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South Dakota Ag News Headlines
Double Your Donation for Farm Safety, Co-op Education
South Dakota Ag Connection - 11/25/2020

Supporting rural youth farm safety and cooperative education is the motivation behind Farmers Union Industries (FUI) dollar-for-dollar fundraiser. FUI will match all funds donated to South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation through Dec. 9.

"Education is important. It doesn't matter if you're 5 or 105," says Wayne Soren, a Kingsbury County crop and cattle farmer and vice president of South Dakota Farmers Union and a FUI board member.

Soren explains that due to COVID-19, the typical in-person fundraisers were cancelled. But S.D. Farmers Union still found a way to host youth education, developing a virtual, teen leadership camp. FUI found a way to fundraise virtually too. FUI will match every dollar donated to the Farmers Union Foundation for educational programming.

"If you typically support educational programming through one of our annual fundraisers which have been cancelled this year, like the golf tournament, silent auction or Night on the Prairie, please take advantage of this opportunity to have your support doubled," says Kirk Schaunaman, an Aberdeen farmer and FUI board member.

When asked why this is important, Schaunaman doesn't hesitate with his response. "They are the next generation. Plain and simple. The leadership education provided to rural youth through Farmers Union is information they don't receive in school or through other leadership organizations like 4-H and FFA."

Schaunaman and Soren speak from experience. Their now grown children were actively involved in Farmers Union youth programming. "Kids need to know the difference between a cooperative and a corporation," Soren explains. "If I do business with a cooperative, and the cooperative makes a profit, I receive money back at the end of the year because as a co-op member, I am a part owner in that co-op."

Teaching youth about the cooperative business model and farm safety are among educational opportunities unique to Farmers Union youth programming, explains Larry Birgen, a Beresford corn and soybean farmer, Birgen is an alumnus of the program. "There were seven of us kids, and we were all Torchbearers," Birgen says of the high honor Farmers Union presents to high school students who have participated in the organization's youth programming.

Throughout his farming career, Birgen served on the board of his local cooperative and, like Soren and Schaunaman, purchases all farm inputs from his local cooperative.

"My grandpa helped start a local cooperative. My dad served on the cooperative board. I have always had loyalty to cooperatives and do 100% of my farm business with the cooperative," Birgen says.

Farmers Union Industries is made up of several businesses - the dividends of which go to help fund Farmers Union organizations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin. The diverse business portfolio oversees includes grain-free pet food, hog processing, grease and animal rendering plants.

To donate and receive a dollar-for-dollar match, make checks out to South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation and mail to South Dakota Farmers Union, 1410 Dakota Ave. S., Huron, SD 57350. If you have questions, reach out to Karla Hofhenke, SD Farmers Union executive director at Karla@SDFU.org or call 605-352-6761.


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