By Colleen Brunner

“It’s hard, it’s stressful, but it’s nothing new,” says David Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist, working out of the Rapid City, S.D. office. “You have to have a plan.”

Many farmers and ranchers in the tri-state area of northwest South Dakota, southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming have been struggling into their second year of a severe drought situation. But Ollila says that if they make a plan on what they are going to do if the drought continues and then stick with it, they can find a way out on the other side.

(Many) farmers and ranchers in this area know what to do in a drought situation, Ollila believes. But they have to be willing to follow the plan they lay out. SDSU Extension service helps with creating that plan with information as well as nitrate testing on forages, and livestock water suitability testing to determine whether the water will cause problems such as copper deficiency which causes polio.  

Ollila said the Cottonwood Range Research station at Philip, S.D. which records rainfall levels, has shown that since 2000 there have been 12 years where the rainfall in the three months of April, May and June was less than half the average for those important months.

“We are used to being in drought,” says Ollila. “There are two things that have caught people up though including the ‘new normal’ we got used to with abundant moisture from 2013 to 2015.” He said one is the fact that, with abundant rainfall in 2013 to 2015, producers became used to a The other is that the cost of operating went up, causing the producers to run more head to make the same amount of money.

Gary Deering, President of the South Dakota Stockgrowers, says he and his family have been fortunate in being able to hold on to most of their herd, and not have to resort to outside jobs to maintain the ranch. He lives and works with parents, Pat and Frankie, his wife Jessica, and three boys. But it hasn’t been easy, and they are making substantial changes to their operation, including buying hay, shipping some of their cattle to feedlots east river sooner than normal, and applying for specific programs such as the Emergency Conservation Program.

“This program is helping us dig a well and get a pipeline out to our pastures that have no water,” says Deering. “This will get water where we need it, and also help our grazing distribution.” Deering says they have also received some financial assistance through FSA due to their D3 drought designation to help with purchasing hay and send cows out to other areas.

“Someone told me several years ago, and I have found it to hold true,” says Deering, “That the sooner you start your drought plan and culling process, the fewer that will have to be culled in the end. So I have been keeping this in mind the last couple of years, even though, not unlike any other rancher, selling cows is one of the hardest decisions to make.”

Deering says he appreciates the Stockgrowers and also the Beef Council which oversees the beef checkoff program to help promote beef and fund research. He said that he is proud of how cattlemen, listening to each other, find ways to work together.

Deering says the biggest challenge to a drought is the unknown, the not knowing if this is the year it breaks or if it will go on.

“Multiple years can be scary,” he says. “We have seen many droughts in western South Dakota, and no different than this one. We could come out of it by receiving abundant moisture this spring, or it could hang on and be a three-year drought.”  

“Another year would be a devastating blow to our region, however, having the ability to adapt to the ever-changing conditions, will once again get us through this challenge, and into greener pastures.

Another Meade County rancher, Larry Reinhold who runs Lone Tree Ranch and Rainbow Bible Ranch east of Sturgis says things have not been good since they were hit hard with Storm Atlas.

“Our area has been in the grip of drought for better than two years now,” says Reinhold. This has put a tremendous strain on feed supplies, ponds, and reservoirs. The big dam they use for camp water activities is mostly dry and this “pushes the staff,” according to the owner.

The family lost all the fish in the big dam, including walleye up to 24” long. “You don’t get a fishery like that back overnight.”

They tried to keep young trees watered and lost a number of landscape trees. And they are plagued by prairie dogs which thrive on the short grass areas.

“We continue to trust the Lord and have seen people from outside the area step up to meet the needs,” says Reinhold. “We are going to try and keep our basic cowherd and we must maintain our saddle horses for the camp.” Reinhold says it is difficult to watch the “slow death” that drought brings.

Kevin and Collette Kirsch ranch in southwest North Dakota in Billings County, 20 miles north of Dickinson. They too have had to make changes and think about their long-term outlook.

“We had a severe hail storm in 2016 at harvest time and did not make a lot of hay in that year,” says Kirsch. Killing frosts up to June in 2017 and a hot and dry June and July, made the hay situation sparse, causing them to hay wherever they could, including crop acres.

“Government programs help somewhat financially,” says Kirsch, “But having the production is always a better return.” Kirsch, who has been a board member of the local CHS Grain Coop since 1993, says he has learned the struggles and benefits of knowing how crops are marketed, as well as opportune times to purchase inputs such as seed, fertilizer, and chemicals. 

The couple’s calf operation is run solely by them, with sporadic help from grown children or hired help. They have a cow/calf operation with about 125 cows which they have reduced to 100 head. 

“I am downsizing in three years by canceling all leased acres and partnership cattle,” says Kirsch. “We may continue with owned acres and cattle ‘till 2024 or quit before then.” The farm they bought in 1973 when he was just 19 years old, where he and his wife have raised three daughters and a son, will probably not stay in the family. 

“We have a strong Christian faith and believe that God sees us through all times, good or bad,” says Kirsch. “We trust in Him to provide.”

Ollila, as both a producer himself and as part of the SDSU Extension team, encourages farmers and ranchers to be smart. He says that if they make a plan, stick with that plan and look for any other ways they can make it through, that the end of the drought is in sight. It may be a while yet, but it will end.


Colleen Brunner is a freelance writer based in Newell, S.D. contact her at collenkbrunner@gmail.com

Cattle Business Weekly

Rainbow Bible Ranch

November 28, 2017 – By #Guest Writer - Chelsea Hulstein

Rainbow to me was always like a second family. I never felt out of place but like I belonged to a great family of believers. Working there it was easy to live out my faith and once I left and grew up I found it harder and harder. I always wondered what I was designed for because I never had a big struggle or devastating moment that pushed me to my knees. 


That changed the most when my husband and I decided to start a family. It was not as easy as I thought and we went thru many years of infertility. Those years I was brought to my knees and had to let go of my pride and let God take over. It was hard and it’s still hard sometime. I began devotionals and began writing down all the verses that spoke to me directly and hung them around my house. As things started falling into place they still weren’t easy and we ended up doing 2 rounds of IVF with miracle after miracle, doctors all the could say is we don’t know how this happened. But I know exactly how it happened, Gods hand was there. I am not sure if I would have known where to turn or what to do next if my family and Rainbow hadn’t taught me about the one true God! I am thankful every day! I always say to everyone that this was our journey to bring us closer to God and he’s not finished yet. This past March we witnessed another miracle and loss all at the same time. We were expecting our third child but I lost the baby at 7 weeks. Now we have a little angel baby in heaven. That devastated me and was hard on our family but so many Christ followers who heard my story said, don’t worry God had something big planned and I agree 🙂 our family isn’t finished yet and I can’t wait to see where God takes us. Thank you Larry Robin Reinhold for instilling in us the importance of trusting our God and getting closer to him.

Rainbow Bible Ranch

November 16, 2017 – By #Deb Holland (Rapid City Journal)


If you are looking for homemade pies for your holiday feast, look no farther than Rainbow Bible Ranch.
This year's Pie Auction, a fundraiser for the ranch, will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The first Pie Auction fundraiser was in 2011, said Larry Reinhold, whose family owns and operates Lonetree Ranch, home to Rainbow Bible Ranch. 

The event was a way to not only raise funds for the work of Rainbow Bible Ranch, which hosts youth summer camps, but also to share the opportunity and "sense of ownership" with some teenagers who attended camp and have served as staff members.

"Even today, the majority of the pies are from these kids and their families. The projects that have benefited in past are chosen with the idea in mind that the kids will relate to them as being an important part of the program at RBR, especially in the summer camp program," Reinhold said.

In the past, funds have helped to buy a pontoon boat and kayaks. After the devastating storm in the fall of 2013, the money helped in the restoration of areas at the ranch.

"We had so many trees damaged in that storm, and with the money raised we were able to purchase trees to not only restore but to enhance the setting as well," Reinhold said.

This year, youths in Rainbow Bible Ranch's Legacy programs will conduct the auction. The ranch offers camps for older youths called Legacy I and Legacy II during the summer. Then, throughout the year, youths from these programs meet for Legacy III Bible study and fellowship at Main Street Square in Rapid City.

Reinhold said the auction will feature nearly 60 homemade pies.

Funds raised this year will go toward some "not quite finished" projects, including finishing a tack room for all the equipment used by the campers, adding another cabin at Misty's Meadow and assisting in completing the Country Chapel where Sunday evening services will be held during the summer months.

Rainbow Bible Ranch had another record-breaking year in attendance, with 483 campers from 12 states this past summer.

"It is our continued desire to keep the camp fees as minimal as possible so that many families can enjoy what the ranch offers," he said.

Reinhold admits that the camp fees are about half of what it actually costs to host a camper.

"The Pie Auction is our only public fundraiser and proves to be a fun time of fellowship as people from all over bid to own a pie," he said.

Reinhold said some have already placed requests for certain pies, and one woman says she will send a contribution if a certain baker will share her recipe for a very popular pie.

"It is going to be a great night," he said.

Rainbow Bible Ranch

October 9, 2017 – By #Deb Holland (Meade County Times)

When neighbors are in need, leave it to South Dakotas farmers and ranchers to step up.
Such is the case with Rainbow Bible Ranch.
Drought conditions in central and eastern Meade County resulted in meager hay production this summer. Larry Reinhold knew that the 22 bales of hay they put up this summer would not sustain both the ranch's horses and cows over the winter. 

Meade County Times article

Meanwhile, about 320 miles to the east, Ken and Lynn Wintersteen were blessed with abundant rains that translated to four cuttings of hay.

"When our neighbors are hurting for hay and we have extra, we feel obligated to share," Lynn Wintersteen said.

The Wintersteens' daughter attended Rainbow Bible Ranch camp when she was younger. Lynn Wintersteen said it's sad to see fellow ag producers suffering.

"They do so much good for so many young people," she said.

The Reinholds took the Wintersteens up on their offer but still knew they needed someone to get the hay from one locale to another. Larry Reinhold said he had heard from a young girl who attended camp at Rainbow Bible Ranch how Farm Rescue had helped her family when her father was ill with cancer.

"We filled out a simple application and here rolls in this load of hay on Saturday," he said.

That was 25 tons of hay, to be exact. And another truckload arrived on Monday evening from friends and neighbors of the Wintersteens who had heard about the ranch's plight.

"It's pretty big and very welcome," Reinhold said. "Some would probably fault me for my faith and hope that God is always going to provide, but we trust him."

The Reinholds are being realistic about the whole situation. Larry Reinhold knows that, like other ranchers nearby, he will have to sell down more cows so that all the livestock can make it through the winter.

"We just can't bring in that much feed and make it work out," he said.

Carol Wielenga, operations director for Farm Rescue, a nonprofit organization that provides planting, harvesting or haying assistance free of charge to farm and ranch families, said she was proud to drive the load of hay and drop it at Rainbow Bible Ranch.

"If a rancher is asking for help, they usually need the help, because they are usually too proud to ask for help," she said. "They have this entrepreneurial spirit. They've always done it themselves and want to stand on their own. But there is a point at which they can't do it that season or year, and that's where Farm Rescue can step in and get them to the next season."

This is the second year that Farm Rescue has stepped in with hay. The group accepts applications from ranchers who are seeking hay to fill the void left by unseasonably dry weather or fires in the Dakotas and Montana. The nonprofit then serves as an intermediary between ranchers in need and producers with additional hay available for transport.

Last year Farm Rescue delivered about eight loads of hay. This year it has delivered more than 100.

"Initially we were trying to give hay, but with so many applications coming in, the way we could help the most people is by hauling it," Wielenga said.

She said they have trucks hauling in all locations currently when they have the volunteer drivers to do so.

Wielenga says seeing the look on the rancher's face when she pulls in is amazing.

"This puts the purpose in your miles. They are in need and very appreciative," she said.

Wielenga, who grew up in Corsica, said she has seen more of her home state in the past week or so than she had her whole life.

"It's really a beautiful thing when you can meet people in your home state and thank them for the part they play in feeding the world. Each one is so important. Building relationships with them has really been a blessing," she said.

Rainbow Bible Ranch

January 24, 2017 – By #Sandy Rhoden

The 19th Annual Women's Winter Retreat will be held on Feb.24-25. Their main speaker this year will be Robin Reinhold. She and her family operate Rainbow Bible Ranch east of Sturgis. Many women from Meade County and the Faith area attend this each year. It will be held at the Calvary Baptist Church south of Rapid City. They will begin on Friday at 5:30 with fellowship, registration, and a meal. It will conclude on Saturday with the closing at 2:20 p.m. For more information, one can call Lori Wilken at 605-788-2855 or cell: 605-515-3786; email: glwilken@sdplains.com. Or you may email Linda Olsen at lolsen@lakotanetwork.com or Cell: 200-1311. The main theme is "Equipped with the Living Word of God."

Rainbow Bible Ranch

September 11, 2016 – By #sandy Rhoden
On Sunday, September 25 the annual Meade County Sunday School Convention will be at the Community Baptist Church in Union Center. The theme this year is "The Sovereignty of God". Registration will start at 9:00 and continue until 11:00 am. Sunday School classes for all ages will be at 9:30 - 10:45 am. The morning service will be at 11:00 am with Larry Reinhold followed by a pot luck dinner. The afternoon's speaker will be Larry Reinhold with specials from each Sunday School class as well as the attendance award presentation.

Rainbow Bible Ranch