Dakota Farmer

Meet South Dakota’s new FFA officers

Ella Stiefvater, Megan Sanders, Kathryn Rausch, Jacob Olson, Sidney Peterson and Caleb McGregor will be the state officers for 2022-23.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

June 7, 2022

5 Min Read
South Dakota FFA state officers
READY TO LEAD: South Dakota FFA state officers are ready to lead the organization for the next year. Ella Stiefvater (left), Megan Sanders, Kathryn Rausch, Jacob Olson, Sidney Peterson and Caleb McGregor were chosen during the state FFA convention in April.courtesy of South Dakota FFA Association

Six individuals are set to lead the South Dakota FFA for the next year after being chosen as the state officer team during this spring’s state convention.

The six were chosen to lead the state’s 4,600 FFA members for 2022-23. Each of the team members will be attending South Dakota State University as freshman in the fall, except for Jacob Olson, who will be a sophomore there. The officers follow:

Ella Stiefvater, president. From the McCook Central Chapter in Salem, Stiefvater follows her sister who was secretary on last year’s state officer team. “Family really paved the way for me,” she says. “Family and FFA kind of felt like they went hand in hand, and then just the tradition of McCook Central. It was something I definitely didn’t want to miss out on.”

The daughter of Mike and Carie Stiefvater, she plans to major in agriculture communications, with a goal of working as an ag reporter for a television station. She also sees herself building her flock of black-faced ewes, as well as giving back to FFA as a volunteer coach.

Megan Sanders, vice president. “Drive” is a term that Sanders likes to live by, she says, and feels that’s what has got her to this pinnacle.

“Once you kind of get your head through the door and just see the opportunities that different organizations bring, then you get a vision of your own of how you want to be that person continuing on what they do or making events better, and just keeping what they’ve got started going,” says Sanders, who comes from the Hot Springs FFA Chapter.

The daughter of Carl and Kari Sanders, she hopes to become a high school ag teacher and FFA advisor, as well as remaining a part of the family’s Black Angus cow-calf operation, and irrigated corn and alfalfa farm.

Kathryn Rausch, secretary. Rausch has FFA state leadership in her genes, as many of her family were also state officers. Father Shannon was treasurer, 1984-85; sister Maria Rausch Ollis, president, 2010-11; brother Andy, treasurer, 2012-13; and even sister-in-law Kaitlyn Schmeichel Rausch, vice president, 2016-17. Even with that lineage, Rausch says there wasn’t pressure to pursue a state office.

“It was kind of something that I chose to do for myself,” says the daughter of Shannon and Sue Rausch. “I remember being a first grader going to my sister’s state convention and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s so cool.’ I started to realize that it was a lot more of a big responsibility, but it was still something that was always in my heart, so I decided to apply.”

The Hoven High graduate sees herself teaching agriculture in a small, rural South Dakota school district, as well as potentially branching out and starting her own farm or ranch.

Jacob Olson, treasurer. Olson is the elder statesmen of this group, having run for state office during last year’s state convention, but falling short. So why try again?

“Throughout the year I just wanted to stay involved,” he says. “So I had the passion to be a part of FFA and wanting to meet those members and still have the outreach and show them that even though you are out of high school and you can still do stuff while at college to help support the FFA.”

Will that extra year of maturity help Olson be an even better FFA state officer?

“I’d say that year of growth that I had from running last year, personally, I have grown quite a lot, and I feel like I fit the position better than I did last year,” he says, adding that his year of college can help him guide his fellow officers in their first year at college.

Olson, a 2021 graduate from Northwestern Area High in Mellette, and the son of Darrin and Michelle Olson from Aberdeen, hopes to put his agricultural business degree to use in either starting his own cow-calf farm or joining his mother’s tax business.

Sidney Peterson, reporter. Hailing from the Sturgis Chapter, Peterson got an early indication that this team could work well together. During the interview process at the state convention, officer candidates are grouped for activities. One such grouping found these six together.

“And I was actually with the rest of the five of them for one group activity and that’s when I kind of thought to myself, this is the perfect team because there’s a good mix of everything,” she recalls.

The daughter of Ross and Chrissy Peterson from Sturgis, she sees herself teaching agriculture and advising FFA in a South Dakota high school, possibly in a school that does not yet have an agricultural program.

Caleb McGregor, sentinel. While candidates do not apply for specific offices, McGregor, from the Webster FFA Chapter, couldn’t be happier with his placement as the team’s sentinel.

“Sentinel has a very fun and unique job,” he says. Sentinels are “the most-welcoming people of the team, and they really strive to reach out with the members. So I get to do one of my favorite things, and that’s to talk to people. I get to be the hype man for the team and for the state of South Dakota and FFA.”

The son of Jessica McGregor, he plans to major in agronomy and agricultural engineering, with hopes to work at engineering farm equipment. His ultimate goal is to build up his Rambouillet sheep herd from the current 335 to 1,000, so that he may solely farm for a living. He also plans to keep advocating for agriculture by being involved in farm organizations.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

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