BROOKINGS, S.D. — Kim Vanneman was recently honored for her contributions to South Dakota during the 2023 South Dakota State University Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community recognition banquet held at the McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor Center on the SDSU campus Sept. 15.
Growing up on a Chamberlain cattle ranch, Vanneman spent most of her time outdoors helping her dad, Maynard Jensen.
“I truly enjoyed being outdoors and working with the cattle and horses and helping Dad. I was his right-hand girl,” Vanneman said. “I knew from an early age that agriculture was my passion and I wanted to stay involved.”
With a clear career focus, Vanneman majored in animal science at SDSU. She said in addition to gaining skills to enhance her ability to care for livestock, during her time at SDSU she developed a network of faculty and friends who she has remained in close contact with ever since.
“We have always told our kids that they needed to go to college not only to get a degree to help them do what they want to do, but also for the life skills and networking,” said Vanneman, who has three children together with her husband, Clint: Ambur Hinrichs, Ashley Kartak and Justin Vanneman.
Reflecting on life after college graduation in 1979, Vanneman’s plan as a young girl to stay actively involved in agriculture came to fruition.
She met Clint at SDSU and returned to his family’s crop and livestock farm near Ideal after they married in 1980. The couple worked to expand the operation so that, one day, their children would have the same opportunity Clint’s parents, Ryal and Peggy Vanneman, provided to them.
The farm has been in Clint’s family since his grandfather homesteaded the land in 1909. “We are currently in the process of transitioning the farm to the fourth generation, and we could not be more proud,” Vanneman said.
Today, all three of their grown children are involved in the family farm, with their son, Justin, actively engaged in the day-to-day farm management.
“We both say our greatest success is the fact we have three grown children who are married and involved in the agriculture industry,” Vanneman said.
She explained that as she and Clint have been transitioning farm management to Justin, they are following the example set by Clint’s parents.
“About five years after we married, they moved to town. Clint’s dad still came out to help on the farm, but there is just something about being the one who lives on the farm,” Vanneman said. “It makes you realize it is yours and you are responsible for what happens—good or bad.”
Supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers is a focus that for Vanneman extends well beyond her own family.
“The next generation is the lifeblood of the agriculture industry,” Vanneman said.
Helping the next generation was a focus of Vanneman’s when she first ran and was elected in 2007 to serve in the South Dakota Legislature. It motivated her to serve as chair of the House Agriculture Committee. Her desire to see the next generation of South Dakota agriculture producers succeed motivated her to apply to serve as South Dakota secretary of agriculture in 2019.
“I know the importance of having a seat at the table,” Vanneman said. “When it comes to my passion for agriculture, it is my desire to serve as an advocate to help our ag industry be sustainable and thrive.”
Vanneman worked to unify agricultural leaders during her time serving as secretary of agriculture.
“In the past it may have worked for each organization to promote their own commodity. But today, agriculture needs to have a unified voice connecting all the dots of the industry to give a clear message to consumers who do not know or understand agriculture,” Vanneman explained.
She remains a strong advocate for agriculture, having served and still serving on several boards: Farm Credit Services of America, Agtegra Cooperative, South Dakota Ag Foundation, Stockyards Ag Experience and Tripp County Community Foundation Advisory Board.
Vanneman said during her years of service in the Legislature and as secretary of agriculture, she often found herself calling upon not only a lifetime of production agriculture experience, but a childhood spent actively involved in 4-H.
“I owe a lot to my parents, Maynard and Marcella Jensen, of course, but I also owe a lot to my 4-H leaders, John and Florine Glaus,” Vanneman said. “They challenged us to be our best and made sure we all learned parliamentary procedure and how to speak in front of others.”
The Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family and Community award program began in 1927 and is sponsored by the SDSU colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and Education and Human Sciences. Honorees are nominated by people in their community based upon their efforts to contribute their time, talent and leadership to contribute to the betterment of family, communities, the state and the nation. Portraits of the honorees are displayed in a virtual gallery online. Niel Bien, of Veblen, was also recognized during the 2023 banquet.
To learn more about the award or to nominate an individual for the award, contact Angela Loftesness, Eminent Leaders in Agriculture, Family, and Community chair, via email or by calling 605-688-6732.
— SDSU CAFES