Eschenbaum looks on bright side of things |

Eschenbaum looks on bright side of things

“Cancer changed my life in so many ways. I think I’m more positive and humbled. - Ty Eschenbaum

Anyone who has been involved in the agricultural business knows that if you don't have a positive attitude, you're probably going to fail or at least not have much fun doing what you're doing. The business relies too much on uncontrollable variables like the weather or the ever-changing markets, and if you can't see the bright side of things, the unpredictability of farming or ranching can quickly get a guy down.

For Ty Eschenbaum, a 26,-year old from Lake Preston, S.D., no matter what he is doing in life, he believes success is directly tied to keeping things in perspective and having a positive attitude.

"I believe if you're going to do something, do it with a positive attitude," he said. "Your attitude is infectious. If you have a positive attitude, it draws people into what you're doing as a group or as an individual. It pays dividends more than what most people understand or believe."

Eschenbaum didn't always think this way. His perspective on life was turned upside down in 2003 when he was diagnosed with leukemia. After three long years of fighting the cancer and having to set aside high school sports, showing cattle and being a healthy, regular kid, he came out the other side in remission and having earned a deeper appreciation for life and all it has to offer.

"Cancer changed my life in so many ways," he said. "I think I'm more positive and humbled. I view everything a lot differently, which is good. The little things don't bother me and I don't sweat the small stuff hardly at all because it doesn't matter. The experience made me a big picture thinker on things, which has helped me a lot in life."

"The personal motto I came up with after I was sick that I still think about all the time, is 'earn the gift.' Whatever I do, I just try to think about that because I'm pretty lucky to be here," he added.

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But cancer hardly defines this highly-motivated individual. While the experience may be a chapter in his life that was hugely influential on the way he looks at things, he credits his childhood on his family farm and ranch for shaping him into the person he is today.

Eschenbaum grew up with his family in their purebred cattle operation, Wienk Charolais, which was established in 1958. It's truly a family affair with Eschenbaum's grandparents, Arnold and Carol Wienk; parents Jeff and Jody (Wienk) Eschenbaum, older brother, Sterling and wife Courtney (Anderson) Eschenbaum, and their son, Ryker, as well as younger brothers, Calder and Stetson, all still a part of the operation.

"Having cattlemen on both sides of my family that go back many generations, the beef business is in my blood," he said. "Ranching is a great way to grow up. My brothers and I got to grow up working alongside multiple generations of our family; not many get the opportunity to do that. Being around a family business and all of the unspoken traditions that go with it definitely shapes a person, and I didn't realize it until I got older how lucky I was to have the opportunity to grow up this way."

Eschenbaum's role with Wienk Charolais is the marketing side of the business. He gets back home to the operation as often as he can, but he also maintains a full-time job with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA). When he's not working, he keeps busy promoting Wienk Charolais — managing the Facebook page and website, as well as creating print advertisements, doing promotions, putting together the sale catalog and helping the operation keep up with currents trends and technologies.

"I love the business side of the beef industry, just as much or more as the production side," he explained. "I was fortunate growing up to be involved in American International Junior Charolais Association (AIJCA), and during college I served as the AIJCA President, which was an amazing experience for me. After my time with the junior assocation, I started getting involved in committees with the American International Charolais Association (AICA), as well."

Eschenbaum currently serves on the AICA breed improvement committee, where he enjoys discussions on how Charolais breeders and commercial cattlemen can best use carcass data, DNA evaluations, genomically-enhanced EPDs and other new technologies in the industry.

"It's an exciting time to be a part of the beef industry," he said. "There are so many great things to incorporate into our businesses right now; markets are looking good; and export opportunities are great. It's a great time to be a young person in the industry."

This positive outlook for the beef industry has helped young cattlemen like Eschenbaum stay involved in the cattle business, and Eschenbaum has been able to utilize his experiences on the family operation and put them to good use in his career with the SDDA.

After graduating from South Dakota State University with degrees in agricultural business and entrepreneurial studies in 2011, where he was a Briggs Scholar, Eschenbaum went to work for the SDDA as an Ag Development Representative. Based out of Brookings, SD, he covers the East side of the state and focuses on business development in South Dakota.

"We help recruit companies to South Dakota, assist established companies in South Dakota expand, and support beginning farmers and livestock producers, he said. "We also have a loan and grant portfolio, and the SDDA has been putting an extra focus on international trade, as well. In a nutshell, we help any company — whether it's grain, beef, ag manufacturing, wine, etc. — with technical assistance and promotions, both here and abroad."

In the last couple of years, Governor Dennis Daugaard has been leading trade missions for South Dakota companies to China, which Eschenbaum has been able to be a part of and plan.

"For the past three years, SDDA has gone to China in the spring with Governor Daugaard," he said. "I've gotten to go on the last two trips. We have taken commodity groups such as South Dakota Soybean Association, South Dakota Corn Growers Association and South Dakota Pork Producers, which are the three largest agricultural export commodity groups, to China, where we have been able to discuss trade opportunities for South Dakota farmers. We have also taken individual grain, ag manufacturing and food companies to China."

Additionally, SDDA has led two trade missions to Russia, with another one planned for this fall.

"Each trip to Russia, we take along a couple of South Dakota cattle ranchers, and we focus on promoting South Dakota live cattle and embryos," he explained.

Echenbaum has also helped to host international trade delegations to South Dakota, with people visiting the state from China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Argentina.

"I love how fast-paced my job is," said Eschenbaum. "No two days are the same. I get to work on both domestic and international development. One day, I'm helping an processing plant promote their business in South Dakota; the next day, I am in Russia visiting beef operations. I get to see the 10,000-ft. view of South Dakota when we travel abroad, but I also get to be very closely involved when I'm helping individual agricultural companies with their businesses. Even though we are a small speck in the grand scheme of things, South Dakotans are very fortunate to have generations of farms and ranches, a vast amount of land to produce food and the opportunity to succeed in business. We are truly the best at what we do, and that's why the rest of the world is so interested in learning more about our agriculture.

"It's an exciting time to be involved in agriculture, especially in South Dakota," he added. "I see us continuing to expand our international efforts because these countries want what we produce. I foresee more technology-based companies growing, as well as more livestock numbers calling South Dakota home."

As if Eschenbaum wasn't busy enough traveling the country, promoting Wienk Charolais and growing opportunities for South Dakota agriculturalists, he's a philanthropist, as well. A few years ago, he started the Ty Eschenbaum Foundation — an endowed foundation that offers scholarships to youth cancer survivors. The only one of its kind in South Dakota, this unique scholarship opportunity helps young people pursue their dreams of going to college.

Eschenbaum is able to raise money for the foundation through general donations, as well as events where he presents as a keynote speaker.

"It started with small scholarships, and last year, we were able to give a $1,000 scholarship," he said. "It has grown enough now, that we could give out a $1,000 scholarship each year indefinitely. My goal is to grow this quite a bit in the near future, with more scholarship opportunities available for young cancer survivors."

In his speeches, Eschenbaum's message is to share the real story of what he went through in his own battle against cancer and how it has changed his life for the better. He has had the privilege of speaking at schools, Relay for Life events, the American Cancer Society's annual gala in Sioux Falls, the JY6 Foundation's Annual Nurse Appreciation Dinner and AIJCA events, as well.

The Ty Eschenbaum Foundation is his way of giving back and helping other cancer survivors look at their journey and find the gift in each day.

"In life, a positive attitude makes you likeable and approachable," he said. "Looking at the glass as half-full makes you work better in teams, helps you be more productive and allows you to enjoy life a lot more. That's the advice I give in my speeches, and it's what I apply to my everyday life, as well."

Eschenbaum has accomplished a lot in his 26 years, and in the long-term, he sees himself staying in South Dakota, continuing to promote the agricultural industry and keeping active with Wienk Charolais. His leadership skills, industry involvement and positive outlook make Eschenbaum someone to watch in the years to come.