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A look at how three fathers include agriculture in their kids’ lives

There was a recent meme on Facebook of a silhouette of a father and son. The son is standing facing his father, but it looks like a piece of him is missing. The father, reaching out to the son holds out the missing piece which he has taken from his own body to make his son whole. And then you look at the father and realize there are many more missing pieces; pieces the father has given to his son in the past. Pieces he has shared, sometimes to his own detriment, to teach his child, to help his son learn all those things he has to share.

This is the essence of a good father. And this is profiled in the three people we will introduce you to through this article.

Kurt Stiefvater was raised on the farm northeast of Salem, S.D. where he now lives with his wife Kathy and three daughters, Lauren, Megan and Karlie. The girls, ranging in age from 12 to 15, are learning and have an interest in the farm operations and helping with the livestock.

“We farm about 1500 tillable acres with 500 acres rented pasture,” says Stiefvater. “The cow/calf enterprise is 140 cows, with back grounding the calves until about the first of March.”

So, this is one busy family. Stiefvater says his parents purchased the place in 1959 and he grew up alongside five siblings.

“The girls have been involved on the farm since day one,” he says. “They have grown up riding in the tractors and combine, and helping with the cow/calf operation. If we have orphaned calves, they help with the bottle feeding and raising the calves. They also help with the cattle records and help with whatever is needed on a day to day basis on the farm.

Stiefvater says it is critical to teach the next generation about agriculture.  The more removed from the farm each generation becomes, it becomes even more important to have them understand where their food comes from and what is involved to bring their food from field to table. 

“Kathy uses agriculture as a teaching tool as much as possible in the classroom to bring across how everything is ultimately a result of the earth,” he shared. “Using this platform, she has spoken to hundreds of school children to help them realize how important agriculture is, regardless of where they live.”

He says the work ethic on the farm is also something that is important, completing a task no matter the struggle, because there are so many others depending on you to get the job done.

“Our two older children are members of the McCook Central FFA program and have participated in the Agri-science fair for the past several years,” says this father of three. “Both of the girls have completed projects dealing with soil health and the benefits of no-till practices and taken them to the national level of competition.

For the past three years, Lauren has competed at the national level of National History Day; dealing with historical agriculture topics to bring awareness to the general public about events that have happened in South Dakota’s agricultural past that affect today’s farming practices and farm policy.” And guess where she learned about those topics? Right there on the family farm at the side of her hands-on father.

“Being a farmer is very adventuresome,” shared Stiefvater. “We must be independent workers and no two days are ever the same.  Life is never boring or repetitious, something that appeals to kids.”

“Our family experiences nurturing crops and caring for animals that come to fruition at harvest with the knowledge that you had a great impact on the outcome of production”, he says. And his three girls are right there beside him, taking those precious pieces of wisdom handed down from one generation to the next.

Stiefvater and his family will be hosting the SD Soil Health Coalition School this fall and the whole family will be involved. This is just one more way this father teaches his children through sharing pieces of himself and his world.

If there ever was a real teaching scenario where a father helps his children learn a whole host of different things, it would be on Lonetree Ranch in Meade County, where Larry Reinhold, along with his wife Robin, spend their days encouraging, explaining and praising their six children, Rachel, Molly, Danny, Caleb, Julia and Kiersten.

“We have raised our children in agriculture and ministry from the day they were born,” says Reinhold. “Agriculture and stewardship of God’s creation is so much a part of the education that they have been encouraged in. As we have homeschooled and also operate Rainbow Bible Ranch we unapologetically use our setting and biblical principle for the classroom. Each one has not only had hands on experience from a vocational experience, but benefited from the technical aspects as well.

The Reinholds have enjoyed raising Hereford cattle and quarter horses for years on the place his grandparents homesteaded in the 1900’s. He learned from his own father in a partnership in the early 80’s and his family continues that tradition. 

“All of our kids have learned to milk the cow, feed the chickens, doing chores involving livestock,” Reinhold shares. “They were involved in planting the garden yesterday. I believe that we have a golden opportunity to teach responsibility and stewardship to our children at a young age. Education with purpose can best describe teaching your kids the importance of doing their daily chores on the farm and ranch. Too many parents in agriculture have filled their schedules with “stuff” thus forgetting the privilege of teaching and working with some of the most important members of the next generation, our own kids. As they grow older, we realize the value and necessity of passing the baton. If we want our children to do it after we are gone, we need to allow them the opportunity to do it before we are gone.”

Larry and his wife show their children the enjoyment and fun that may be had here on the ranch. They love to explore and say they are rockhounds, finding artifacts, fossils and plenty of pretty rocks add a variety to their workday schedule. With homeschooling come opportunities to educate. 

“I remember one school day; I borrowed a couple of our kids to do some tasks with me.

Robin was feeling the squeeze as it was taking some time away from the “three Rs”. I simply said, “Robin, sometimes education needs a little redefining. Right now we have two of our kids bringing in over a hundred head of horses from out of the breaks. Not everyone is able to do that.

They will be better for it. We need to add another R to the three that has been greatly ignored and that is responsibility.” The farm and ranch is a wonderful place for hands on learning with lessons in science, math and communication abound.

“Never did I dream in my youth that I would be afforded the tremendous impact that many have experienced while they have been a part of the ranch and the family,” Larry shared. “Emanuel Reinhold was able to do that with his wife Hazel and their eight children to an extent. My Dad, Marvin (Tige), and his wife Voreta (Vicky), instilled into my brothers and sister and me the Godly principles and a desire to make a difference in the lives of people around us. And today, I am so blessed to not only be married to Robin, but also work together with her and our six children on the Lonetree Ranch and the ministry of Rainbow Bible Ranch.”

Each generation is passing to the next, those precious pieces of self to help their children learn.

Christopher Schauer and his wife Ronda, have five children between the ages of eight and 15; Kaden, Katy, Kelly, Kayla and Kortney. He grew up addicted to 4H horse projects and team roping in Hettinger, North Dakota and received his doctorate in Animal Science from Oregon State University. He returned to his hometown as an Animal Scientist for the NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center. But he and his family own and operate the Schauer Sheep Company, a purebred Polypay flock.

“All of my children are actively involved in Schauer Sheep Company, through 4H and FFA projects, and also selling registered sheep,” says Schauer. “We raise registered Polypay sheep enrolled in the National Sheep Improvement Program, and market them locally, regionally, and at the national level. My wife is also the Vo-Ag teacher and FFA advisor.”

Schauer says his children are actively involved with daily chores and help with marketing the sheep online. They are also involved with his research and extension work at the HREC, purely due to the fact that they live on the facility, and they are often his free labor on nights and weekends. They have their sheep located five miles from where they live.

“The ‘hands-on’ portion of their education comes through our personal sheep and daily chores, haying, etc.,” he says. “However, they also get to know my graduate students in my research program, giving them a personal connection to the rest of the animal science industry, not just the production side. Because both Ronda and I are 4H leaders, and she is the Vo-Ag teacher, our kids are truly ‘coach’s kids’ in the field of agriculture. They are present at all of our professional activities both as participants, but also as helpers, and sometimes instructors.  

Schauer said he and his wife want their children to succeed in life, regardless of the occupation they choose. The work ethic, responsibility, and professionalism that are taught through agricultural activities will be valuable to them regardless of where they choose to work in the future.

He feels that he was lucky to be able to come back to agriculture in his hometown without having a farm/ranch family to come back to. 

“That opportunity isn’t available to everyone, but I strive to provide similar opportunities to my children and high school and college students as well, by demonstrating there are plenty of opportunities in agriculture without having your own operation,” he says.

Since he and his wife are actively involved in leadership in 4H and FFA, their children receive pieces of this couple’s life and experiences.

Rainbow Bible Ranch