Hundreds of farm and ranch families plan to attend the 2023 South Dakota State Fair. And the state’s largest agricultural organization and the premiere sponsor of the State Fair has a full day of events to educate and entertain. Farmers Union Day at the State Fair is Saturday, Sept. 2. All activities will be held on or near the Freedom Stage.

“The State Fair is the largest agricultural fair in the state. It is where South Dakota’s agriculture families showcase their best livestock, crops and showmanship talents. It’s also where they come for information on relevant issues,” said Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union. “These are the reasons our organization sponsors the fair and hosts the activities we do.”

During the Farmers Union Day, South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) hosts a Farmer Share Lunch, Farm Safety Quiz Bowl and a Landowner Rights Forum.

“Landowner rights have been part of our organization’s policy since the beginning because for farmers and ranchers, our land is much more than our livelihood – it is our legacy,” explained Doug Sombke, President of SDFU. 

SDFU policy is established by its members. “We are not told what our policy is by the national organization. Our policy is developed at the local level based on what is important to our members. This is the definition of ‘grassroots,’” Sombke said. 

Landowner rights have received quite a bit of attention in recent months after the private corporation, Summit Carbon Solutions, began threatening to use eminent domain in order to install its pipeline on private land in South Dakota. 

“Threatening to use eminent domain instead of working with landowners is not respecting landowner rights,” said Oren Lesmeister, a Parade rancher, small business owner and District 28-A Legislator. 

Lesmeister and Sombke are among the South Dakotans discussing the issue during the public forum hosted by SDFU during Farmers Union Day at the State Fair. Other forum participants include Aberdeen farmer Craig Schaunaman; Jeff Kippley, Aberdeen farmer and Vice President of National Farmers Union and Brian Jorde, Managing Lawyer, Domina Law Group.

“I expect this to be a lively discussion with plenty of crowd participation,” Lesmeister said.

Sombke added, “State Fair draws South Dakotans from across the state. It is the perfect event to hold this forum so we can provide information and answer questions.”

Farmers Union feeds 1,000 fairgoers for the price farmers and ranchers are paid.

Providing food for others is a focus of South Dakota’s No. 1 industry of agriculture. And the Farmers Share Lunch helps consumers understand just how much family farmers and ranchers earn for the work they do. It’s a complete meal served by South Dakota Farmers Union and sold for a suggested donation of .42 cents.

“This nearly free lunch brings to light how much the middleman makes,” Lesmeister explained. “The price people pay for a steak at the meat counter is far from the price I receive. Thankfully beef prices are up this year, but my family only receives $2.64 for the $9.99 steak sold at the grocery store. And this goes for all commodities we raise here in South Dakota.”

Educating consumers as well as farm and ranch families is a large focus of South Dakota Farmers Union. The Farm Safety Quiz Bowl championships gives South Dakota teens an opportunity to sharpen and showcase their farm safety knowledge. 

“I have seen many farm and ranch families go through loss or injury due to accidents. It’s devastating. This quiz bowl is one of several ways our organization works to promote safety through education,” Sombke explained. “And because fairgoers of all ages watch the competition, the Quiz Bowl educates more than youth.”

Teams who qualified during the South Dakota State FFA Convention are Gettysburg, Selby Area, Platte-Geddes and Wolsey- Wessington.

Make a Wish Come True

During the South Dakota State Fair, SDFU will help make a dream come true, by sponsoring a wish Make A Wish South Dakota and Montana.

To learn more about the work South Dakota Farmers Union does to support family farmers and ranchers, visit

–South Dakota Farmers Union

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