Farmers Union Celebrates Minnehaha County Rodeo Family
For more than 20 years, Minnehaha County 4-H rodeo kids and their horses found their way to Sundermanns’ arena each Wednesday evening.
“Those were good years,” said Ann Sundermann. She and her husband, Paul, built the arena shortly after they purchased the farmland west of Baltic where they raise cattle, rodeo horses and their three, now grown children: Cody, Jake and Halie.
From the start, rodeo played an integral role in the Sundermann family. “Paul and I met at a rodeo. It must have been love at first sight because a month later we got engaged,” Ann shared.
“Everyone said it would not work. And here we are, 39 years later,” Paul said.
And when their children wanted to get involved in 4-H rodeo, Paul says they didn’t give it much thought. “Some people go fishing, some people go golfing – for our family, it is rodeo. When you are in 4-H and high school rodeo, every weekend is a camping trip.”
“And when you are at a rodeo, it’s like family. Everyone watches out for everyone’s kids,” Ann adds. “Rodeo is very competitive, but it is a sport where once you are out of the arena, everyone is willing to turn around and help the next person do better than they did.”
Today, even though the Sundermann children are grown and raising rodeo kids of their own, some local 4-H rodeo kids still use the family’s arena. And Paul and Ann remain actively involved in rodeo because in 2006, Ann began serving as Secretary of the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association.
In this role, Ann is responsible for coordinating nearly every aspect of the State High School Rodeo Finals: hiring judges, preparing judge and timer sheets, collecting results, organizing placings and prizes.
“This is a good fit for me because I am very Type A. I don’t do well without a schedule,” Ann said.
“That’s an understatement,” Paul joked, adding, “It does not happen in a weekend. State Finals get over the end of June, and she usually has a week to take a breath and then she starts planning everything for the next year.”
2022 High School Rodeo Finals will be held in Ft. Pierre June 14-18 at the Stanley County Fairgrounds.
Dad left off an N
Paul grew up one of 10 kids on a farm south of Crooks. In addition to raising cattle and hay, he and his siblings worked in the family business, Sunderman MFG. It’s the business his dad, Henry, started after returning home from service in World War II.
“The joke is that when dad made the sign, he didn’t want to make an extra ‘n,'” Paul explains.
Today, Sunderman MFG and Tube is a custom welding and steel fabricator that also produces steel tubing, commercial heaters and Box S line of livestock equipment, fencing, gates and the original circular calving pen invented by Paul.
“Necessity is the mother of invention. I was calving a cow out one time and she was not cooperative and beat me up a bit. So, I decided I was going to design and build something to make calving safer and easier,” explained Paul, about the calving pen that is safe, secure and built to last.
Paul purchased the business from his dad in the late ’80s, and today, Ann and Paul’s son, Cody, operates the business with them. Cody received a degree in manufacturing engineering from South Dakota State University.
“We have a good working relationship,” Paul said. “When Cody came back full time, he brought a renewed energy to the shop.”
In 2020, the Sundermann’s expanded their business to mill tubing. Steel is delivered flat in large rolls and their team mills it into round or square tubing. “When COVID hit, I really wondered if I’d made the right decision or not. Those were some sleepless nights,” Paul said. “As things have evolved, we are now actually selling tubing to our old competitors.”
Unique to their business model, the Sundermanns only buy U.S. melted steel. “It is tough competing with material coming from Mexico. They can bring in steel from China or wherever.” also mentors Baltic and Tri-Valley FFA members.
Horses that are put to work
Paul and Ann started their cattle herd when they purchased their farmland in the mid-’80s. Like Paul, Ann grew up on a farm with cattle and horses, and they both wanted a similar experience for their children.
As their cow/calf operation grew, Paul also began breeding and training rodeo horses.
“It takes a long time to get a really good program put together – to get the bloodlines you want to see,” Paul said.
Over the years, Paul has worked to breed horses with exceptional confirmation and bone structure. His efforts have paid off. All their children rodeoed on horses their dad raised. Today, he’s raising horses he hopes their grandchildren can rodeo on. Halie and her husband, Nolan, have two children and live on a ranch near Rozet, Wyo.; Jake and Lindsey live in Billings, Mont.; and Cody and Kari live just down the road from Ann and Paul, with their three children.
“Grandkids will be riding horses nicer than their parents,” Ann said. “It’s fun to be rodeo grandparents. We still end up working just as hard, but we don’t worry as much.”
To view more photos of the Sundermann family, and meet other South Dakota farm and ranch families, visit http://www.sdfu.org and click on the South Dakota Farm and Ranch Families link under the About Us tab.
–South Dakota Farmers Union
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