The 2011 South Dakota Eminent Farmers/Ranchers and Homemakers are Vern Rausch, Hoven, S.D.; Arnold Wienk, Lake Preston, S.D.; Rebecca "Becky" Converse, Arlington, S.D.; and Donna Robbennolt, Gettysburg, S.D.
Established in 1927, the awards recognize individuals for their contributions of leadership and service to the community on the local, state and national level.
Each year SDSU selects four individuals to honor based on confidential nominations from across the state. The nominations are reviewed by a committee of SDSU faculty members, administrators, Extension personnel and upon approval of the dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and the dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences the recommendations go to the president of SDSU.
The honorees photos join the more than 300 portraits of Eminent Farmers/Ranchers and Homemakers, which are displayed in the "Hall of Fame" portrait gallery located in Agriculture Hall.
SDSU will recognize the four during a banquet Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Swiftel Center in Brookings.
Tickets are $15 and are available from the Office of the Dean of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, Ag Hall 131, SDSU Brookings, S.D., 57007 or by calling, 605-688-4148.
Rebecca "Becky" Converse
Born and raised in the Arlington community, Converse has been an active member of the community since childhood when she actively participated in 4-H and was a cheerleader. She is a founding member of the Arlington Community Foundation, a member of the Winsor Wives Extension Club which became the Share n' Learn Club, was a Sunday School Teacher at Arlington United Methodist Church and, in 2009, was honored as the Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce "Person of the Year."
An active member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, she has served on the St. Mary's Hospital Foundation. While on the foundation board, she worked to meet the health needs of people in Central South Dakota working with the Regional Coordinated Care Network to help identify serious health issues and develop collaborative approaches to meeting these needs. She was named Queen at the Hospital Auxiliary Spring Fling in 1992. In 1988 she was recognized as the Gettysburg Citizen of the Year. In 1988 she was named Potter County Outstanding Homemaker of the Year.
Rausch and his wife, Sharon, raised their four sons and one daughter; Shannon, Trudy Morgan, Dana, Joel and Nick; on the family's Hoven farm. He and his brothers, Jerry and Harlan, his sons, Joel and Shannon, and his nephews, Rick and Gary, and several grandchildren operate the largest purebred Hereford operation in the United States - Rausch Hereford Farms. A third-generation Potter County farmer, Rausch's family got into raising registered Herefords when he was only 4-years-old and his older brothers and sisters purchased Herefords as their 4-H project. The family recently hosted their 52nd annual bull and female sale. In 1977 he was recognized as the Hoven Service Club Man of the Year. In 1999 Rausch Hereford Farms was selected as the American Hereford Association nominee for the Steedstock Producer of the Year and in 2004, the farm was nominated to the Seedstock Producer Roll of Excellence by the Beef Improvement Federation; in 2007, the South Dakota Hereford Association named Rausch Herefords as Seedstock Producer of the Year.
Wienk operates Wienk Charolais with his wife, Carol, daughter and son-in-law, Jody and Jeff Eschenbaum, and now his oldest grandson, Sterling Eschenbaum and his wife, Courtney. He is a founding member of the Upper Midwest Charolais Association, the South Dakota Charolais Association and Kingsbury County Cattlemen's Association. He served as president of the American International Charolais Association and was on the National Cattlemen's Beef Board. In 1985, Wienk Charolais was named Seedstock Producer of the Year by the South Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association and the American International Charolais Association. In 2009, Wienk and his wife, Carol were inducted into the American International Charolais Association Hall of Fame. A true family operation, Wienk's five daughters, Deb Vedvei, Kim Jensen, Peggy Nolz, Jody Eschenbaum and Amy Bailey were all actively involved in the day-to-day operations of raising cattle and feedstuffs.