Dakota Farmer

Q&A: Kim Vanneman is the first woman to hold the ag secretary post in South Dakota.

Lon Tonneson, Editor, Dakota Farmer

May 8, 2019

4 Min Read
South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Kim Vanneman
AG SECRETARY: Kim Vanneman, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture, was named to the post by Gov. Kristy Noem in December. SD Department of Agriculture

In December, Gov. Kristy Noem named Kim Vanneman to be South Dakota’s Secretary of Agriculture.

“Kim is very different from any ag secretary South Dakota has ever had before,” Noem said in an interview with the Rapid City Journal. “She truly brings a new perspective to the table.”

Vanneman is the first woman to serve in the post. She is the co-owner and operator of Vanneman Farms, a row crop and small grain, beef cow, and pig farm. She currently serves as a director for Farm Credit Services of America, Farm Credit Council, Farm Credit Foundations and FCC Services. She served in the South Dakota House from 2007 through 2013 and was a member of the Education, Agriculture and Natural Resources committees.

The following are Vanneman’s answers to five questions we asked her:

What’s the new perspective that you bring to the South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture post?
As a farmer, a former state legislator, a former director for Farm Credit Services of America and the primary grocery shopper for my family, I’ve been able to experience agriculture from so many different vantage points. I look forward to bringing my diverse perspective to this position to elevate South Dakota agriculture within our state, country and world.

What are some of the new initiatives you and the department are working on now? Why have you made them a priority?
With the average age of the South Dakota farmer and rancher at 56 years old, the next generations are so important to the future success of agriculture in our state. On our farm, we are in the middle of transitioning our farm to our son and daughter-in-law. This is a process that is happening on farms across the state.  At the department, I’m excited to look at ways we can help support producers through this transition, as well as ways we can make sure agriculture is top of mind for future generations. These are just two of a multitude of reasons why I am making the next generations of agriculture one of my main priorities as secretary of agriculture, which aligns well with Gov. Noem’s passion and drive to help the next generation of South Dakotans.

Kim Vanneman head shot
FARM OWNER: Kim Vanneman is co-owner and operator of Vanneman Farms, a diversified livestock and grain farm.

When the public is asked, 25% say they strongly trust farmers and ranchers, but more than half of them want to know more about where their food comes from. As an industry, we need to help elevate the stories of farmers and ranchers. We all need to work together to share our stories. With the tools we have available to us through technology, there are so many ways we can meet consumers where they are at to tell our stories and start conversations. It can be as simple as striking up a conversation with the person next to you in the grocery store or starting a Facebook page for your farm. We need to reach out to this group and help them understand who we are and what we do. It is my goal as the secretary of agriculture to help start and facilitate these conversations, which build strong bridges between producers and consumers.

My third priority is to build strong relationships and collaborations within the ag industry. We as an industry need to come together to tell agriculture’s story as a whole, supporting one another, ensuring we have a clear picture of our industry. As Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

What will success as secretary of agriculture look like for you?
Just like the mentality on our farm, I want to leave the department, and to a larger extent the industry, better than I found it for those who come next.

When you speak to individuals or groups for the first time as the ag secretary, what are a couple things that you want them to remember?
I hope they see the department as a valued partner and that together we will promote, protect and preserve South Dakota agriculture for today and tomorrow.

What’s a fun fact about you that most people don’t know?
Growing up, I rodeoed and my favorite event was goat tying.

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