Hitchcock native named new education director at SDFU
HURON — South Dakota Farmers Union recently hired Rachel Haigh-Blume to serve as Education Director. “We are excited about Rachel’s background and professional experience, as well as her enthusiasm for youth and agriculture,” said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. Haigh-Blume will be responsible for educational programming, which serves more than 3,000 South Dakotans each year. Since it was established to serve family farmers and ranchers more than a century ago, education has been a focus of South Dakota Farmers Union. “SDFU Educational programming is developed to enrich the lives of rural South Dakotans; whether it’s through county, district or state camps held throughout the summer which teach rural youth about farm safety, cooperative education and leadership development or Rural Economic & Leadership Program (REAL) and Young Producer Events which provide leadership and professional development to agriculture producers and rural professionals,” explains Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of SDFU. Raised on a farm near Hitchcock and a graduate of Dakota State University, Haigh-Blume has spent the last several years of her career serving as the Executive Director of Northeast S.D. Area Health Education Center, a healthcare educational non-profit which works to provide healthcare education, impact workforce concerns and support community health of rural citizens of all ages. Along with providing access to continuing education opportunities for rural healthcare providers, Haigh-Blume also engaged more than 5,000 rural youth, teaching them about healthcare careers each year through classroom activities and summer camps for elementary, junior high and high school students. “Even though the focus of my career has been healthcare, there are a lot of parallels between my previous career and this new role with Farmers Union,” says Haigh-Blume, who has her Masters in Healthcare Administration. “I have extensive experience in leadership development training, educational programming and staff mentorship. This new role combines my work experience with my roots and family history of farming with a passion for helping and teaching.” Haigh-Blume remains actively involved in South Dakota agriculture. Her husband, Brian, is a fourth-generation Tulare farmer. “I’m impressed by Farmers Union’s focus to support family farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Agriculture education becomes even more important today as our population is more removed from the farm and moving to more populated areas,” she explains. “Those who are brave enough to return home or stay in rural communities need help connecting to professional development and developing skills. Students need to learn how to plan so that they can successfully survive on the farm today. We need to promote that success is not about moving to a large city, but successful people live and work on the farm and in rural communities every day. The farm plays a tremendous impact on the economy and this needs to be highlighted as much as possible in the world in which we live.” To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union educational programming, visit www.sdfu.org.