value of what they shared with me until I was out in the world. Their philosophies and truths made many of our encounters teachable moments.”
He met Amy, who grew up 30 miles away at New Underwood, while in high school at Sturgis. They married in 1972. The couple knew they wanted to ranch near Union Center and strategized to make that happen. In 1973, the couple bought what was a small business in Stoneville. They grew it from a $3,000-a-year gross business to $250,000 gross a year. During that time, Cammack worked construction while Amy and hired help ran the Stoneville Ranch Store. In 1975, he and Amy made a corporate decision. “If we wanted to get to full-time ranching and make a living wage, I needed to work on the Alaskan pipeline. It was an incredible experience and paid very well. That paid debts and set us up to get the ranch land we wanted. Since that time, we’ve added on 10 times to the ranch.”
The Cammack’s moved the Cammack Ranch Supply location to Union Center in 1979.
They believe it is important to pass on their love and knowledge of the land, trees, native grasses and plants to their four sons and 10 grandchildren. Their sons and wives include Scott and his wife Jeannie, Ryan and his wife Kristi, Reed and his wife Amber, and Chris and his wife Felicia.
The family has a large cow-calf operation which uses the latest genetics and technology in health care. The town business thrives because he tests the products on the ranch before they are sold at the store.
His vision for the future is evidenced by the planting of 30,000 trees on the ranch which pays off in their cattle operation. The efforts netted the Cammacks conservation awards, including the prestigious Leopold Award, but the biggest payback is in the improvement of the pastures. Some tree groves have pine trees over 40-foot tall. Cammack said, “When the wind is blowing through them, it is like the wind is whispering and provides a real sense of peace. The trees have made a huge difference in the wildlife population. The shelterbelts provide shelter for cattle which makes a big difference in the bottom line.”
He is an advocate for innovation and education and believes in passing down the legacy of stewardship to his family and community. Believing the future of ag lives in the hands of today’s youth, Cammack said it’s never been easy for young people whether it was in the ‘50s, ’60, ‘70s or ‘80s. There are plenty of opportunities presented and it’s up to people to respond. “There has never been a better time in the history of the world than now to do business in a rural area. There is a market for goods and services. Rural areas provide real quality of life. The world is accessible whether you are in Union Center or Dallas, Texas. Learn the advantages to level the playing field.”
The little town of Union Center has never been better than it is today, Cammack said. Students started classes in a new grade school this fall. Through the years he has worked with others to take an idea and make it happen. Because of the community efforts, they have built a community center, a ball field, a church and even established a cemetery. Most recently, they completed a firehall which houses two trucks.
Additionally, Cammack is a member of numerous agricultural and conservation organizations.
Beadle County farmer, Ludwig Hohm, is devoted to leaving the land he farms and the community he lives in a better place for future generations.
Hohm runs a diversified farming operation near Huron where he grows corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and grass, as well as having a cow-calf operation.
Actively working to preserve the land for generations to come, Hohm practices no-till farming and utilizes cover crop rotations to improve soil health. This summer he hosted a South Dakota Soil Health Zone School on his farm.
“My dad raised me to value being a good steward of the land. My goal is to leave the land in a better condition than when I started farming it,” he said. Hohm farmed with his dad for 40 years until his passing three years ago.
Hohm also runs a custom hay grinding business and sells farm equipment. In addition, he previously owned an implement dealership in Webster for 21 years and sold crop insurance.
He attended South Dakota State University and graduated with a degree in agronomy, as well as met his wife, Julie. While in college, he remained very active in the family farming operation.
“I was always interested in agriculture and enjoyed all the different seasons of farming. I liked that our farm was very diversified,” he said. Hohm Farms has a history of being early adopters of new technology and modern farming practices.
After graduating, he returned to Hohm Farms and assumed more responsibility for managing the operation. Hohm, together with his wife, Julie, raised their son, Jesse, and daughter, Susanna Strutz on the farm.
Hohm has invested in the future of agriculture through his involvement in many organizations on the local, state and national levels. He served on the Farmers Elevator Cooperation in Yale for 15 years. He was also an active member of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council for nine years, serving as president, vice president and secretary. During his term, he was influential in helping to develop the ethanol industry in South Dakota. He also served on the United States Grains Council board and was chairman of the Trade Policy Committee in Washington, D.C., for two years.
Not only has Hohm exercised leadership in agricultural organizations, but also for the improvement of his community. He is currently serving a second term on the Huron Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors and is a member of the agriculture committee.
“I love our community and actively being a part of it. It is awesome to work with so many people who really care about the community and are extraordinary volunteers,” he said.
For 43 years he has been involved on various boards and committees of the school he attended growing up, James Valley Christian School in Huron. He currently serves as chairman of the school’s building committee, in which he has helped guide the school through several major expansion and building projects.
Hohm is very involved in his local church and also served on the national level on the Leadership Board and as chairman of his denomination’s central district, which is comprised of six states.
Hohm and Julie are also musicians. He sings and Julie plays piano and organ, performing at weddings, funerals, church and a variety of other functions. Hohm used to be part of a traveling quartet that began in college and continued for several years after.
For his significant accomplishments and contributions to South Dakota agriculture, Hohm has received a variety of notable awards, including being named an Outstanding Farmer by the Huron Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau, Agriculture Person of the Year by the South Dakota Corn Growers and Farmer of the Year by Farm Credit Services of America.