Before this Mother’s Day, May 9, South Dakota Farmers Union highlights two of the many mothers and grandmothers who work to support the state’s farms and ranches through raising their families and running their operations. The two are Cassie Sumption of Frederick and Elsie Meeks of Interior.
From the time she was young, Sumption knew she wanted a large family. “I have three sisters, and I always knew I would never have less than four kids,” explains the mom of five.
Sumption’s grandparents farmed near Hecla, S.D., the small town where she grew up. “My family all lived right beside each other, like the Sumptions, all within a couple miles of one another. Our holidays were just like they are now — a house full of kids at Grandma and Grandpa’s. It was crazy and fun.”
Raised by a single mom, Sumption says although she knew money was scarce, her mom, Cathy, created a home where love and fun were abundant. “My mom is amazing. Us girls did not realize we were going without because she made up for it with her love,” Sumption says. “It was not until I got to be an adult that I realized how crazy hard it was for her. Growing up we had no idea. She never said, ‘We can’t do this or that.’ She would always make things fun, so we loved life and didn’t feel like we missed out on anything.”
Like most of today’s farm moms, Sumption juggled an off-farm job much of the time she was raising her family. Today, her youngest is 12.
Sumption’s five children are Miranda, 22; Trevor, 20; Marissa, 17; Tristan, 15; and Preston, 12. “Every stage is so fun, even now with them getting older,” she says. “It is so fun to watch them become who they are. When they were little, it was fun to watch them learn new things. Teen years are a little trying sometimes, but it is fun to see them start thinking about their future and what they want to be. And finding their places in the world is so neat.”
Sumption says she has also enjoyed witnessing each discovery and stage of life with her husband, Taylor. “I think the most important thing is to have Taylor to co-parent with me. I don’t know how my mom did it alone,” she says, explaining that when it comes to discipline, Taylor is the go-to parent, but when it comes to comfort, she is the one her kids turn to.
“I flip out with my emotions, Taylor speaks with his head,” Sumption says. “It’s one of those things that has worked out all these years. We have grown so much together, and we are still growing together. It’s never really over.”
She has also enjoyed raising the children on her husband’s family farm. “I loved watching how Taylor would take the little boys to the farm with him. They would play on the farm, and they didn’t realize how much they were learning. They would watch him, and I’m sure he didn’t realize how much they were learning either.”
In addition to providing her children with lots of outdoor spaces to explore, play and develop a strong work ethic, being close to Taylor’s family, especially his mom, Margaret, is something Sumption appreciates.
“She is the perfect balance. She is here in a heartbeat when I need her, but she gives us space. She is a huge blessing,” Sumption says, adding, “I have had an army of amazing women surrounding me my whole life, my mother, my grandmother, Margaret and my aunts.”
Ranch mom and then some
Elsie Meeks’ dad, Gib Peck, always used to say, “You can take a ranch kid off the ranch, and they can do anything. You bring a city kid to a ranch, and they don’t know how to do anything.”
This certainly proved true for her. Growing up the youngest of 10 children raised on a ranch near Porcupine, S.D., Meeks would go on to ranch with husband Jim, raise a family and build a successful career off the ranch.
In addition to their ranch, much of her resume is related to serving her Pine Ridge community. She helped start and served as the executive director of Lakota Funds, a community development financial institution. She started a grocery store and went on to work for a national nonprofit, First Nations Oweesta Corp., focused on helping tribes start financial institutions.
In 2015, she was recommended by then Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the South Dakota state director for USDA Rural Development. Today, in addition to ranch work, she serves on the board of directors for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Iowa.
And when she’s asked what prepared her for this career, she references her dad’s saying. “I learned growing up on the ranch how to be adaptive because out here you have to be a mechanic, horseman and everything else.”
Of all the hats she wore growing up on the ranch, the one she and her identical twin, Ethel, loved the most was working with horses and participating in rodeos.
“It was the horses. Also, the thrill of the competition, and really, just being around rodeo people. Rodeo becomes a real community in and of itself. Rodeo becomes a community, and the other contestants become your friends,” Meeks explains.
Although Meeks and her second husband, Jim, didn’t officially meet until she was in her mid-20s, Meeks knew who he was many years earlier because of rodeos. “He was an Indian bronc rider, and we knew who all the good bronc riders were.”
Jim was in the business of putting on rodeos when they did finally meet and eventually marry. The couple passed their love of rodeo onto their now grown children: JD, Billy, Justin, Amy, Dwan, Jeremy and Luke.
“Rodeo was all we ever did,” Meeks says. “We raised bucking bulls and horses, and put on rodeos for years. Rodeo is one of those things that when your kids are competing, it’s not something you just send your kid off to do on their own.”
Today, Meeks is a grandmother to 13 and great-grandmother to three. When she thinks back to the days when their children were young, it is with fond and happy memories. “Being a mom brought me so much joy, and now being a grandma, the joy it brings. It keeps you in the moment. And I have to say, after Ethel died, it was my grandkids who allowed me to stay in the moment and not be caught up in a black hole of grief.”
She feels especially fortunate today because their youngest son, Luke, ranches with them, so Meeks gets to spend lots of quality time with her youngest grandchildren, Narley, 6, and Radley, 18 months. “I am so blessed.”
Ruti writes for South Dakota Farmers Union.Source: South Dakota Farmers Union, which is responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and its subsidiaries aren't responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.