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Range Roundup: South Dakota Women on the Range

South Dakota Women on the Range Logo: A white cowboy hat with a blue band that has two sunflowers tucked in it.

Originally written by Jessalyn Bachler, former SDSU Extension Range Field Specialist.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture found that 36% of total U.S. agriculture producers are women, indicating a 26.6% increase since the 2012 Census of Agriculture. In South Dakota, women producers make up 30% of all agriculture producers (2017 Census), aligning well with the national average. Thus, the role women play in the agriculture industry cannot be overlooked. From having an off-farm job to helping daily on the farm or ranch with calving, moving cattle, feeding, checking water, fencing, to the multitude of other hats that women in agriculture wear – women act as an integral part to many operations across the United States. Women also serve as some of the strongest advocates for agriculture in the industry. Knowing this, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension will be launching a new women’s program called South Dakota Women on the Range (SDWR) this fall!

The idea of SDWR was created by Krista Ehlert, Assistant Professor in Natural Resource Management and SDSU Extension Range Specialist; Jessalyn Bachler, SDSU Extension Range Field Specialist; Jaelyn Quintana, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist; and Robin Salverson, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist, when we saw a gap in women’s programming that is organized by women-in-agriculture professionals and takes place locally, out on the ranch. With the percentage of women in agriculture expected to grow over the next few years, SDWR feels it is important to bring women together for, not only rangeland education, but also industry networking. Our target audience includes women that are figures in ranching operations or leaders in the industry and are wanting to learn more about rangelands, conservation, grazing and overall livestock production. The mission of the program is to educate women across South Dakota about the importance of range management, while empowering them to become leaders in the agriculture industry.

"The mission of this program is to educate women across South Dakota about the importance of range management, while empowering them to become leaders in the agriculture industry."

— South Dakota Women on the Range
Two young woman inspecting plants growing on a vast, open range.
The South Dakota Women on the Range program will include topics such as range plant identification and forage production.

South Dakota Women on the Range will bring hands-on, interactive education to a pasture setting, where women can gain experience in all aspects of range management, specifically range ecology, plant identification, forage production, as well as range-related livestock production topics. Specialists and outside partners will be invited to address these topics at SDWR events throughout the year. Ranching operation tours, pasture walks and winter workshops are a few events that SDWR will be developing. Another aspect of SDWR that we plan to create is a core group of female mentors that will be able to provide advice and encouragement for other women that are looking to learn more about or are new to range-and-ranch management. Overall, we are excited to develop and offer SDWR as a range program developed for women, by women. Stay tuned for more information on the kickoff event that will happen fall 2021.