The South Dakota Farmers Union honored a group of devoted youth for their commitment to community, involvement and leadership development at the 2018 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention held in Pierre Nov. 29-30.
The Torchbearer Award is the highest achievement in the S.D. Farmers Union Education Program. To receive the award, a camper must complete five years of service. It showcases the commitment campers have put toward the education department, and the time dedicated to serving rural communities.
True to the name of the award, continuing the traditions of the S.D. Farmers Union educational programming is often a priority for those eligible to receive the Torchbearer Award.
How can cooperation build a brighter tomorrow? This was a question considered by campers during the 2018 S.D. Farmers Union State Leadership Camp as they elected a six-member Junior Advisory Council (JAC).
Members selected from communities across South Dakota include: Charlee Byrd, White Lake; Landon Copley, Aberdeen; Abby Dethlefsen, Stickney; Justin Goetz, Selby; Cassidy Keller, Canistota and Caleb Nugteren, Canistota.
As the week progressed campers were asked to discuss subjects that hit close to home for much of the population, cybersecurity, mental health and coping skills.
During the week-long camp, held this summer at Storm Mountain Center just outside Rapid City, campers had the opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers teaching them valuable lessons on how they can be a positive impact in the lives of others.
"Brighter tomorrows ensure that we are teaching our young leaders how to be safe and resilient in a tough world," explains Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director. "Words of kindness aren't flowing freely in the world today and simply put, we tend to believe negative comments over positive comments. Taking time for campers to focus on how to handle difficult situations, how to ask for help and how to be resilient when there are bad days are valuable life skills and how we work toward brighter tomorrows."
Read on to learn more about the Junior Advisory Council.
Three South Dakota teens were elected to the National Farmers Union (NFU) National Youth Advisory Council during the 82nd annual NFU All-States Leadership Camp held in Bailey, Colorado.
"Serving on this council is a great opportunity for me to continue to grow as a person and a leader," said Canistota High School senior, Caleb Nugteren, 17.
Youth members of South Dakota Farmers Union, Nugteren, Jim Brockel, Shadehill and Justin Goetz, Selby, were elected to serve a one-year term on the National Youth Advisory Council by their peers from across the nation during the week-long leadership camp. During their year of service they will represent thousands of Farmers Union youth from across the nation at the 2019 NFU National Convention, in Washington D.C., and the team will be actively involved in the planning of the 2019 All-States Camp.
"NYAC builds leaders in the agriculture industry and ensures the voice of younger generations is heard and respected in what the organization does," says Roger Johnson, NFU President. "Over the course of the next year, these six youths will serve as representatives of their peers, learn about the legislative process and lobbying, and present in front of hundreds of NFU members and press at the NFU convention. I'm confident they will be strong advocates for both the organization and young people in agriculture."
Advocating for agriculture is a task Brockel is eager to participate in. A graduate of Bison High School, Brockel grew up working on his family's ranch.
"The strength of agriculture impacts me, my neighbors and my community. I'm eager to share my story with Congressional leaders in D.C. and hear what other Farmers Union members have to say during policy discussions at National Convention," says Brockel, who will be attending the University of South Dakota this fall.
As members of the National Youth Advisory Council, these South Dakota youth will also serve as role models to the many youth across the nation who participate in Farmers Union youth programming. Serving as a mentor is not a new role for Goetz, a Selby Area High School senior.
"I like to help others," explains Goetz, who currently serves on the SDFU Junior Advisory Council, the team which plans Farmers Union annual state leadership camp. "Encouraging and motivating others to do better is something I work to do."
All three youth have been actively involved in SDFU youth programming for a number of years and say the leadership skills they developed through the annual State Leadership Camp helped them achieve this new service role.
"Attending Farmers Union Leadership Camp really pushed me to step outside my comfort zone," explains Nugteren. "I am not typically a person who enjoys speaking in front of people, but because of the experience I have gained over the years, I now enjoy meeting new people and feel comfortable public speaking."
The South Dakota teens will serve with youth from North Dakota, Riley Lebahn; Minnesota, Jade Person; and Wisconsin, Camryn Billen.
Get to Know the 2017-2018 Senior Advisory Council Members
Maddie Kline and Taylin Montague were selected to serve on the 2017-2018 Senior Advisory Council during the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention, held in Huron this last December.
In this role, Kline, a freshman at South Dakota State University, and Montague, a senior at New Underwood High School planning to attend Black Hills State University in the spring, will provide advice and act as mentors to the six member Junior Advisory Council.
Below, the youth leaders 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 prepare them to be mentors.
What are you most looking forward to in this new leadership role?
Maddie Kline Answers: I’m looking forward to making my last year in camp the best year yet. With my leadership skills and past experience as a member of the Junior Advisory Council (JACs) I will be able to mentor the current JACs through the obstacles of their new roles. I can teach them how to be better leaders and mentors among other campers and how to go about things.
Taylin Montague Answers: I look forward to the opportunity to give back to Farmers Union. Being an influence and role model to upcoming campers is an honor and is something I have always aspired to. To me serving on the Senior Advisory Council means that I am a productive member of Farmers Union, I am an advocate and others see me as a strong leader and role model.
How did Farmers Union prepare you for this mentorship role?
Maddie Kline Answers: In Farmers Union we talk a lot about leadership and cooperation and what that means for youth. We get to learn how to make the most out of our leadership ability while having fun along the way. The skills that Farmers Union has instilled in me helped me throughout high school and now I can take those skills with me to college.
Taylin Montague Answers: Farmers Union has taught me a countless amount of skills and lessons. After being awarded the Bob Janish Memorial Friendship Award I was brought to the realization of how many people see what I do and how I am as a person. Because of Farmers Union I have learned that being a positive influence and someone others can look up to is incredibly rewarding. I have learned that stepping up and taking a leadership role is not scary but an honor.
To learn more about this Farmers Union Education Programs, contact Rachel Haigh-Blume, S.D. Farmers Union Education Director at Rachel@sdfu.org or visit www.sdfu.org.
A group of devoted Farmer's Union campers were recognized for their commitment to community involvement and leadership development with the Torchbearer Award during an awards luncheon hosted at the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Convention held in Huron, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2017.
For campers, receiving the Torchbearer Award symbolizes the highest level of achievement for the South Dakota Farmers Union Education Program. This award is given once the camper has reached five years of committed service, showcasing the time and dedication campers have committed over the past years to the education department, as well as the rural communities they have served.
Continuing the tradition of S.D. Farmers Union Camp is often times a priority for youth who are eligible for the Torchbearer Award.
What is an everyday hero? This was a question considered by campers during the 2017 S.D. Farmers Union State Leadership Camp as they elected a six-member Junior Advisory Council (JACs).
Before ballots were handed out, campers were asked to discuss what being an everyday hero meant to them and how they could be an everyday hero in the lives of others. During the week-long camp, campers had the opportunity to put their thoughts into action, serving as everyday heroes in the lives of dozens of hungry families by assisting Feeding America. As a team, campers helped pack hundreds of pounds of food to be distributed to families in need.
"This year I really hope that campers take away the importance of being someone's everyday hero," explains Rachel Haigh-Blume, SDFU Education Director. "You can have a large impact on your neighbors without having to spend a lot of money. Our time at Feeding America hopefully showed the campers how much you can accomplish together in little time."
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.”
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.
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 2016-2017 Junior Advisory Council members include: AJ Schoenfelder, Parkston; Abbey Tschetter, Huron; Cole Van Gorp, Stickney; Jonah Murtha, Parkston; Shaun Snedeker, Woonsocket; and Madelyn Kline, Huron.
During the 2016 State Leadership Camp, a six-member Junior Advisory Council was selected by the Youth and Education Council to serve as leaders, role models and representatives in planning and conducting the 2017 State Leadership Camp.
The 2016-2017 Junior Advisory Council (JAC) who were announced during State Camp include: Cole Van Gorp, Corsica; Shaun Snedeker, Stickney; AJ Schoenfelder, Parkston; Madelyn Kline, Huron; Jonah Murtha, Parkston; and Abbey Tschetter, Huron.
Growing up on a farm south of Gregory, Dowain Kerner didn't give his dad, Dean's, career much thought. That is, until he began attending Farmers Union Camp as a kid.
"I was born on a farm; it's what my dad does for a living. But when I was little, I wasn't into farming at all. Attending camp really gave me an interest in farming," says Kerner, 18, who has been attending Farmers Union Camp since he was 8.
Positive peer pressure is how Kerner explains his change of heart. "I really connected with the kids and leaders at Farmers Union Camp. They were excited about farming, ranching and cooperatives - this sparked an interest in me."
Finished with his first year at the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, Kerner is pursuing Chemical Engineering with the hopes of putting his degree to work for the agriculture industry.
"I thought it would be cool to work for a company that produces products my dad and other farmers use to protect or enhance their crops," explains the 2015 Torchbearer.
South Dakota Farmers Union recently hired Rachel Haigh-Blume to serve as Education Director.
"We are excited about Rachel's background and professional experience, as well as her enthusiasm for youth and agriculture," said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.
Haigh-Blume will be responsible for educational programming, which serves more than 3,000 South Dakotans each year.
Since it was established to serve family farmers and ranchers more than a century ago, education has been a focus of South Dakota Farmers Union. "SDFU Educational programming is developed to enrich the lives of rural South Dakotans; whether it's through county, district or state camps held throughout the summer which teach rural youth about farm safety, cooperative education and leadership development or Rural Economic & Leadership Program (REAL) and Young Producer Events which provide leadership and professional development to agriculture producers and rural professionals," explains Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of SDFU.
The South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation provides camps for youth of all ages. The camps provide an atmosphere of recreation, adventure and fun while our youth learn about Farmers Union, cooperatives, leadership and social interaction. These camps are divided into three categories: State, District and County Camps. Camps run from end of May through middle of August each summer.