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.
"The agriculture industry offers so many career opportunities for today's youth," Chase says. "I make time for organizations, like FFA and Farmers Union, which provide opportunities for rural youth. I believe that if we don't make time to help keep organizations and clubs alive and growing in rural towns, eventually, the opportunities won't be available and without them, you don't have a town."
When Jim Wahl approached Chase, McCook County camp numbers were down. For the last 12 years, Chase has organized one of the largest County Day Camps in the state, with consistent attendance of more than 60. In 2016, 72 campers attended.
To ensure there are enough volunteers, Chase reaches out to high school students in her Agriculture Education Classes. "The younger kids already look up to the older kids, so I just ask if anyone wants to volunteer and help." Chase was recognized for her service to S.D. Farmers Union Youth Programming with the 2016 Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award during an awards luncheon held during the S.D. Farmers Union State Convention in Pierre, Dec. 8-9, 2016.
"Tracy has dedicated her time and talents to ensure that the next generations are prepared for the many challenges they will face," says Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director. "Her servant-style leadership and commitment to the youth in her area is unmatched."
More about Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award
Youth programming has been key to developing future leaders for not only South Dakota Farmers Union, but other organizations dedicated to agriculture and rural communities throughout the state.
Today's National Farmers Union youth programming was born out of South Dakota Farmers Union Junior program, which was launched in 1919 when John W.
Batcheller, the editor of the South Dakota Union Farmer, called for a junior column in future editions of the paper.
Minnie Lovinger, an Ethan farm wife married to David Lovinger, the first Farmers Union County President in South Dakota, answered the call.
Each year a volunteer County Education Director is recognized during State Convention for their service with the Minnie Lovinger Esteemed Educator Award. It is the highest honor one can receive in the S.D. Farmers Union Education Program.
To learn more about S.D. Farmers Union Education Programming or how you can volunteer, contact Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director, atRachel@sdfu.org.