Farmers Union Celebrates the tradition of Camp Season

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More than 1,729 youth, ages 6 to 18, learned about cooperatives, developed leadership skills and celebrated South Dakota's agriculture industry together by attending a Farmers Union County, District or State camp this summer.

"Camps ensure the tradition of educating our youth on the importance of cooperatives, leadership at the local level, and farm safety,” says Rachel Haigh-Blume, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director.

Each year, Haigh-Blume, along with a team of interns and members of the Junior and Senior Advisory Council, develop camp programming which achieves the aforementioned goals through fun, age-appropriate activities.

This summer Farmers Union held more than 57 county camps, three district camps (seven districts participating), one local camp and a State Leadership Camp.

"Camp season is a great example of how Farmers Union, as a grassroots organization, led by its membership, can have a positive impact on rural communities," said Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

The counties who hosted camps in2016 include: Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Clay, Douglas, Hutchinson, Lincoln, Turner, Union, Yankton, Aurora, Brule, Davison, Hanson, Jerauld, Lake, McCook, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody, Sanborn, Brookings-Kingsbury, Clark, Codington/Hamlin, Day, Kingsbury, Marshall, Roberts, Gregory-Fairfax, Gregory-Gregory, Lyman, Tripp, Butte/Lawrence, Haakon/Jackson, Jones, Meade/Pennington, Corson, Dewey/Ziebach, Harding, Perkins, Beadle, Brown, Campbell/Walworth, Edmunds/McPherson, Faulk, Hand, Hughes/Sully/Stanley, Hyde, Potter, Spink and one local camp, St. John's Local, Parkston.

In 2016 bees took center stage. Alan Schroeder, a beekeeper from Mt. Vernon, loaned the interns bee keeping equipment to use throughout the summer so the youth could try on outfits and see a real bee hive frame (new and used) to learn firsthand what happens within a hive.

“Bees are a great example of a cooperative and each team member doing their job to further the group. Youth learned about the bees’ roles in pollination and agriculture as well as South Dakota’s honey industry,” explains Haigh-Blume.

What's next?

For South Dakota Farmers Union, education is more than camp. Now the focus will turn to school-year youth programming which teaches high school and college age youth about policy and cooperatives and exposes them to the broader picture of American agriculture through tours to Washington D.C., Midwestern cooperatives and the State and National Farmers Union Conventions.

Farmers Union also brings leadership programming to several rural school districts throughout South Dakota through its Jr. REAL (Junior Rural Economic and Leadership).

“Jr. Real shows SDFU commitment to bringing leadership and training to the local level at no cost to the school. This is another opportunity to build on the skills the youth learned at camp and to become resourceful leaders in their rural community," says Haigh-Blume.

To learn how you can contribute to S.D. Farmers Union youth programming, visit, contact Karla Hofhenke at or call 605-352-6761, ext. 114.

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