Thursday, June 11, 2015

Black Hills Seminar - Grasslands and Grazing

Thursday, June 11

On our last day of our Black Hills seminar, we gathered at the Black Hills National Forest Service Office.  Physical resource staff member, Ralph Adam, shared about how the 1.5 million acre Black Hills Forest got established in 1897. Without the staff doing the greatest good for the greatest number, we would not have the forest and grasslands to provide recreation and habitat for the fish and wildlife.

A panel consisting of four ranchers and Mark Vedder, a rangeland management specialist, discussed different federal land permits.The panel discussed how the coordination with state agencies, grazing permitees, timber industries and other revelant parties can be helpful in the overall management plan.

Roger Gates with SDSU research spoke on the importance of grassland management and grazing livestock in diverse environment conditions.The practice of good land stewardship also includes replenishing the earth. 

Sandy Osterman and Corey Johannsen, Reporters

Day 3 - Custer State Park

On Wednesday morning we were greeted with rain showers in Custer State Park, making the next part of our seminar with Paul Person, Forest Supervisor, and Ben Wudke of Black Hills Forest Association, a bit more challenging. On a mission to out run the rain, we left Custer State Park and  went to the location where the Jasper Fire of 2000 started. We viewed the regrowth of the forest area that occcured in the past 15 years and discussed the cycles that will develop over the next century to rebuild this once forested area. We then also were informed on the Mountain Pine Beetle and the damage that it has caused the forest. We learned about the life cycle of the beetle and actually got to see trees that were infected. Fortunately, the forest industry, government agencies, loggers, and the public have come together to combat this insect and the destruction that it causes.

Two representatives from the logging industry explained the challenges and victories in the battle with the pine beetle.

Ben is showing the participants a dead pine beetle that was stuck in the bark of the tree.

In the afternoon, the Team Building segment of the seminar began. Phase one was the Chili Cook-off and phase two was a group presentation of an assigned current hot topic in agriculture such as emerging technologies and feeding the growing population. We were all split into smaller groups at the very end of the last seminar and given this assignment.  This exercise required us as a group to develop a theme for our chili cookoff  and research an assigned ag-related topic and present a 15 minute informative presentation.This was a judged event and prizes were awarded.

The winning chili team gave their group presentation on emerging technologies in agriculture.

Will adds to the discussion on population growth and food consumption.

Corey Johannsen and Sandy Osterman, Reporters

Chili Cook-off teams:

Day 2 - Black Hills

The morning began with a tour of Blair Brothers Angus Ranch northeast of Sturgis.  Ed Blair, along with his brother, Rich; son, Chad; and nephew, Britton, operate a commercial angus herd that is a total AI operation, synchronizing 1200 to 1400 cows and yearling heifers a year.
The family markets 400 angus bulls by private treaty a year with customers from North Dakota to Texas.  The operation also offers to buy back customer calves with some going to feedyards in Kansas, while others are backgrounded in North Dakota, local feeders or at home.  Finished cattle are sold on US Premium Beef’s high quality grid.
The class received a tour of the pens where the bulls are fed, along with a tour of the Blairs’ cattle working facilities.  Chad and Britton also AI bred a few heifers,  a very interesting process for those not familiar with artificial insemination.   
The class was also treated to a delicious BBQ beef lunch provided by the Blair family.
Britton Blair discusses the ranch's AI program to the group.
The next stop on the agenda was the Belle Joli’ Winery located south of Sturgis.  Jackson Vineyards is a family owned vineyard started in 2000 with a small acreage of grapes where two rivers join to form the Belle Fourche River.  Belle Joli’ Winery is unique from other South Dakota wineries because it is home to South Dakota’s only enologist, Matthew Jackson.  Matthew received his enology degree from California State University, Fresno.  He has begun the task of nurturing the vines and growing the grapes that make for a great wine. 
 SDARL participants learn about growing grapes in South Dakota from the owner of Belle Joli'.
The class also had the opportunity to sample some of the wines produced by Belle Joli’ Winery.
The last major agenda item for the day was a tour of the Wharf Gold Mine, which was started in 1983.  The mine is an open pit heap leach operation near Lead, South Dakota.  Jake Thaler, our tour guide, gave the group an overview of the necessary permits, exploration procedures, operations, and reclamation requirements of the mine.  All in all a very interesting tour.
Looking into the Wharf Mine pit highlighted the pit tour.
The day concluded at Custer State Park Game Lodge with discussion of the day’s activities and socializing around a campfire.

Joel Erickson, Reporter

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 8 - Rapid City to Sturgis

SDARL Class VIII has made it to the Black Hills!  Monday morning we made our way here coming from all directions.  It was good to see everyone in the group! Two months have passed by since we met last, but the number of acres that have been planted and cows that have calved and worked since then makes it seem longer. 

The Outdoor Campus was our first destination.  It is a facility operated by the Wildlife Division of Game, Fish, and Parks.  The facility exists to educate the public about ecosystems and wildlife, including fish or bird identification and how to “kill it, clean it, and eat it.”  We received a tour of the facility which sits on 32 acres in Rapid City.  At the facility, an average of 14,000 adults and children take a course through the facility and almost 100,000 visit the facility a year. 

After lunch we headed to the University Center of Rapid City for a joint meeting with SDARL Alumni.  Our speaker was Bruce Vincent, a third generation logger from Libby, Montana.  Bruce shared the struggle that the logging industry went through as they battled activist groups and public perception of their industry.  Responsible logging is key to proper forest management, though the activist conservation groups and celebrities who have effectively driven the logging companies to move over seas, have painted the industry as destroyers of the forests.  Bruce shared the mistakes that the industry made when engaging with activists in the pasts, as well as the lessons they learned about how to effectively share your message with the public.  It was an excellent presentation, with a profound message. 

In the evening we held a banquet with class members, alumni, and guests.  Several from the class spoke about their experiences thus far with SDARL.
~Jared Knock, reporter

The Outdoor Campus offers activities for children of all ages to learn about wildlife and the environmental stewardship.

Eric and Amy enjoyed the tour of the 32-acre Outdoor Campus.

Wildlife habitat exhibits highlight this section of the campus.

Bruce Vincent from Libby, Montana, offered suggestions in taking a leadership role in our industry, reminding us that "the world is run by those who show up."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Friday, February 27: Touring Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Friday, February 27, 2015

It was a mighty early start for the SDARL class this day so we could enjoy our field trip up in Pennsylvania. The goal of today was to show the class how farmers producing the same commodities as us, are able to exist and succeed facing very different and sometimes far more challenging circumstances. We also caught a glimpse of how a city of 65,000 copes with similar wastewater regulations as us farmers.

The Susquehanna River, near Holtwood
So lets take a look at some of the day's highlights.
View from Groff's farm, Holtwood, PA

Steve Groff presenting on the CoverCrop Radish

Steve Groff is the man     
Cedar Meadow Farm was the first stop on the trip and this is where Steve Groff receives his mail. Who is Steve you ask? He is a crop farmer as well as a seed producer of cover crops. But what makes Steve worth flying out to the east coast for? He has marketed a turnip that is very good at breaking up hardpan and pulling up nutrients out of the soil depths. Steve travels the nation and world explaining the benefits that cover crops can provide.

Ruth Ayne-Hocker, PE, City of Lancaster
Next we were whisked off to the Lancaster City and heard Ms. Ruth Ayn Hocker with the city.  The class saw first hand how farmers are not the only ones who have to incorporate new measures to deal with government regulation on wastewater discharge. The city lies within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and so must deal with strict wastewater regulations. We saw basketball courts made out of ‘permeable asphalt’ and playgrounds resting on spongy permeable surfaces. We also saw a street alley made of bricks resting upon a couple foot thick layer of rock. And what is the point of this? Lancaster City’s way of reducing wastewater pollution running off into the rivers is by simply having less runoff. The rain lands on the basketball court and the back alley, and instead of going down the storm sewer, it just permeates through the surface and down into the soil.

Ms. King and Mrs. Reed-Harry
Business owners in Lancaster City also work with the wastewater regulations. A fine example of that was found at the Lancaster Brewing Company, where we had lunch. Our host of the day, Marel King of the Pennsylvania Chesapeake Bay Commission, gave a "Chesapeake Bay 101" overview. Mrs. Jennifer Reed-Harry, PennAg Industries Association, followed with a "Pennsylvania Agriculture 101" presentation.

Luke Brubaker and his son Mike, Tony not pictured
Solar panels at the barn roof
Residential area near the Brubaker Farm
Brubaker Farm: Methane Digester
The grand finale was a tour of the award winning Brubaker Farm near Mount Joy, PA. Luke & Barbara Brubaker, with sons Mike and Tony, run a dairy and chicken confinement in a place that has some opportunities, and many more challenges than we do. So how do they deal with these issues?
The opportunities: They sure appreciate having millions of milk drinking customers in the nearby metros. Those metros are also the challenge. Like the city of Lancaster, Brubaker Farm must deal with the strict Chesapeake Bay regulations. Rural Pennsylvania also doesn’t look like rural South Dakota. We saw new neighborhoods sprawling around the dairy and a paved road that curves right around the barn and through the farm! To keep the noses of the neighbors happy, the farm has proactively chosen to turn the animal waste in to methane and burn it for energy. The left overs from that process is used for fertilizing fields and bedding cattle. Next to no smell. How innovative is that?

Mr. Derek Ingram drove the bus.

Submitted by Dusty Schley

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday, February 26: Think Tanks - Watch Dogs & Others

Thursday, February 26, 2015
On Thursday, SDARL Class VIII started out the day with a discussion of what we had observed and heard after meeting with lobbyists, USDA staff, South Dakota’s Congressional delegation and staff, and participants in similar rural leadership programs from other states. We were asked to answer four questions:

  1. What has been the biggest “Ah-hah” moment for each of us from our Washington D.C. experience so far?
  2. What has surprised us the most about ourselves so far as part of this experience?
  3. Why is it important for those aspiring for leadership roles in rural South Dakota to travel to places like Washington?
  4. Describe our experiences and impressions after interacting with our peers from other states?

As one might expect from a group of our size and diversity of backgrounds and experiences, there was a wide range of answers for the first question. Many of us were struck by walking in the same streets and places as our Founding Fathers. We had a lively debate about the role of lobbyists, the ability to get things done in D.C., and how important it was to get to know the staffers who worked for our elected officials.
One of the surprises for many of us was that although D.C. is a big, bustling place, we weren’t as intimidated as some of us thought we might be. After learning more about the entire process, we’re more confident in our abilities to get involved in the process.
One of the take-home messages we’ve learned is that the rest of the world matters; and is one of the biggest reasons to get outside of our comfort zone and see places that are different from home. At the same time, we have an increased appreciation for the value of South Dakota “common sense.”
The opinion of the group was that having the chance to interact with our peers from Washington, Indiana, and Minnesota was very valuable. Some conversations came easier than others, but this was a great opportunity to learn more about agriculture in other states, network with our peers, and compare notes about Ag and Rural Leadership programs.
After our group discussion and review of the reading assignments, it was time to meet with our assigned special interest groups. We divided into pairs or groups of three and met with twelve different special interest groups located in and around Washington, D.C. These groups included:
·         North American Meat Institute
·         Sierra Club
·         Planet Forward
·         Heritage Foundation
·         Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
·         Crop Life of American
·         Citizens Against Government Waste
·         Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM)
·         The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
·         Center for Food Safety
·         Environmental Working Group
·         EcoAgriculture Partners
We met with those groups during the afternoon. Later we all gathered at Buca di Beppo® to compare notes. We found that some of these groups, such as the American Meat Institute and CropLife of America, had positions that were very closely aligned with those of the SDARL members who visited with them. Other, less conventional groups, held markedly different views than the participants of our delegation. The experience of respectively listening to those who may have disagreed with us while articulating our views may well be one of the more interesting and valuable parts of our D.C. experience.
There were opportunities before and after the appointments with special interest groups to take advantage of some of the other educational opportunities in Washington, D.C. Some of the places Class VIII members visited included Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the National Holocaust Museum, and the National Gallery of Art.

Dusty Schley and Warren Rusche

Amy Pravecek and Warren Rusche visiting with Janet Riley, Sr. Vice President Public Affairs for the American Meat Institute
SDARL Class VIII member Shane Reis, Josh Kettwig, Jim Kanable, Sara Berg, and Joel Erickson preparing to enter the Smithsonian.
Seminar Team Leader Sandy Osterman helping to lead the book report discussion.

Wednesday, February 25: USDA and Capitol Hill

Wednesday February 25, 2015
Our day started at the USDA headquarters, where Ms. Kathryn Hill hosted our group.

Deputy Undersecretary Karis Gutter, USDA
Karis Gutter, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services has served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the past six years. This division oversees Farm Service Agency (FSA)  and Risk Management Agency (RMA). Mr. Gutter described programmatic changes to the farm safety net--crop insurance and commodity programs. With the launch of the new farm bill in spring of 2014, FSA prioritized deployment of disaster programs, dairy risk protection tools, financial lending, and conservation programs. Further discussion with SDARL leaders addressed the need for livestock risk management products; farm program participation affected by wetland compliance concerns; and increasing lending limits for guarantee loans.
Kanable, Symens, Nelson and Kettwig
Rural development (RD) issues were the focus of Sam Rikkers, who serves as Deputy Adminstrator for that agency within USDA. Rural housing, business support and utility programs were highlighted during this dialogue. An example of a RD business program which farmers or ranchers could utilize would be Rural Energy for America Program (REAP,) which provides grants and low interest loans to upgrade to higher efficiency systems, such as grain dryers or barn ventilation fans. Broadband access and wastewater system improvements continue to be high demand infrastructure needs of rural communities, also. Class members shared examples of how their South Dakota communities have benefited from RD programs, such as new housing triplexes and daycare centers.
Dr. Shelly Ver Ploeg: "Food Deserts"
Food deserts were the subject of a presentation by Dr. Shelly Ver Ploeg, economist within the Economic Research Service (ERS). Food deserts are described as an area with limited access to healthy, nutritious food and usually in a low-income area. Dr. Ver Ploeg outlined analysis conducted countywide to identify areas within both urban and rural areas that lack proximity to grocery stores and transportation to those shopping centers. South Dakota's map shows quite a few food deserts, primarily in southwest and northwest counties and a few scattered communities in central and northeastern parts of the state.
Congresswoman Noem meeting with the class
Congresswoman Kristi Noem & SDARL Class VIII
SDARL members took to the Hill on Wednesday afternoon, meeting with Congresswoman Kristi Noem and Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds, as well as with their senior policy advisers. Senator Thune's office arranged a tour of the Capitol, which concluded our visit to the Hill.
Senator John Thune

Senator John Thune & SDARL Class VIII
Senator John Thune meeting with the class

Sen. Thune's policy advisors Lynn Tjeerdsma & Ty Littau
Senator Rounds, members Randy Nelson and James Kroupa

Senator Rounds & SDARL Class VIII

Senator Rounds with Eric Jennings. Jennings' great grandfather Peter Norbeck's desk is nowadays used by the Senator.
Wednesday evening concluded with a reception of agricultural and forestry leadership program participants from Washington, Indiana, South Dakota and Minnesota. Small groups from these states enjoyed dinner together--providing a chance to compare leadership experiences, state agricultural industries and highlights of their Washington, DC trips. Interestingly, some of these state leadership programs have been training leaders for more than 35 years.

Submitted by Trudy Wastweet