Texas Ag Meets South Dakota Ag with Holly Rader

Having open conversations about food and farming with South Dakotans and the farmers who grow it is what we do. In fact, that’s what Hungry for Truth is all about. We had an exciting opportunity to connect born Texas native, Holly Rader, the Vice President of Member Relations at Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce with Jason Frerichs from Wilmot, South Dakota to chat about farming, calving, what planting season looks like, and what a day on the farm looks like. Below, Holly is sharing her perspective of her recent South Dakota farm visit. 

The adventure to get to know Jason Frerichs, from Wilmot, SD, and his family’s diverse ag operation started and ended on the dreariest of terms. It rained cats and dogs on my way to and from Wilmot, but the miraculous part of the journey was the three-hour visit with Jason. The clouds cleared as I approached an area of the state I had yet to explore. The fourth-generation farm is in the northeast corner of South Dakota, about 45 miles from the North Dakota border. The original homestead is on the east side of Wilmot, but now their headquarters and primary operations are on the west side of town.

Getting to know Jason was easy, and his passion for the ag industry and the rich family traditions of their business shined through quickly. Right off the bat, I gathered how much of a family business Frerichs’ farm is, as Jason mentioned his two daughters. He explained how much of a joy it is to see them want to help with chores in the morning and how excited they get to go check cows. Elizabeth (four) and Violet (one) are already proving to be an important part of getting things done around the farm!

After introductions, we headed into town where their family owns some land. His younger brother, Ryan, has a tree business and as we arrived, Ryan entered as well. However, he was hauling a pine tree the size of the Rockefeller Christmas tree! They relocate trees and use some of the trees on their farm to help as windbreaks. Ryan also runs some cattle and helps in other areas of the family farm. 

We went back to where we originally met and switched from the truck to the side by side! From there, we went to deliver a part to one of the family’s employees for the skid loader, and then made our way to the field that was going to be planted! They will spend about 3 weeks total, if everything goes as planned, planting soybeans on half of their cropland and the other half corn.

As we neared the John Deere equipment, Jason smiled and mentioned that his childhood friend, Jason, has been helping his family for years during planting and harvest seasons. Jason and Jason have been best friends since their Kindergarten year in elementary school. Unfortunately, I missed meeting his friend who was going to be planting the rest of the corn on this specific field. Jason said that they would normally be well within the midst of planting, however, this year has been so wet. They started on this particular field four days before but got rained out, so the other Jason would be finishing up the job that afternoon.

Along with Jason’s childhood friend, Aaron, which is Jason’s other brother, also assists with planting the corn. Typically, Jason sticks to planting all the soybeans. The family plants wheat and alfalfa on occasion, as well, but it didn’t sound like they were planning on adding those two additional crops into the mix this year. Jason and I chatted a little more about their preparation this year, as well as his new pride and joy – a new corn planter! The family is very blessed with the latest and greatest technology, he also stated. 

We then rode, ATV style, to where the cows were located in the Fall calving pasture! I watched all of the mama cows trot away as we chatted about their cow-calf operation. These Fall calving cows work nicely for them because the Spring is harder for them to calve due to the preparation of planting and the execution of planting season. The cows I saw in the pasture will calve in September and October, right before it’s time for their crop harvest! When I moved to South Dakota, I learned that many Midwest cattlemen calve in the Spring due to the harsh winters, so I had a lot of questions for him regarding their decision to transfer completely to a Fall calving season.

Jason told me that they are grateful to have enough sheds, barns, and shelter, in general, to be able to calve in the Fall and still have healthy weaned calves in the Spring! Although they are almost completely transferred to calving in the Fall, there is still a handful that just birthed! I was informed that we would be tagging the last calf in a little bit! Before leaving the Fall calving pasture, two “Canadian honkers” joined in on the conversation and Jason was thrilled to mention to me that conservation is an important role in their land. Over 40 years ago, his family raised Canadian geese on this land as a “fun project” and many decades later, the “honkers” still consider the Frerichs’ home their home, as well.

We went back to the farm’s headquarters and jumped in the big rig from there! We visited the corn bins and Jason got the truck loaded, while I took him up on the invitation to climb up the largest bin. As I walked up the hundreds of steps, I reflected on the afternoon. Something that stuck out to me more than almost anything else was the way Jason continuously talked about his family. The tradition and passion built into the Frerichs’ family foundation are unparalleled. I reached the top of the tallest corn bin and looked out, I exploded with joy! What a gorgeous view of years and years of hard work! 

As promised, Jason and I then tagged the last calf of the season. This one was special though… Violet is what the tag read. His daughters’ cows’ calves were the last two to hit the ground a couple of days prior. The cows’ names are also Elizabeth and Violet, so I’ll refer to the calves as the Juniors for sake of clarity. Elizabeth Jr. had already been tagged, but Violet Jr. hadn’t, and I was up for the challenge! Until that is, Violet Jr.’s mom had a dramatic, overprotective episode! I came as close as possible, while still being comfortable, but ended up letting Jason get the job done! Healthy and lively as can be, we left the pen of cattle, where we ended the day chatting with Jason’s dad, Kent.

I was curious about their Durocs sign at the entrance of their driveway and Kent was delighted to discuss their time in the pig business, specifically the Duroc breed. I could tell where Jason gets his passion from. In the most humble and sincere way, Kent explained that decades ago, they gave other hog breeders a run for their money at the South Dakota State Fair with their Durocs. Anyone could tell that Kent has a profound love for the pork industry and I loved having the opportunity to meet him and his last sow, Bella, before I departed for my two-hour trip back to Sioux Falls. As Jason started chores, I shook his hand and wished him all the luck, adequate weather, and blessings to him and his family this year.

Jason enjoys the lack of routine that his lifestyle provides; this is his favorite part! Every day is different, and he never knows what the next day will bring. Overall, the positivity and insights Jason shared throughout the day kept a smile on my face throughout our time together. However, many aspects of their business did not come up in conversation. The parts that didn’t get mentioned in our discussion were the negatives and risks of continuing in the family business: ups in supply and production costs, downs in the markets, blizzards and droughts, supply chain issues, government restrictions, and the list could go on… To have a purpose like Jason and his family is truly unique and, in my opinion, not talked about enough. They feed the world. So, if I still have readers to this point, I’ll end with if you’ve eaten today, please thank a farmer

Holly is the Vice President of Member Relations at Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and oversees many departments within it. To learn more about Holly connect with her via:
Instagram: @mrshollyrader
Facebook: Holly Rader