Young Producers Event Provides Farmers & Ranchers with Marketing & Policy Insight
By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union
Being open to new ideas and having access to experts and information is essential to sustainability, said Travis Spiel, a 32-year-old Parade rancher.
“The worst thing a farmer or rancher can do is keep doing things the same way just because it’s how they’ve always done it,” Spiel explained.
Access to experts and information are among the reasons Spiel and his wife, Mercedes, took time away from their western South Dakota cattle ranch and four young children to attend the two-day Tri-State Young Producers Conference held in Oklahoma early January.
“There are all kinds of new information and resources out there,” Spiel said. “We are going to try something new on our ranch and utilize some of the marketing tools we learned about during the conference.”
The expert Spiel referenced is Janelle Guericke. Guericke is an Ag Business Instructor at Mitchell Technical College.
Clear Lake farmers, Jerad and Amanda Goens also found Guericke’s workshop beneficial.
“Janelle took the time to explain marketing in layman’s terms,” Amanda said.
Like the Spiels, Amanda and Jerad have explored using the markets to help manage risk before but they did not have the confidence until Guericke’s workshop. Today, they feel ready to give it a try.
“This Young Producers Event was a great opportunity to listen to, and learn from an expert together with my spouse,” Amanda explained. “We set a challenge for ourselves to give it a try this year.”
Providing family farmers and ranchers with expert advice and resources is the reason South Dakota Farmers Union sponsored the Goens, Spiels and several other South Dakota couples to attend the conference including Hank and Melissa Wonnenberg, Dallas; Keaton Peterson, Parade; Cole and Carleyn Petersen, Eagle Butte; Lance and Lindsey Hinsvark, Gary; Jason and Kaeloni Latham, Camp Crook; and Brian and Lindsey Cain, Lee Summit.
“Farmers Union sees investing in these young producers as an investment in the future of South Dakota agriculture,” said Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director for South Dakota Farmers Union. “Today’s young producers have many issues they have to deal with. They need access to reliable information and expert advice to help them make the right decisions for their operations’ sustainability. In just two days, this conference gives them in-person access to industry experts.”
Along with commodity market information, producers also heard from Corbitt Wall, commercial cattle manager and livestock market analyst and gained insight into early succession planning from Michael Entz. They also learned about the upcoming Farm Bill and how it could impact their operations. And they had the opportunity to take a deep dive into farm and ranch policy during a conversation with National Farmers Union Vice President and Aberdeen farmer Jeff Kippley as well as presidents from Farmers Union organizations of Oklahoma, North and South Dakota.
“We had good discussions about not only the issues of the day, but also the plight of young farmers and ranchers,” explained Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.
In addition to gaining information and discussing ag issues, Sombke said it was motivating to see young producers networking with each other. Connecting with other farmers and ranchers was a highlight for Camp Crook ranchers Kaeloni and Jason Latham.
“It was nice to meet other young producers like us, who understand what life is like on a ranch because there are not a lot of people who understand the ranching lifestyle,” Kaeloni said. “I can’t make plans two weeks from now and promise you I will be there because our cows might get out, or a waterline might fail, or a blizzard may come and now we have to go out and feed cows.”
Kaeloni said she and Jason remain in contact with some of the new friends they met during the Young Producers Event.
To learn more about how South Dakota Farmers Union supports family farmers and ranchers, visit www.sdfu.org.