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Hundreds of Photos Capture Life on S.D. Family Farms
South Dakota Ag Connection - 07/29/2020

Union Center rancher Deb Harwood was named the winner of the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) Spring Photo Contest. Winning a cash prize, Harwood is among many South Dakota farmers and ranchers who captured moments on their family's farm or ranch this spring and shared them with SDFU for a chance to win the cash drawing.

"In light of all the challenges facing South Dakota's family farmers and ranchers, we thought a photo contest would provide an uplifting activity," explains Karla Hofhenke, SDFU executive director.

Unlike some jobs, the pandemic hasn't changed work on farms and ranchers too much, explains the photo contest winner.

"We are secluded enough, and the work we do is pretty much the same. Of course, if something breaks down we have to go to town and it seems like it takes a lot longer to get parts," explains Harwood, who ranches with her husband Steve. The Harwood family has been raising cattle in South Dakota since homesteading days.

What COVID-19 did however, was dramatically decrease already depressed markets. On the Harwood Ranch because of the low markets, she and Steve had to put off some projects they'd planned to do this summer.

Harwood says the photo contest helped take her mind off the economics of ranching for a moment. "Photography is relaxing for me. With everything going on it takes my mind off it," Harwood says. "In the past I used to do quite a bit of photography, I have had several photos published in the Tri-State Livestock News. I had been wanting to get back to it and this contest reminded me how much I enjoy photography."

Her photos reflect what she and her husband, Steve and their grown children and their families' value about the work and lifestyle production agriculture provides.

"As a rancher, I like nature and to be outdoors. There is more of a feeling of freedom to ranch work. I like working with animals. It is neat to see each year, after several generations of working on their genetics, how the new calf crop turns out. It is satisfying to look at livestock and realize we raised them as babies, nurtured them and feed them the best and give them the best we can so they can thrive," Harwood says. "I also enjoy the fact that we are our own bosses. Ranching is an actual business. Many don't realize, who are not in ag, that this is a business. Yes, it is a way of life, but it is also a business."

View hundreds of images at Throughout the photo contest, SDFU posted submitted photos to its Facebook page daily.

"For safety of our members and staff, during the pandemic, we haven't been able to get out and see our members on their farms and ranchers or attend activities where we can see our producers. This photo contest was one way for state staff to stay in touch with members," Hofhenke explains. "It was also a great way to keep producers connected to each other. These photos helped remind all of us that although social distancing is isolating, we are not alone."

Harwood agrees.

"It is fun and fun to see other people's work. It gives people a chance to see what is all out there in our world of farming and ranching."

SDFU is hosting a fall photo contest Sept. 1-Oct. 31. Farmers and Ranchers at Work is the focus of this contest.

To enter, snap a photo of a family member working on your farm or ranch and enter it through the contest page on our website beginning Sept. 1. Each photo entered gives people a chance in the drawing for $250.

Everyone can participate. You don't even need a camera, cell phone photos work great. We're not looking for professional photos. We're looking for photos of farmers, ranchers and their families at work -- fall calving, harvesting, weaning calves, fixing fence, hauling grain to the elevator, etc., SDFU organizers said.

If you have issues uploading images to the website, email the photo in its original or largest file size along with a photo description (who is in the photo and what they are doing), along with the photographer's name, phone number and e-mail address to Union Farmer editor, Lura Roti at

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