Modern technology is essential to today’s agricultural producers, but that same technology sometimes keeps their children from getting outside as much as they should.That’s one thing South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director, Rachel Haigh-Blume keeps in mind when planning camps.
“Everything is so structured now-a-days. It’s really important that kids get to be kids,” says Haigh-Blume. “Anything that promotes play, imagination and outdoors is really important.”
South Dakota Farmers Union hosts around 50 camps across the state each year. But camp’s not all about running and jumping; it’s also about education and introducing youth to the many opportunities that exist within the farming community.
“We have a career focus with fun activities on things like animal care, business and mechanics,” says Haigh-Blume. “We want to get kids thinking about all the skills required on a farm and what talents they can bring back as young producers.”
Wilson Kubwayo’s presentation to S.D. Farmers Union Jr. REAL students at Freeman High School begins with a song he calls "the fun song." But it's not a simple song. And his is not a simple story. Starting the beat with handclaps, he sings a few lines, encourages the crowd to join in, breaks into a rap verse and finishes with some show-stopping dance moves. The audience of juniors and seniors goes wild. Kubwayo's energy is infectious. He is happy. That itself is impressive given his unlikely journey to the United States.
At age 2, Kubwayo and his family fled the small African country of Burundi when it was torn apart by a civil war. They migrated to a refugee camp in Tanzania where Wilson lived until age 13. “Living in that camp taught me lessons no man can teach,” says Kubwayo. “I always thought if I just had an easier life, I would have a good life and then I would be able to do great things.”
Kubwayo calls that mentality a “mind virus,” a negative way of thinking based on one’s experiences and circumstances.
Anyone who has lived on a farm or ranch has heard the stories. An injury from a grain auger. An accidental fire or deadly gas exposure. Some of us have seen tragedy first hand. There's nothing fun about these realities, but South Dakota Farmers Union is taking a fun approach to helping prevent them.
Each year, the Team Up for Safety Quiz Bowl challenges high school students from South Dakota FFA chapters to compete in a game show format with questions such as: What kind of fire extinguisher should you keep in a combine? What does Hydrogen Sulfide smell like? Or, What is the leading cause of weather related deaths?
South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director, Rachel Haigh-Blume says, "Anything you can do to promote safety to the next generation is so important. You can't emphasize it enough, no matter the age."
Jesse Carlson, Seneca, and Reece Schultz, Orient, were selected to serve on the 2016-2017 Senior Advisory Council during the 2016 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Pierre December 2016.
In this role, Carlson, a freshman studying Economics at South Dakota State University, and Schultz, a freshman studying Production Innovation at Dakota State University, will provide advice and act as mentors to the six members of the Farmers Union Youth Advisory Council. The Youth Advisory Council helps organize and plan Farmers Union State Leadership camp each year.
Below, the college students visit about what they look forward to in this new leadership role and discuss how the personal leadership development and communication skills they developed through Farmers Union educational programming has helped them during their first year of college.
When it comes to providing opportunities for McCook county youth, the 2016 recipient of the S.D. Farmers Union Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award, Tracy Chase, doesn't say 'no.'
She said 'yes' when the High School Agriculture Education Instructor, Terry Rieckman, asked the science teacher to take on some agriculture education classes. "He said, 'What do you think about us working together?' FFA provides great opportunities for students, so I began teaching Animal Science, Agriculture Foods and Natural Resources classes,'" recalls Chase, who grew up on a McCook County dairy farm.
Twelve years ago, she also said 'yes' when Farmers Union District 2 President, Jim Wahl, asked if she would serve as the Education Director for McCook County. "You have to provide opportunities for kids and South Dakota Farmers Union does just that," says Tracy, of why she accepted the additional responsibility.
Chase points to the youth from McCook Central who have benefited from attending Leadership Camp, receiving the Torchbearer Award, as well as Farmers Union scholarships. During the 2016 South Dakota State Fair Team-Up for Farm Safety Quiz Bowl Championships, the McCook Central FFA team took home first place.
South Dakota Farmers Union is currently accepting applications for participants in the 2016-2017 Rural Economic and Leadership (REAL) Development Program. REAL allows the opportunity to meet people from throughout the state while learning how to motivate yourself and your community toward financial growth, stability, and a positive future.