HURON, S.D. — Parade rancher and District 28-A Legislator Oren Lesmeister was recognized today [February 28, 2022], by National Farmers Union during the 2022 National Convention held in Denver, Colorado, with the Bruce Miller Award for his active involvement in state and national Farmers Union events as well as service to his state and community.
“This award recognizes individuals who demonstrate the mission and vision of Famers Union. Through his active involvement in our organization and his service as a State Legislator, Oren lives out our focus of serving South Dakota’s family farmers and ranchers,” says Karla Hofhenke, South Dakota Farmers Union Executive Director.
Lesmeister and his wife, Tracy, are the third generation to operate the cow/calf operation his great-grandfather homesteaded in the early 1900s. To supplement the ranch income, the couple also own and operate a feed store, Fox Ridge Ag Supply.
His passion for agriculture and its people led him to become active in South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) Lesmeister has lobbied for Farmers Union policy in Washington, D.C. and serves as the District 6 SDFU state board member.
“I appreciate the grassroots nature of this organization,” Lesmeister said. “This organization gives family farmers and ranchers a voice because at the end of the day, our policies and what we believe in, is member-driven.”
“My mom always said I have the perfect mouth for politics.” – Oren Lesmeister
And his passion for agriculture motivated him to serve as a state legislator.
“Today, even in South Dakota, our state is becoming more urban. It’s not a bad thing. But it is the reason we need to protect our way of life,” explained Lesmeister, District 28-A Legislator and Assistant Minority Leader. “There are more and more senators and representatives coming out of areas who do not understand what true farming and ranching life is like.”
Lesmeister says he became interested in politics nearly a decade ago when he was asked to drive to Pierre and testify. “Once I was sitting there listening to the discussion and testimony, I got interested in other bills that were being presented, so I started reading the bills,” Lesmeister said.
No stranger to public service – his parents were both actively served on several community boards – when the legislator representing his district termed out and asked him to run, Lesmeister jumped at the opportunity.
A gregarious guy and small business owner, Lesmeister enjoyed the campaigning and found himself paying close attention to customers’ political thoughts and comments, when they stopped by Fox Ridge Ag Supply for feed, seed or other supplies.
“Talking to my customers is a great way to understand what my constituents want. I am also blessed to know virtually every member of the tribal council because I either went to school with them, or I grew up as neighbors to them,” said the 1984 graduate of Cheyenne Eagle Butte High School.
Although he didn’t win the first time he ran, Lesmeister decided to give it another try in 2016 and secured a seat. Through his role as a South Dakota State Legislator and involvement in leadership of the state’s largest agriculture organization, Lesmeister said he works to continue to build bridges for family farmers and ranchers and provide a voice in the State Capitol for the issues that impact their farms, ranches, and families.