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.