The Planted Row: Celebrating a commitment to education

Stan Wise Farm Forum Editor
Farm Forum

Back when I still lived in Mississippi, I noticed something a little odd in our rural community.

Some of the kids worked really hard in school and performed well. Oftentimes, family and other community members would pitch in to help give these good students unique educational opportunities. When these kids made it into college and performed well there, the entire community was proud.

Yet, if those same people eventually returned to the community — educated and experienced — and suggested new ways of doing things, they were often met with great skepticism. They were accused of being “book smart” but lacking “common sense.” Change happened slowly there — something the South is known for.

I never understood that reaction. What is the point of helping students get an education if they aren’t supposed to come home and put it to work?

Thankfully, I haven’t noticed this problem as much here on the Northern Plains. In fact, when I describe South Dakotans to my friends and family back home, I usually mention that they are well-educated and extremely competent. I think this arises from the fact that the culture here prizes education, hard work, and efficiency.

Every technological and societal advance came about because someone asked, “Is there a better way to do this?” One of the main purposes of education is to help people answer that question.

By all accounts, people on the Northern Plains are doing just that. Farmers and manufacturers in the area have invented new implements and innovations designed to solve common problems on the farm. Young people are launching successful apps before they ever go to college. Farmers are adopting the latest technology and farming methods to make the most of every acre.

That commitment to improvement through hard work and education is being passed on to the next generation, and this week the Farm Forum is proud to celebrate that commitment by highlighting some of the best students in the area. For the second year in a row, our panel of judges have named the Gold and Silver teams of our Scholastic Stars, highlighting this year’s crop of outstanding senior high school students.

Our front page story highlights two of those students — Sadie Vander Wal and Dalton Howe

— who have a strong interest in agricultural careers. You can find profiles of the entire list of Scholastic Stars starting on pages 7-13D.

You can stories about student athletes every day in the sports section of your local paper, but seldom do students who excel in academics get the same kind of attention. That’s a shame because it’s those very students who will become our next generation of innovators and leaders.

So, I’m thrilled to take this opportunity to shine the spotlight on those students who are staying up late to study and finish their homework, who are putting extra effort into their classroom projects, who are seeking out unique learning opportunities, who are putting their classroom knowledge to practical use on their farms.

Some of our Scholastic Stars will attend the best universities in the world where they will, no doubt, represent the state of South Dakota with honor. After they have completed their educations, I hope many of them return to northeastern South Dakota and help us continue to improve our lives and our communities.

Your families, your schools, your afterschool programs, and your communities helped to shape these outstanding students, and you should read about their endeavors with pride.