‘Farmers tell a great story’

31 May


Walter Bones is indebted to his family for allowing him to step away from full-time farming to briefly pursue another career: secretary of agriculture for the state of South Dakota.

“I went to them and said, ‘You can’t believe the phone call I just got,’” Walt says. “And not one of them said, ‘Who’s going to plant the corn?’ They all said, ‘That’s a great opportunity.’”

So Walt (’73 animal science) temporarily left the daily management of a livestock operation, custom cattle-feeding business, elevator company, and dairy in the capable hands of his brothers, brother-in-law, and nephews in Parker, S.D. He headed to the capital city of Pierre – and all points beyond.

“I had the opportunity to travel across the state and see people in action,” he said of the two years he spent as secretary of agriculture (2011-2013). He worked with zoning issues, government rules and regulations, agricultural law, and the transition of farms from small to large – even managing fires and flooding.

“One of my focuses was to try to tell the [agriculture] story,” he said. “We’re in a rural state, but not a large percentage of people are involved with agriculture. Farmers tell a great story; they live it every day.”

Walt was no stranger to public service. He’s been active with the National Corn Growers Association, the Midwest Dairy Association, South Dakota Hereford Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, and other groups.

Walt’s dad, an Iowa State graduate, served in the South Dakota State Senate while managing the family farm.

“My mom and dad are great role models,” Walt said. “My family holds public service in high esteem.

“Agriculture has been really good to us.”


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