South Dakota farmer earns national award from group for boosting county membership
HURON, S.D. — National Farmers Union recently recognized Wessington Springs cattle producer Scott Kolousek for his work encouraging other family farmers and ranchers to join South Dakota Farmers Union with the Bruce Miller Award during the 2021 NFU Virtual Convention.
Since 2017, Kolousek has worked to more than double Jerauld County’s membership.
A third-generation Farmers Union member and fifth-generation farmer, Kolousek says many of the family farmers he asked joined Farmers Union for the same reason he and his wife, Amber became actively involved: policy.
“We started getting more involved around 2015 after the collapse of the cattle markets because I started paying more attention to the outside influences impacting the markets,” explains Kolousek, a cow/calf producer who farms with his parents, Dick and Janet. “I realized if we’re going to have a future out here, we needed to try and get things changed. I’m still skeptical about the markets, but at least I know Farmers Union is fighting for policy that could have a positive impact.”
In 2018, Kolousek was elected to serve as Jerauld County president. When he reviewed the membership list, he saw a need. “The average age of our members was getting up there, I knew for the future health of our organization, we needed to get some more younger farmers involved.”
Kolousek began intentionally visiting with friends and neighbors. “I chose to visit other producers who I knew would be interested in being a part of Farmers Union because the organization stands up for cattle producers.”
A few months later, when it was time to invite members to attend the annual county meeting, the Kolouseks decided to try something different. Because the weather was not cooperative in January when they would typically hold the meeting, they decided to host the meeting on their farm in August. And instead of a typical business meeting, they decided to make it a social.
Jerauld County hosted their annual business meeting and then everyone enjoyed an evening of socializing together. More than 50 farmers attended. The Kolouseks invited some non-members that evening who also joined.
When asked why he thought so many attended, Kolousek replied: “Who wants to drive 15 minutes into town in the middle of January for a meeting, when they can meet up in August and enjoy a grill out?”
He added that the 2019 annual meeting reminded him of stories his dad tells of how Farmers Union meetings used to be when he was a kid. “Everyone would get together for the meeting and then they would have a big picnic or a card party after.”
Due to the pandemic, Jerauld County’s annual meeting last year was not a social event. But Kolousek says he and Amber plan to host another social event this summer for this year’s annual meeting.
To learn how South Dakota Farmers Union works to serve South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers, visit www.sdfu.org.