You are not alone.
This is the message South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) leadership and staff are working to convey to the more than 19,000 family farmers and ranchers they serve.
“Social distancing can become very isolating and we don’t want anyone to feel alone,” explains Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director. “Even though we are a rural state, we are a very social state. Until COVID-19, everyone was always going and doing. Now that we cannot leave the farm for church or a school sporting event, we want our members to know that we are in this together.”
To connect family farmers and ranchers, SDFU is utilizing communication tools the organization already has in place – a newsletter, website, social media and good old-fashioned phone calls.
“Working from our homes, farms and ranches our employee team is calling members just to check in, learn how COVID is impacting them, their farm and their family’s life,” Hofhenke explains.
The organization is asking members to also share their stories on social media and through an online questionnaire. As a grassroots policy organization focused on supporting family farms and ranches throughout South Dakota, SDFU is able to do more than listen.
“We serve as a voice in Pierre and Washington D.C. for our members. In the midst of this new crisis, we are sharing our members’ concerns and ideas with Congressional leaders on a daily basis,” says Doug Sombke, SDFU President. “Before COVID, our farmers and ranchers were already facing economic struggles due to factors out of their control. And now, they are dealing with price gouging as multi-national food processors somehow use this crisis as an excuse to pay less for commodities.”
Just knowing someone is listening helps, explains Dallas cattle producer and rural banker, Hank Wonnenberg. “There are a lot of depressed farmers and ranchers right now because of the poor economy and flooding. When I visit the Farmers Union website and see they are working on the issues important to us, it makes me feel heard. These are the times I know Farmers Union is working hard for its members.”
Like all parents of school-age children, Hank and his wife, Melissa have the added job of helping their daughters, Elizabeth, 8 and Lydia, 7 with remote school assignments. To learn about their experience, visit South Dakota Farmers Union Facebook page.
Do your part to keep South Dakotans connected
In addition to helping keep farm and ranch families connected with each other as well as information on agriculture issues, SDFU is using its website as a platform to share information about COVID-19.
“We want our members to have easy access to information and resources to help them stay safe,” explains Luke Reindl, SDFU Communications & Legislative Specialist.
A cow/calf and crop producer from Wessington Springs, Reindl says because he is used to daily face-to-face interaction with his colleagues, phone calls with members have been good for him too. “Interacting with members is what I and my colleagues love most about working for South Dakota Farmers Union. So, working from the farm has been a challenge. I love my family. But it is nice to visit with someone outside of my family; learn what is keeping them busy on their farm or ranch – just staying connected.”
SDFU encourages other businesses, organizations and individuals to reach out and help keep South Dakotans connected during these uncertain times.
“Making a phone call is a simple action, but it can have a big impact,” Hofhenke explains. “Even if you only have time to call one person each day. Know that it makes a difference. We are in this together.”
To learn more about the work SDFU does to support South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers, visit www.sdfu.org.