By Mike Jaspers, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture
August 29, 2016
(***EDITOR’S NOTE: Audio and photo links are available at the end of this column.***)
It has been an exciting two months settling in as South Dakota’s Secretary of Agriculture. What an honor to be able to give back to a state and an industry that have given so much to me! Agriculture is a cornerstone of our state’s economy and has certainly played a major role in my life.
I grew up on my family’s farm outside of Eden, in the northeastern corner of the state, and graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in mechanized agriculture. Today, my wife Robin and I live near Sioux Falls with our daughter, Ellie (12), and son, Alex (9). We own and operate a corn, soybean, alfalfa and cattle operation in Hutchinson, McCook and Marshall counties. I’ve also had the opportunity to work in agricultural retail management, serve as a state legislator and state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office and graduate from the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (SDARL) program.
Like many South Dakotans, I’m looking forward to attending the state fair, which runs September 1-5. Once again, one of the first events of the fair is the South Dakota Farm & Ranch Recognition Program. Every year, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture teams up with the South Dakota Farm Bureau to recognize families who have retained continuous ownership of at least 80 acres of original farmland for 100 years or more. As a farmer myself, it is an incredible honor to recognize and thank the almost 90 families that will receive a century (100 years) or quasquicentennial (125 years) recognition this year.
This year’s award ceremony is especially meaningful to me. In 1882, my great-great grandfather homesteaded a farm in Marshall county and that land is still owned by my family today. I’m proud to say the Jaspers family will be one of the families recognized this year for reaching the 125 year milestone. Despite the challenges they faced over the generations, I’m humbled when I think of all my family has done and gone through to stay on the land for five generations.
This year’s fair isn’t just about recognizing and celebrating the past—it’s also about supporting and building the future of agriculture, our youth. On September 4, at 4 p.m., there will be a dedication ceremony for the Nordby Exhibit Hall for 4-H, Youth and Community. This space will provide a place for 4-H events of all kinds during the fair and year-round event space for a variety of organizations. This capital fundraising campaign has been going on for three years and we are close to crossing the finish line.
A sizable donation from the late Earl Nordby and contributions from other individuals and groups have allowed this facility to be used for a few events this year. If you feel a special connection to youth in agriculture, please go to www.sdstatefairfoundation.com to find out how you can help complete construction. We would be honored to count you among the many generous contributors to this project.
The State Fair Park is one of the five divisions that make up the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. Stop by our booth in the Expo Building during the fair to say hello. You can test your tree knowledge on our leaf board, pick up Smokey Bear fire safety reminders, ask weed and pest control questions, learn about our County Site Analysis Program and much more. Whether it’s been since last year or it’s been several years, I hope to see you at this year’s South Dakota State Fair!
(***An AUDIO COPY of this column can be downloaded at this website link.***)
(***A PHOTO of Sec. Jaspers can be downloaded via this link