South Dakota: Kelsey Geraets named 2023 Woman Farmer/Rancher of the Year 

By Kennedy Tesch  for Tri-State Livestock News

Kelsey Geraets developed an interest in livestock and animal agriculture at a young age. 

Growing up on the family farm outside of Colton, South Dakota, Geraets has been immersed in agriculture her whole life.  

“Ever since I could walk and talk, I’ve been holding a bottle feeding a bottle calf baby,” Geraets said.  

Geraets continued with the project of raising bottle calves to market as she grew up and became heavily involved in FFA as a student.  

These two interests are what she credits as being her driving force into the agriculture industry.  

After graduating high school, Geraets continued her education at South Dakota State University where she earned degrees in both animal science and agricultural science in May 2020.  

Graduating in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic posed a lot of challenges for recent college graduates and Geraets expresses her gratitude to her parents for offering her the opportunity to come back to their family operation with the role as a manager of their feedlot.  

The Geraets family runs a 2,000 head feedlot. 

In addition to the feedlot, the family also raises row crops, corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and they have a small ethanol plant on site.   

“My role on the farm right now is the day-to-day activities of taking care of cattle,” Geraets said. “Feeding them twice a day and anything in between which can be billing, treating cattle, making sure that they’re all healthy and happy and doing well. Outside of the feedlot portion, I do help as much as I can. Planting and harvesting, anything that fills the gaps there.” 

Not only does Geraets manage the feedlot, but she is also actively involved and serving in leadership positions with many agricultural organizations across the state.  

Geraets serves as an at large board member on the South Dakota Corn Growers Association and is a board member of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council for the research board. Garaets also serves as president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Auxiliary.  

Between all her involvement and passion for agriculture, it’s no surprise that Geraets was recently chosen for the 2023 Woman Farmer/Rancher of the Year Award at Dakotafest in Mitchell, South Dakota on Aug. 17, 2023.  

Geraets was selected as the recipient out of four other finalists, honored for their commitment and dedication to the agriculture industry.  

“From the time she was a small child she learned the value of hard work, doing chores every day on the farm before school, seeing hard work throughout the year payoff as she helped with harvest,” Brian Gilbert, Ag Banking Manager at The First National Bank in Sioux Falls, said. “She has the unique ability to connect with people in the agriculture industry as well, and those connections coupled with her family’s hard work and dedication have helped them be successful.” 

Gilbert has known Geraets and her family since she was very young and has enjoyed watching her involvement grow on the farm and in the agriculture industry.  

“She not only displays a work ethic second to none on her operation, but she is also willing to be a bold leader for the agriculture industry,” Gilbert said. “She constantly advocates for the industry through her involvement with South Dakota Cattlemen’s, South Dakota Corn and many other volunteer positions. I have no doubt that Kelsey will continue her journey as one of the most well-respected ag influencers for decades to come.” 

While awards and accolades may fade, Geraets remains grounded to her roots with her main motivation behind everything she does stemming from her family and their operation.   

“That farm is a big piece of my heart,” Geraets said. “I’m blessed to be able to go back and do what I do every day. Not a lot of kids get that opportunity and I know that but that farm is my biggest drive and making my parents proud and living on that family legacy is probably what gets me up every day.” 

Geraets has no plans on slowing down anytime soon, with big goals to reach for her family farm and involvement in the agriculture industry.  

“In terms of the farm, obviously expanding and growing head,” Geraets. “In terms of my involvement, I don’t plan on getting any less involved than I am now and just trying to transition into more leadership roles would be prime as well as trying to get my peers more involved and trying to grow membership of those associations.” 

When asked what advice she would give to other women in the agriculture industry, Geraets said she would tell them to never give up.  

“A lot of people are going to say negative things about you and just use that as a driver. Be tough. The things that people say can be hurtful, but if you know what you want, go after it, go get it. Let them know that you deserve a seat at a table just as much as anyone else does. 

Courtesy photo