Myn lauryn

Smidt dives deeper into 4-H with summer internship

By Kyle Kuphal

When the Pipestone County Fair begins Aug. 3, Lauryn Smidt will be both a 4-H member showing two dairy steers and a 4-H employee running the poultry, pet, dairy and rabbit shows.
Smidt, 19, has been involved in 4-H since she was in kindergarten, the first year she was eligible, and is now in her last year of eligibility in the program. She’s also the Pipestone County 4-H summer intern. She pursued the intern position to be more involved in 4-H.
“When I grew up I just kind of went through the motions, went to the fair, and my mom did a lot of the registering for us, and I kind of wanted to get behind the scenes and get everybody else registered and help get all the plaques and stuff ready like we were doing today,” Smidt said.
She started her internship May 23 and it will continue for 12 weeks until Aug. 18. She works 40 hours a week.
“It’s been fun,” she said. “I’ve put a lot of day camps on for younger kids.”
Those have included an outdoor craft workshop, a canvas painting workshop, a fairy tale day camp and a silly science day camp. Smidt said she’d enjoyed working with the youth the most so far.
Smidt is the daughter of Jeremy and Maritta Smidt and grew up on the family farm north of Pipestone with five siblings, including two sisters (one of whom is her twin) and three brothers. She said three of her siblings will also be showing animals at the fair.
Smidt has Red Angus cattle of her own, including two cow/calf pairs and a heifer. Her parents have a Black Angus cow/calf operation, raise dairy steers and grow corn and soybeans.
Smidt graduated from Pipestone Area High School in 2021 and has completed her freshman year at North Dakota State University. She is majoring in animal science and minoring in agriculture business.
After earning her degree, Smidt plans to either enter the work force or go on to graduate school to become an animal nutritionist. Either way, she plans to do something involving animal nutrition.
She said she thinks the summer 4-H internship will help prepare her for her future career because it involves communicating with people, organization and patience.
Fmn myn ignaszewski

Abby Ignaszewski Former 4-Her returns as summer intern

By Joshua Schuetz

Two years ago, Abby Ignaszewski walked across the stage to receive her diploma at Jackson County Central High School in Jackson. Now, she’s returned to the county as the Jackson County 4-H program’s summer intern.
A lifelong 4-Her, Ignaszewski started out as a Cloverbud, attending summer camps, showing livestock and building various projects. This summer, she’s helping younger kids do the same.
“I showed swine and I did craft projects, like making tie blankets and pottery,” Ignaszewski said. “I was president and secretary of my club at one point, so that taught me a lot of leadership skills and helped me get out of my bubble.”
A forensic science major, Ignaszewski is currently studying at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Once she learned about the summer position in Jackson County, she decided to apply.
Planning day camps made up a great deal of her internship early on, though work has recently shifted to helping prepare for the upcoming Jackson County Fair.
“I remember attending day camps when I was a kid and I wanted to be on the other side of that,” she said. “I will get things ready for the fair, making sure our 4-Hers have everything they need to take their projects to the state fair.”
As it turns out, the skills Ignaszewski learned as a member of the county’s 4-H program have paid dividends as she learns how to help kids have the same experiences she did growing up
It’s also given her new appreciation for the work 4-H leaders and parents put into helping the kids have a good year.
“You realize how much work goes into making these activities successful,” she said. “I really like learning about how things are done, so getting the chance to be on the other side and plan these activities is really eye-opening and enjoyable.”
Myn extension intern

Murray County resident is
Extension summer intern

By Kyle Kuphal

Lauren Verlinde, of rural Tracy, is the University of Minnesota College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) summer intern at the Murray County and Pipestone County Extension offices.
Verlinde, 19, started the internship in May and will work through mid-August. Her duties include helping her supervisor, Ag Production Systems Extension Educator Melissa Runck, plan events, and makes social media posts, communicates with other AFNR summer interns and their supervisors in other counties to share information, and more. She said she’s spent much of her time so far preparing for the Southwest Regional 4-H General Livestock Judging Contest, which was on Tuesday, June 28 at the Murray County Fairgrounds.
“A lot of my time that I’ve been employed, I’ve been planning that and lining up people and classes and getting everything organized,” she said.
She’ll also be helping with the Murray County and Pipestone County fairs in August.
Verlinde said she works 40 hours a week through the internship and splits her time between the Murray County and Pipestone County Extension offices. She’s in the Pipestone office about one or two days a week and the Slayton office the rest of the time.
“I’m liking it a lot,” Verlinde said. “I’m meeting lots of people.”
Verlinde is the daughter of Ryan and Marla Verlinde. She grew up on the same farm her father did south of Tracy on the Murray County side of the line between Murray and Lyon counties. She is the fourth generation of her family to live at the site.
The family operates a feedlot and a cow/calf operation, and grows corn, soybeans and cover crops on about 2,000 acres. She said the feedlot includes around 1,500 head of Japanese beef cattle, called akaushi/wagyu, that produce a more tender beef that has more inter-muscular fat.
“A lot of our beef usually ends up in high end restaurants,” Verlinde said.
Verlinde has been involved in agricultural activities beyond the family farm as well. She’s been in 4-H for 13 years and served as FFA chapter officer for three years and chapter president for a year. She was a Murray County Cattlemen’s Ambassador for two years and has been a Minnesota State Youth Beef Ambassador for about five years. She and her younger brothers, Lawton and Nolan, have all shown beef cattle.
Verlinde graduated from Tracy High School in 2021 and is a sophomore at South Dakota State University (SDSU) where she is majoring in agriculture communications and minoring in agriculture business and agriculture marketing. She said her major pointed her toward the Extension internship because of the focus on event planning, social media and networking. She also knew many of the people she is working with now in the internship through her involvement in 4-H.
She said her career path after graduation is still up in the air, but she’s been focused on sales and marketing.
“Again, this is kind of a great internship, making connections and learning more about social media and the different ways marketing is available and the types of Facebook posts that get a lot of action and a lot of views versus some of the Facebook posts that don’t, and kind of learning the dos and don’ts of social media along the way,” Verlinde said.
Myn williams ponto

Rural Colman resident is producer of the year

By Kyle Kuphal

Cody Williams, of rural Colman, is the 2021 South Dakota Hereford Association Producer of the Year.
“I’m one of the youngest ones to have been nominated and to win the award,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s a pretty big honor.”
William said candidates are nominated by the South Dakota Hereford Association Board of Directors. He said they try to pick someone who stands out among their peers.
One of the factors that made him stand out, he said, is that his family partnered with another South Dakota breeder, Mettler Polled Herefords, on a bull that earned champion Hereford bull and supreme overall breed at the South Dakota State Fair.
“That’s the first time a Hereford bull has ever been supreme overall breed,” William said. “They said that was a pretty good feather in the hat when we got nominated.”
The family also had a heifer that they raised and that Natalie Marshall showed that won The Midwest Classic in Pipestone in 2021.
“We had a great 2021 and set the bar pretty high for 2022,” Williams said.
The family shows animals all over the Midwest. Williams said he enjoys the show ring and all the hard work that goes into showing animals, and that he’s very competitive and feels a sense of pride when his animals do well.
He said the family is big on team work and their success has come with the help of others. The family tries to instill that idea in the kids they sell show calves to.
“We always tell all those kids we want everyone to do well,” Williams said. “We want everyone to win. Everyone’s got to do their work, but at the same time when one of us does well, it makes all of us look good, so we’ve all got to help each other to get there. You can’t get to a good place by yourself. When you get there it’s because someone helps you get there. We really want all those kids who buy cattle from us and show with us and travel with us, if they take anything away, it’s just to be a team player and cheer for your friends just as much as you cheer for yourself.”
The cattle business runs deep in Williams’ family and life. He grew up on the farm that his great-grandfather, Ove Stenberg, started not far from where he and his family live now.
“I’ve been around it my entire life and showed cattle since I can remember,” Williams said. “I had my first cow when I was 7 or 8.”
He said his family moved to Wisconsin when he was in high school and he moved back in 2010 to go to South Dakota State University and started working with his grandfather, David Stenberg. Williams eventually bought some cows himself and made it a career path.
Over time they bought more cows and about four years ago, he said, they bought the rest of the cows from his grandfather, making he and his wife, Kasey, the fourth generation in the family to operate Stenberg Herefords. Williams said his grandparents, David and Audrey, have been very helpful and his grandfather still helps around the farm.
Williams said he’s hoping his son, Braxton, 6, who is just beginning to show animals, might continue the family tradition and become the fifth generation to raise cattle. The couple also has a daughter, Brooklynn, 9, who has also begun showing animals.
The family has about 80 head of cows, most of which are registered Herefords. In addition to raising cattle, they grow hay. Williams said they buy silage from his uncle Mark.
Off the farm, Williams drives school bus for preschoolers in the Colman-Egan School District.
“They’re hysterical, and a lot like their parents,” he said of the preschoolers. “I went to school with them or we grew up with them as neighbors when we were younger. It’s nice to know all those kids and their families.”
He also helps coach his son’s baseball team. Kasey works for the South Dakota Department of Education.
Stenberg Herefords is a member of the South Dakota Hereford Association and the American Hereford Association.
Fmn myn wedebrands

Wedebrands make beef a family tradition

By Joshua Schuetz

For many farm families, activities like 4-H and FFA are true family traditions, passed from father and mother to son and daughter. Kids grow up on the farm learning from their parents, then taking on projects with their peers in student organizations. Sometimes, siblings end up cementing family traditions for one another.
That’s certainly the case for the Wedebrand family of Jackson County. Drew Wedebrand, who lives with his family on an acreage outside of Jackson, said he wanted his kids to get involved in the New Vision Co-op Feeder Calf Program when they were old enough.
“I thought it was a good summer program for them and, back when I was a kid, we always wished we had something like this,” Wedebrand said.
Hannah, Connor, Cyla, Bennett and Elly Wedebrand all got involved in the program, which entails getting a calf and raising it for a summer. Calves are purchased from New Vision, which also supplies feed. The program gives young people a chance to raise their own cattle and balance the books, offering a lesson in entrepreneurship, agriculture and accounting.
“We keep them at our grandparents’ house and get them ready for the fair,” Hannah Wedebrand said. “It’s challenging but fun, because you have to get them comfortable being around you, and that takes a lot of work.”
Hannah Wedebrand has won rate-of-gain and showmanship awards at the Jackson County Fair before, and her younger siblings have gotten off to a successful start as well.
It’s not all fun and games, especially where cattle are concerned. Besides getting to know their calves, the Wedebrand kids have to manage constant upkeep and training, not only keeping their animals healthy, but also focusing on getting them ready for showtime.
“You’ve got to make sure they’re eating and look OK, and you have to be watchful to make sure they’re not getting sick,” Connor Wedebrand said. “Then, you’ve got to work with them every day, so they know where to go and how to handle themselves in the ring.”
When showtime comes, all that work turns out for the better, and once the cattle are ready to sell, the investment of time and money pays off — literally. Cyla Wedebrand said getting to see the work pay off in the ring is her favorite part of participating in the program.
“Showing is the best part, because that’s when you see what came out of all that work,” she said.
Once they sell the cattle, the profits will be tucked into the kids’ savings accounts to pay for future expenses. Drew Wedebrand said his kids have benefited from the program, and he hopes more local families sign up.
“It’s a good experience for them,” he said, “and I’m really glad New Vision Co-op has taken it up.”
Ffa emily nelson

Pipestone Area senior earns entrepreneurship award at state FFA convention

By Kyle Kuphal

Emily Nelson, of rural Pipestone, has been farming since she was in eighth grade. Her efforts recently earned her a proficiency award for diversified crop production entrepreneurship at the Minnesota State FFA Convention April 24 to 26 in the Twin Cities.
The 17-year-old senior at Pipestone Area Schools, daughter of Jim and Tami Nelson, earned the award by operating her own business. That business is a 40-acre crop rotation of corn and soybeans near Verdi. She said she shares a total of 80 acres in the area with her sister, Karla.
“We make the decisions together of what would be best,” Nelson said.
That includes choosing and buying the seed and chemicals; renting the land from their grandparents, John and Corlys Griebel; helping with planting; monitoring growth and weed issues during the growing season; and helping with harvesting.
“During harvest we all go up there and try to take one day and do it,” Nelson said.
She pays to store the corn at her parents’ house, decides when to sell her crops and keeps track of the finances for her business. In addition, Nelson sells sweet corn to Hank’s Foods in Pipestone, individuals for canning and at the local farmer’s market.
Nelson said she and her parents have arranged a labor exchange through which she helps on their farm and is able to use their equipment for her business. Her favorite part of the work is operating the grain cart.
“I like driving the grain cart in the fall,” Nelson said. “I look forward to it. It’s the highlight of my day every day.”
Nelson won a proficiency award at the Region 6 FFA Convention in February for her business, which earned her a chance to win the award at the state convention. She said it felt “really good” to win the state award.
“I didn’t know I was up for the award until I got there,” she said. “Then I knew the other people I was competing against, so I thought I had no chance of winning, and then I got it.”
Nelson has been involved in FFA for six years. In addition to receiving the proficiency award at the state convention, she also received a state FFA degree. She said she intends to earn the American degree as well, something her sister achieved a few years ago.
Nelson’s future plans include attending South Dakota State University in Brookings in the fall and studying agribusiness. She said agribusiness is a broad field of study and she’s not yet sure what career path she will choose.
“I’d like to maybe eventually come back and farm, but I’ll probably work somewhere else just to get experience,” Nelson said.
Whatever she does in the future, she said it will likely involve agriculture. Nelson said she gained an appreciation for agriculture growing up on the family farm northwest of Pipestone and enjoys the work.
Her family grows corn and soybeans. Her father farms full-time and her mother works on the farm, teaches an online farm business management class at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls and works at the Orthopedic Institute in Pipestone.
Myn matt benda

Local native looking to go ‘from the feedlot to the House floor’

By Joshua Schuetz

A Jackson County native with a background in and deep appreciation for agriculture is seeking to represent his former home county in Congress.
Matt Benda, a 1988 graduate of Jackson High School and current Albert Lea attorney, is running for the First Congressional District seat vacated in February upon the death of former U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn.
Benda, who is running as a Republican, has three campaign issues he ranks as most important — energy independence, education and election integrity.
“One important thing for the First Congressional District is energy independence, and we need to use the tools we have in the district to achieve that,” he said. “I’m an ‘all of the above’ guy with respect to energy policy, so that means biofuels, ethanol, wind and solar energy, natural gas and fossil fuels, so I want to see us kickstart our shale fields and open up more to oil production.”
He wants to see the government allow the Keystone Pipeline to resume construction and has his eye on a seat on the House agriculture committee, a position he says would allow him to better advocate for farmers and energy producers, groups he said often intersect in southern Minnesota.
Education is his second major issue and like many in his party, Benda is campaigning on a parents’ rights platform. State Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would, among other things, require public schools to make curriculum content accessible to parents and allow parents to review instructional content. Benda endorsed those measures.
“At the congressional level, it’s more about playing defense on education than offense, which is handled more at the state level,” Benda said. “I believe we need to keep things accessible for parents and I believe that parents have the right to know what’s being taught in our schools.”
On election integrity, Benda said he favors voter Identification laws and combatting what he calls “dark money” influence in politics.
Benda gave the example of the Zuckerberg Foundation’s donations to various counties in Minnesota and elsewhere, ostensibly to weather the cost of administering elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, as examples of what he’s against, stating it creates conflicts of interest and risks harming the integrity of elections.
“I believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election, but I don’t think it was fair,” Benda said. “There were cases in Minnesota of the Zuckerberg Foundation giving money to counties and I think we need to investigate that.”
In his pitch to local voters during a recent swing through his home county, Benda emphasized his rural roots and said he understands the issues and concerns of citizens in the First Congressional District and would fight hard for them in Congress if elected.
“I’m not a politician,” he said, “and I’m the only candidate who’d be comfortable going from the feedlot to the House floor.”