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2020 South Dakota Farmers Union State ConventionEnter Here

Farmers & Ranchers At Work Photo Contest

View this slideshow and enjoy many more submitted photos.

De Smet School Teacher & Farmer Wins Photo Contest Drawing

Lexi Johnson 1 3
Photo by Lexi Johnson, winner of the S.D. Farmers Union Farmers & Ranchers at Work photo contest.

De Smet Kindergarten teacher and farmer, Lexi Johnson was drawn as the winner of the South Dakota Farmers Union Farmers & Ranchers at Work 2020 Fall Photo Contest. Johnson will receive a $250 gift card.

More than 100 photos were contributed by farmers, ranchers and their families. Each photo contributed entered the photographer in the drawing. Johnson only submitted one photo, taken at sunset of her husband, Ray planting soybeans into cover crops.

“Farming is a sunrise to sunset, 365-days all day, everyday job,” says Johnson, who just returned from delivering a turkey dinner with all the fixings to the field. We visited on November 4, the family’s last day of corn harvest. “I figure a Thanksgiving meal is perfect for being thankful for getting all the crops out this year.”

The Johnson family farm is diversified. They raise cattle, sheep, corn, soybeans, spring wheat and other small grains. Johnson grew up on a farm near Iroquois. And she says she didn’t expect to raise her family on a farm. “I told my parents ‘I’m never marrying a farmer. …and we’ve been married 18 years.’” 

Reflecting on the life she and Ray and their children, Connor, 14; Breyten, 12 and Kiraley , 7,  have on their farm, she says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “There is never a dull moment and it is a good place to learn about hard work.”

During the school year, Johnson works as a Kindergarten teacher. She says this career works well with life on the farm because she has summers free to help out. She adds that farming can also be flexible when it comes to the school year schedule. Because their sons, are both active in wrestling, Ray schedules lambing and calving around wrestling season.

“In case our boys or their teammates get to state wrestling, we like to finish up lambing before wrestling season and start calving later in March.”

South Dakota Farmers Union launched the Farmers and Ranchers at Work photo contest as a way to connect farm and ranch families from across South Dakota during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization also held a spring contest.

“These are the families who do the work that is our state’s number one economic driver,” explains Karla Hofhenke, S.D. Farmers Union Executive Director. “As a grassroots agriculture organization, we are always looking for ways to support farm and ranch families and share their stories – whether that is through policy, education, media or fun contests like this one.”

Like Johnson’s photo, the more than 100 contributed photos provide a glimpse into life on family farms and ranches across the state.

2020 Spring Photo Contest: Hundreds of Photos Capture Life on South Dakota’s Family Farms & Ranches

Union Center rancher, Deb Harwood was named the winner of the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) Spring Photo Contest. Winning a cash prize, Harwood is among many South Dakota farmers and ranchers who captured moments on their family’s farm or ranch this spring and shared them with SDFU for a chance to win the cash drawing.

5 Debbie Harwood
by Deb Harwood

“In light of all the challenges facing South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers, we thought a photo contest would provide an uplifting activity,” explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director.

Unlike some jobs, the pandemic hasn’t changed work on farms and ranchers too much, explains the photo contest winner.

“We are secluded enough, and the work we do is pretty much the same. Of course, if something breaks down we have to go to town and it seems like it takes a lot longer to get parts,” explains Harwood, who ranches with her husband Steve. The Harwood family has been raising cattle in South Dakota since homesteading days.

What COVID-19 did however, was dramatically decrease already depressed markets. On the Harwood Ranch because of the low markets, she and Steve had to put off some projects they’d planned to do this summer.

Harwood says the photo contest helped take her mind off the economics of ranching for a moment. “Photography is relaxing for me. With everything going on it takes my mind off it,” Harwood says. “In the past I used to do quite a bit of photography, I have had several photos published in the Tri-State Livestock News. I had been wanting to get back to it and this contest reminded me how much I enjoy photography.”

1 Debbie Harwood
by Deb Harwood

Her photos reflect what she and her husband, Steve and their grown children and their families’ value about the work and lifestyle production agriculture provides. “As a rancher, I like nature and to be outdoors. There is more of a feeling of freedom to ranch work. I like working with animals. It is neat to see each year, after several generations of working on their genetics, how the new calf crop turns out. It is satisfying to look at livestock and realize we raised them as babies, nurtured them and feed them the best and give them the best we can so they can thrive,” Harwood says. “I also enjoy the fact that we are our own bosses. Ranching is an actual business. Many don’t realize, who are not in ag, that this is a business. Yes, it is a way of life, but it is also a business.”

View hundreds of images at www.sdfu.org

Throughout the photo contest, which ran April 1 to July 1, 2020, SDFU posted submitted photos to their Facebook page daily.

“For safety of our members and staff, during the pandemic, we haven’t been able to get out and see our members on their farms and ranchers or attend activities where we can see our producers. This photo contest was one way for state staff to stay in touch with members,” Hofhenke explains. “It was also a great way to keep producers connected to each other. These photos helped remind all of us that although social distancing is isolating, we are not alone.”

Harwood agrees. “It is fun and fun to see other people’s work. It gives people a chance to see what is all out there in our world of farming and ranching.”

To view Harwood’s photos as well as hundreds of others showcasing life on South Dakota’s farms and ranches, visit www.sdfu.org and click on the News and Events link.