Kelsey Geraets Steps Up on South Dakota Corn Growers Association Board
Growing up on a family farm near Colton, Kelsey Geraets never had a doubt that she loved her lifestyle and wanted to farm someday. That goal came sooner than she had anticipated when shortly following graduation from South Dakota State University with an Animal Science degree and an Ag Business and Marketing minor her parents, David and Katti, asked her to join their operation as Feedlot Manager for their 2,000 head of cattle. “I initially got interested after my parents offered me a job after college. I didn’t ever think that I would end up running the feedlot as soon as I did but I had to step up right out of college because my family needed me.”
Kelsey shares, “I got a lot of grief when I told people I was going back to the farm. People thought it was a waste of money to even go to college then. Because of that, I am trying to be that women that younger me would have looked up to and modeled herself after. I am just trying to be someone that younger Kelsey would be so proud of. I just wish I had someone like me to look up to when I was young, someone who could have given me confidence in my decision to go back to the farm.”
Not only was her decision to farm questioned by many of her peers, the challenge of entering an industry that has an average age of 57 was also somewhat unnerving. However, bucking the system has never been an issue for Kelsey and going after what she wants is second nature to her. “Young farmers have a huge gap to lessen and some big shoes to fill! It makes me feel like a young fish in a big pond; a little intimidated. But there isn’t any better time than the present to start changing that statistic.”
Her passion for farming has also driven her to look beyond her own personal investment to a much broader scale, in part by serving on the South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) Board of Directors. “A community member recommended me as he thought I was a great leader. Before joining, I had no idea what the SDCGA was or what they did. After attending some meetings, it was apparent how good communication between Congress and producers on-the-ground is important and how the board role works to fill the gap. Being a member has allowed me to become more involved and feel more heard as a producer when it comes to policy.”
Joining in a year when the farm bill is on the table has been an eye-opening experience for Kelsey. While politics are not an especially popular topic of discussion with her friends, she believes the SDCGA is a perfect way to gain knowledge and get involved in agricultural policy work that is meaningful for South Dakota farmers from a grassroots level. “I would encourage young farmers to join because as much as we don’t like policy, it is a huge part of our industry. Especially in a year like this with the farm bill, it is crucial for our voices and issues to be heard in Congress.” She adds, “Joining when you’re young allows you to take advantage of the time that you have to spend promoting corn now before you get busier later in life.”
Kelsey knows that growing up on a family farm has taught her the value of hard work and determination that are necessary to get what she wants out of life. She also feels that no other profession would give her the satisfaction and drive that farming does. Protecting this is why her commitment to SDCGA is so strong.
She notes, “Without the SDCGA, we would be silenced. We wouldn’t have a voice. You think people in Congress are going to come to individual producers when it comes to deciding safety net issues in the farm bill? Heck no. By being a leader of your peers you become the voice with the board being your medium.”