Scheel Awarded 2021 Dakotafest Woman Farmer/Rancher of the Year

From operating machinery to providing animal care, handling the books and educating her children about how to be good stewards of crops and livestock, Audra Scheel not only stays busy on her third-generation family farm but also serves as the SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor for Jerauld, Buffalo, Aurora and Sanborn Counties — a title she has held for a decade. 

She was recognized for her dedication and work in agriculture by earning a hefty tribute, being named the second annual Woman Farmer and Rancher of the Year at Dakotafest in Mitchell Aug. 19. 

Gov. Kristi Noem made a special appearance at Dakotafest in Mitchell last Thursday for the occasion. She took the stage to speak on the importance of women in agriculture, before presenting Scheel the esteemed award.

“I was notified I was a finalist earlier this spring but being in full-on state fair prep mode right now, I must have overlooked that Governor Noem was going to present the award,” Scheel said. “It was an honor and a fun surprise.”

Five finalists were previously selected to be in contention for the award, which honors the female farmers across South Dakota who dedicate their time to farming or ranching.

“A lot of times, we don’t really recognize the diversity within the agriculture industry,” Noem said. “Here we have phenomenal leaders standing on this stage that I am blessed to be here with and to be able to honor.”

Scheel’s nominator echoed that sentiment and wrote: “Audra is a shining example of what our ag community needs to survive. She gives tirelessly and selflessly of her time and her knowledge to help others succeed.”

Scheel recognizes the challenges of life in ag but welcomes the variation it brings. 

“We wear many hats and every day looks different. Different species need different things,” said Scheel about her and husband Jim’s corn, beans, cover crops, cattle, goat and sheep farm in Alpena. “It’s very demanding but very rewarding. No two days are alike.”

In Scheel’s 4-H Youth Program Advisor position, she said she enjoys working with young people and volunteers across four counties and the unique needs they present. 

“I say all the time I have three kids but really I have over 300 kids. I love celebrating all of their successes and the things they do day in and day out to make themselves better,” Scheel said.  “I get to eat, sleep and live ag 100% of the time but I also get to empower kids to reach for their dreams and goals.”

Leading by example comes naturally to Scheel and the title of Woman Farmer and Rancher of the Year is not one she takes lightly.  

“I really think women are the backbone of ag across the U.S. You see them in every role, shape and form — not only doing jobs on the farm but also keeping the house together. They wear so many hats,” Scheel reflects. “Knowing there are women out there across the country that do this day in and day out, it’s definitely an honor to represent them.”