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Farmers Union 2023 Photo Contest Winners Announced

By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

Photographers from across South Dakota captured life on family farms and ranches and entered these photos in South Dakota Farmers Union Celebrating Life on the Family Farm & Ranch photo contest.

The 2023 winners have been selected: in the 4-H Member category, Faith Kashas of Vermillion; in the Fieldwork category, Becky Rose of Chamberlain; in the Livestock category, Samantha Swanson, Highmore; in Farm Scene category, Kodi Retzer, of Long Lake; and in the Working on the Farm/Ranch category, Patti Johnson of Watertown.

“Through these images we are given a wonderful glimpse into life on so many of South Dakota’s family farms and ranches,” explained Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union. “Farmers Union is always looking for ways to showcase and celebrate the families who make up South Dakota’s number one industry and this photo contest is a wonderful way to do this.”

Get to know the photographers:

Faith Kashas of Vermillion is 11 and in the sixth grade at Vermillion Middle School. She is active in 4-H photography and shooting sports. Her winning photo was taken at a local vegetable farm – it’s a photo of an okra blossom.

“We get fresh fruit and vegetables from Heikes Farms and I took this photo when I was volunteering to help pick vegetables there this summer,” Faith said. “I enjoy photography because it is fun and it tells the story behind something.”

Becky Rose of Chamberlain works on her family’s cattle ranch together with her husband, Jesse and their sons Dusty, 17, Austin, 14, Ty, 11 and Lane, 6. And when she’s out checking cattle or packing silage, Becky is also taking out her phone to snap a photo.

“I’m a huge photo fan. I love taking photos because they are a great reminder. Part of the reason I post photos to Facebook is a year later they pop up and I get to see what we did that day or what the weather was like.”

Rose took the winning photo as she was bringing a late supper out to the silage crew. “It was so hot that week and we had a major breakdown, so we were running late that night. It was 11 p.m. when I brought the second supper out to the crew and took this photo.”

Samantha Swanson of Highmore says when she needs a break from nursing school and work at the Miller Hospital, she will help her boyfriend or brother-in-law work cattle.

She actually took her winning photo one summer evening when she and her boyfriend were putting out mineral for cattle on his family’s farm near Redfield.

“I could not change careers unless it meant I could still get out with the livestock,” said Swanson who grew up on her family’s feedlot and cow/calf operation near Clark.

She adds that because she works in a rural hospital, agriculture is an interest and passion she shares with many of her patients.

Kodi Retzer, of Long Lake returned to her family’s cattle operation to work fulltime after graduating from Lake Area Tech College with a degree in Farm and Ranch Management this spring.

“I always knew this was where I wanted to be,” said Retzer a fourth-generation cattle producer.

Retzer’s timing was a gift to her family because her dad, Gerard passed away this January. She works with her mom, Kay, sister, Prairie and brother, Colton.

She took her winning photo one evening while stacking bales. “The sun was setting and I saw the sunflowers growing on the edge of the field and thought it would be a cool photo.”

In addition to cattle, Retzer also enjoys working with the family’s horses.

Patti Johnson of Watertown said it doesn’t matter if it is 100 degrees out or below zero, her youngest son, Cooper, 3, wants to drive his tractor around the farmyard.

“He wants to drive the tractor because his dad drives the tractor everyday to feed cattle,” explained Johnson, who teaches eighth-grade English in Watertown.

Cooper also likes to feed cattle with his own grain bucket. He is the subject of Johnson’s winning photo.

“We let him feed this pen of steers because they are gentle,” she said, adding that she is happy Cooper and his older brother, Kade, get to grow up on the farm.

“I enjoy the fact that they can go outside and play and there is room for them to explore and I don’t need to worry about them being too loud for the neighbors,” Johnson said.

To enjoy more photos by these photographers and other photos of life on South Dakota family farms and ranches, visit www.sdfu.org and click on Photo Contest under the News and Events tab.

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