BROOKINGS, S.D. - South Dakota Board of Regents and South Dakota State University Colleges of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and College of Education and Human Sciences will recognize four individuals with the Eminent Farmer/Rancher and Eminent Homemaker honor during a banquet Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Swiftel Center, Brookings, S.D.
Tickets are $15 and are available from the Office of the Dean of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, Ag Hall 131, SDSU Brookings, SD, 57007 or by calling, (605) 688-4148.
The 2011 Eminent Farmers/Ranchers honored are Vern Rausch, Hoven, S.D., and Arnold Wienk, Lake Preston, S.D. The 2011 Eminent Homemakers honored are Rebecca "Becky" Converse, Arlington, S.D., and Donna Robbennolt, Gettysburg, S.D.
Established in 1927, the awards recognize individuals for their contributions of leadership and service to the community on the local, state and national level. Each year SDSU selects four individuals to honor based on confidential nominations from across the state. The nominations are reviewed by a committee of SDSU faculty members, administrators, Extension personnel and upon approval of the dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and the dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, the recommendations go to the president of SDSU.
Rebecca "Becky" Converse, 2011 Eminent Homemaker, Arlington, S.D.
Born and raised in the Arlington community, Converse has been an active member of the community since childhood when she actively participated in 4-H and was a cheerleader. She is a founding member of the Arlington Community Foundation, a member of the Winsor Wives Extension Club which became the Share n' Learn Club, was a Sunday school teacher at Arlington United Methodist Church and, in 2009, was honored as the Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce "Person of the Year."
Converse and her husband, Loren, raised four children; Ken, Kamilla Converse, Kristen Dirks and Karyn Weber, on a farm. While their children were growing up, Converse stayed at home and was actively involved with the farm. In 1980, she returned to SDSU to complete a fine arts degree. She worked part-time as a florist in Brookings.
When serving her community, Converse is not one to work alone. She has a knack for uniting groups of volunteers to get things done.
As a museum volunteer she and other volunteers had been collecting and preserving community artifacts for years. They were instrumental in preserving and restoring the Country School Museum, a one-room schoolhouse moved to Lake Arlington.
For many years the group was instrumental in displaying Arlington's artifacts in various locations around the city. Recently, the group decided it was time to secure a permanent location to showcase the community's heritage. The Arlington Community Museum committee was formed. Working with the local Masons and enlisting the aid of high school athletes, the group restored the historic Masonic Lodge and converted it into the Arlington Community Museum.
Converse was instrumental in designing the interior exhibit layout and helped organize volunteers to work on setting up displays. The museum opened in May 2011.
Donna Robbennolt, 2011 Eminent Homemaker, Gettysburg, S.D.
When Donna Robbennolt is passionate about something, she works hard to share her passion with others in her community.
At a young age Robbennolt developed a strong interest in art when her school teacher introduced her to drawing and painting as a seventh-grader in a one-room schoolhouse. Only a few years later, when she became a country school teacher at the young age of 17, she worked to introduce her students to art as well. As a young mother, she provided her three children with opportunities to share her passion. Throughout her life, she has shared this passion for art and art education with the community of Gettysburg by dedicating many volunteer hours to fundraising and organizing events and activities which bring culture, arts and art education to the rural community.
Serving many leadership roles throughout her community, Robbennolt has also been in the American Legion Auxiliary, she served as District 10 president, led the brick fundraiser for the Legion Annex, served as head of the education committee and was named Legionnette of the Year twice.
An active member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, she has served on the St. Mary's Hospital Foundation. While on the foundation board, she worked to meet the health needs of people in central South Dakota working with the Regional Coordinated Care Network to help identify serious health issues and develop collaborative approaches to meeting these needs. She was named queen at the Hospital Auxiliary Spring Fling in 1992.
In 1988 she was recognized as the Gettysburg Citizen of the Year.
Serving on the board of directors of the Dakota Sunset Museum, Robbennolt was instrumental in helping secure a new building for the museum and played a key role in obtaining a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute, "Produce for Victory," for the museum.
Along with securing the exhibit for a year, Robbennolt worked with community groups to establish a Victory Garden and organized a group of high school students to put together a 1940s style show and helped line up talent for a USO show. Impressed by these creative activities, the Smithsonian used Gettysburg as an example for other communities to follow.
Robbennolt and her late husband, Gene, raised three children; Mark, Michelle Izzillo and Steve, on a farm near Gettysburg. Like her children, Robbennolt also grew up on a farm. 4-H and Extension became another life-long passion of hers.
Vernon Rausch, 2011 Eminent Farmer/Rancher, Hoven, S.D.
A true trailblazer, Vernon Rausch isn't afraid to step out as a pioneer.
Whether it's being the only one of his brothers to attain a college degree, or lead a group of cattlemen to D.C. with the intentions of influencing international trade policy, or to become the first Hereford breeder to host an Internet sale - if there's a challenge in need of a new solution, Rausch is up for the task.
Rausch is quick to add that he is able to be involved in activities off his large purebred Hereford operation he runs with his brother, Jerry, and their sons because of his family's support.
Rausch and his wife, Sharon, raised their four sons and one daughter - Shannon, Trudy Morgan, Dana, Joel and Nick - on the family's Hoven farm. He and his brothers, Jerry and Harlan, his sons, Joel and Shannon, and his nephews, Rick and Gary, and several grandchildren operate the largest purebred Hereford operation in the United States - Rausch Hereford Farms. A third-generation Potter County farmer, Rausch's family got into raising registered Herefords when he was only 4-years-old and his older brothers and sisters purchased Herefords as their 4-H project. The family recently hosted their 52nd annual bull and female sale.
For several decades, Rausch has unselfishly volunteered his time advocating for South Dakota agriculture and the Hereford industry. As a member of the Hoven FFA Alumni, he facilitated the North Central Livestock judging schools for 4-H and FFA members for more than 25 years and for more than 45 years his family has donated a heifer to a freshman FFA student, as part of the Hereford Heifer Grant. Recognized for his service to youth in agriculture, Rausch received the Honorary State and Chapter FFA degrees and South Dakota FFA Distinguished Service Award. He was a Potter County 4-H leader, served on the Potter County Fair Board and Potter County Planning Commission. As a member of the Potter County Steering Committee, Rausch helped fund a study that investigated irrigation potential from Blue Blanket Aquifer and currently serves as the co-chairman of the Hoven Service Club.
In 1977, he was recognized as the Hoven Service Club Man of the Year.
Throughout the years, Rausch has served in leadership positions and on the board of the South Dakota Hereford Association, the American Hereford Association and Certified Hereford Beef. He was a founding member of the South Dakota Beef Breeds Council. He and his operation have been recognized by several industry organizations.
Arnold Wienk, 2011 Eminent Farmer/Rancher, Lake Preston, S.D.
Doing what he can to benefit the people and product of the beef industry has been Arnold Wienk's mantra throughout his 53-year career as a registered Charolais seedstock producer.
A commercial cattleman when he purchased his first Charolais bull, Wienk was looking to improve his herd's genetics. After seeing the benefits crossbreeding yielded in his herd, the Lake Preston cattleman knew he couldn't keep the breed a secret.
"The average purebred operation only lasts seven years. There were many times when we were pretty close to the bottom of the class in the show ring, but would end up selling a truck load of cattle to a cattle producer who saw us at the fair and liked what they saw," said Wienk, who operates Wienk Charolais with his wife, Carol, daughter and son-in-law, Jody and Jeff Eschenbaum, and now his oldest grandson, Sterling Eschenbaum and his wife, Courtney.
While he and his family were busy growing their seedstock business, Wienk also invested his time in promoting the Charolais breed. In the early days, he had to petition the State Fair Board for three years before they would allow the breed to exhibit. He is a founding member of the Upper Midwest Charolais Association, the South Dakota Charolais Association and Kingsbury County Cattlemen's Association. He served as president of the American International Charolais Association and was on the National Cattlemen's Beef Board.
A true family operation, Wienk's five daughters, Deb Vedvei, Kim Jensen, Peggy Nolz, Jody Eschenbaum and Amy Bailey were all actively involved in the day-to-day operations of raising cattle and feedstuffs.
Four of Wienk's five daughters and their families are still involved in the livestock industry. Three have operations within 2 miles of the farm Wienk was born and raised on.
The family has been actively involved in 4-H and supported 4-H, FFA and collegiate judging teams for several years.