For Steve Schmeichel, his home west of Hurley, South Dakota, has been his home for all but five years of his life – and even then he was only 4 miles away.
The Steve and Debra Schmeichel family has been selected as the 2019 Sioux Empire Livestock Show Farm Family of the Year by the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Agri-Business Division.
“It was right after I got married and my folks still lived here at that time,” Schmeichel said of his four years living away from the farm.
He and Debra met when they were in high school at Freeman Academy. Schmeichel spent two years at Freeman Junior College where he learned more about agriculture and played basketball before he started farming full time.
Schmeichel grew up on a hog and cattle operation. When he was a sophomore in high school, he bought two bred gilts at the South Dakota Yorkshire sale and started raising purebred hogs. He sold a lot of boars to commercial producers in the area, but also exported some to Mexico and Korea.
Today, he still raises some purebred hogs, but most of Schmeichel’s hog operation is a 140 sow farrow-to-finish operation with a 2,400-head custom feeding barn. In addition to hogs, they also run 60 cow-calf pairs, plus farm about 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans. Next spring, he and seven other local families plan to start construction on a 5,400-head sow operation.
In addition to the farming and livestock operation, Schmeichel also runs S&S Ag Supply LLC. His grandpa started selling seed 50-60 years ago and then his dad sold seed. Now Schmeichel sells Channel seed and his son, Ethan, daughter, Paula VerDouw, and friend Joe Schaefer are partners in the business. They sell wood pellet grills, heaters, Exmark lawnmowers and precision ag equipment.
“We don’t farm by the acre anymore, we farm by the inch and it’s getting to be that way technology-wise. We throw all this precision stuff on our planters and then on our combines and map it all and we variable rate our fertilizer and variable rate our seed. The only thing we haven’t been able to figure out is we haven’t been able to variable rate the rain at the right time,” he said.
Schmeichel is glad to have two of his three children involved in the family business. He never thought his oldest daughter, Paula, would have any interest in the farm operation when she got her degree in accounting from Augustana University.
“It’s the people that you have around you that make things better and understand what you’re doing. We’re pretty fortunate that we have family that’s interested,” Schmeichel said. “I would’ve never thought my oldest daughter would be interested in the farm. She was watching us and we had too much going on and we weren’t doing timely billing or keeping track of everything we sold. Paula brings accountability to all of us.”
The Schmeichels’ son, Ethan, went to South Dakota State University for three years before returning home to farm. He and his family live a half mile from the farm. Their other daughter, Susan Harder, is an art therapist at Avera in Sioux Falls.
Besides farming and running S&S Ag Supply, Schmeichel has spent nine years serving on the National Pork Board and some years on the South Dakota Pork Producers Council. Most recently, he has spent the last 12 years as a Turner County Commissioner. His final term was up at the end of 2018.
“That’s been good, but I’m also a believer of you need new blood,” he said. “I’m still big on doing as much as you can do, especially of things you have a passion about.”
Schmeichel remembers his grandfather having a cow give birth to quadruplets in the fall of 1955 and they displayed them at the Sioux Empire Farm Show in 1956. He also recalls bringing hogs to the show to sell bred hogs.
“That goes back to when the farm show as down at the Coliseum. We had bred gilt sales. We had wooden pens,” he said.
Schmeichel said agriculture continues to be an important economic driving factor for the Sioux Falls area. He remembers growing up they would take a load of hogs to the Sioux Falls Stockyards and then eating at the Stockyards Cafe and shopping at Sioux Nation, Campbell Supply and other stores before heading home and stopping in Lennox for parts.
While they ship hogs differently today than when he was a kid, Schmeichel said agriculture is important to the area.
“If we’re in Sioux Falls, we’re going to stop for whatever we need or we stop in Lennox on the way home.
“Agriculture will support all of these communities and the Sioux Falls area. Without that, I think people would be really, really surprised,” Schmeichel said.