A familiar face
The Sioux Empire Farm Show is quickly approaching. From Jan. 22-26, livestock producers, agricultural professionals, students and western lifestyle enthusiasts will flock to the Sioux Empire Fair Grounds for fun, fellowship and livestock shows, sales and judging contests.
Among the crowd will be Jim Woster, a familiar face to South Dakota’s agricultural industry, who has spent his entire working career and retirement tirelessly promoting and supporting the state’s farmers and ranchers.
Selected as the 2019 Agri-Business Citizen of the Year by the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Agri-Business Division, Woster is the first person to be recognized with this honor twice in the show’s history, having previously won the award in 1987.
“Each year, our Agri-Business Division selects an outstanding Agri-Business Citizen and Farm Family to honor during the Mayor’s Roundup and Sale of Champions on Jan. 25,” said Jennie Doyen, Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce marketing and communications director. “The event includes a dinner and auction and gives us the chance to recognize these individuals for their dedication to the agricultural industry. In selecting Jim, our Agri-Business Division agreed that even though he had won this award previously, he is even more active and involved in the industry in his retirement. He has done so much and certainly deserves this recognition of his hard work.”
Woster is a native of Reliance, S.D., who began working for the Sioux Falls Stockyards in 1962 after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in animal science from South Dakota State University.
“When I graduated from SDSU, I had pretty bad grades and couldn’t find a job,” Woster said. “I managed to find work at the Stockyards, and I’ll never forget showing up to work at 5 a.m. the day after graduation. I opened up my car door and stepped out, and the smells, the trucks, the cattle bellering, the guys going to work at Morrell — it was all so exciting. I never had a Monday because I always really enjoyed going to work. Even after 43 years, I never lost that feeling.”
During his time at the Stockyards, Woster also worked for Farmers Union and Commission Company and was a cattle buyer for Greenlee CattlePacking Co. during the late 1960s and early 70s.
For 13 years, Woster served as the market reporter for the Stockyards, and in 1981, he partnered with David Frankman with Olsen-Frandkman Livestock until his retirement 23 years later in 2004.
Over the course of his career, Woster could often be found speaking at agricultural meetings, emceeing banquets, singing the National Anthem at events or promoting agriculture on the radio, in his columns and during his travels across the state.
“I first met Jim at my FFA banquet in the spring of 1979,” said Tom Davis, a cattle feeder from Elkton, S.D. “I sent him a letter to ask him if he could be the keynote speaker. He very carefully opened the letter and wrote, “I’ll be there,” and put the letter back in the envelope and returned it back to me. I never forgot that. He gave a great inspiring speech to our chapter and have heard of him speak several times since then. I have never met a more gifted man in my life.”
Calli Williams, an Angus breeder from Letcher, S.D. and former South Dakota Beef Ambassador recalled spending time with Woster promoting beef. She said, “Jim made the Huset’s Speedway ‘BEEF at the races’ event so fun! From interviews to singing the National Anthem and greeting spectators, he’s always a class act!”
In his retirement, Woster enjoys spending quality time with his wife, Penny, his three children and five grandchildren; however, he’s still busy as ever promoting agriculture. He continues to write columns, do public relations work for SDSU’s College of Ag and Bio, Avera Health and South Dakota Corn.
He’s also the founder of the Stockyards Ag Experience, a museum located in Sioux Falls that captures the rich history of the iconic and now closed Sioux Falls Stockyards, where Woster’s career in agriculture began.
“Jim has done so much to impact agriculture, and is very deserving of the honor,” said Jennifer Smith Hoesing, Stockyards Ag Experience executive director. “His leadership, humor and kindness are all legendary. Jim’s unique ability to connect with people around our state coupled with his knowledge and understanding of the issues make him the perfect ambassador for agriculture. We are so fortunate to have him leading the way at Stockyards Ag Experience.”
Currently, the Stockyards Ag Experience includes photographs, artifacts and interactive touch screens that teach visitors about the Stockyards. The kid-friendly exhibit attracts families year-round inside the barn located near Falls Park. However, Woster is working tirelessly to expand the exhibit to include a park on the 3.8 acres of land surrounding the facility.
“We are hoping to break ground on the park project sometime this spring or summer with a goal of opening the park by 2020,” Woster said. “We want to expand our farm-to-table message, with FFA chapters and 4-H clubs putting on events, commodity groups planting rows of crops and farm equipment on display for kids to play on and explore. We want to tell the story of agriculture in a fun park setting.”
Looking back on his career in agriculture, Woster says it’s the people he’s met along the way who have made it so enriching.
“I’ve gotten to sit down and have coffee with producers and visit about markets. I’ve attended weddings and funerals and gotten to know thousands of people in my travles that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’ve visited the farms and ranches and become great friends with these agricultural families. I’ve seen the good times and the bad times, and through it all, there’s really great people in agriculture. I feel very blessed to be able to do what I love and make a living doing it. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
As the Agri-Business Citizen of the Year, Woster will be recognized by the Chamber at several events throughout the year. In addition to the Sioux Empire Farm Show, the Chamber also hosts Ag Appreciation Day at the Sioux Empire Fair in August and National Farmers Day in October at the Stockyards Ag Experience barn.
Woster has been an active volunteer for the Sioux Empire Farm Show since 1971, and with the event getting underway next week, he’s excited to spend some time at the Fair Grounds visiting with old friends and peers in the industry.
“Winning this honor means a lot to me because it’s coming from my peers in agriculture,” Woster said. “They are the ones who have volunteered alongside me at the Farm Show and at Ag Appreciation Day overs the years. I truly am honored.”
For the complete schedule of events happening at the Sioux Empire Farm Show, check out http://www.siouxempirefarmshow.org/index.cfm. F