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Sumption awarded for bringing ag education to youth

HURON, S.D. – Educating youth is something Margaret Sumption has been passionate about most of her life.

“I have always enjoyed kids, and as a teacher I found that they are generally happy and certainly every day is different,” Sumption explains.

Sumption was recognized by South Dakota Farmers Union for her service to rural youth as a volunteer, with the esteemed Minnie Lovinger Award. She served as the Brown County Education Director for several years. She was presented with the award November 30, during an awards banquet held during the South Dakota Farmers Union State Convention in Huron.

“Thanks to the efforts of volunteers like Margaret, each summer hundreds of rural youth attend camps where they receive education on farm safety, team work, cooperatives and have the opportunity to develop leadership skills,” said Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union.

Sumption decided to become a teacher because she always enjoyed school and her teachers. She taught grade school for a few years before she and her husband, John, had children of their own.

When her five sons were school age, Margaret substitute taught and later returned to work in the Frederick Area School District full-time as a para and then served as the school secretary until she retired in 2001.

Raising their sons on the family farm, Margaret and her husband, John, were always in church and active in the Frederick community. And because of her farming background, Sumption said she looked for ways to expose students to agriculture beyond Brown County.

“I always told students, farmers across America don’t just raise corn, cows, wheat and soybeans. You eat strawberries and lettuce too. Farmers had to grow that too.”

About the time their youngest son, Warren, graduated, the couple became more involved in Farmers Union.

“John came home from a county meeting one day and said, “Margaret, you are the new education director.” I said, “OK.”

Throughout the years, Margaret said she appreciated the way Farmers Union youth programming taught rural kids about so many aspects of agriculture.

“Farmers Union helped broaden their horizons. It helped them realize that each farm and farmer is unique,” she said.

One by one, all five of their sons joined the family farming operation. Margaret said she enjoyed having her grandchildren close to home and getting to be involved their lives.

“All our grandchildren attended Farmers Union Camp. It was fun to see them with other kids and make friends,” she said.

Today, Farmers Union member, Mike Traxinger serves as the Brown County Education Director. Sumption asked him to take over for her when he returned to his family’s Brown County farm. “He has done a great job and expanded the program even more,” she said.

More about Minnie Lovinger Award

Established in 2004, the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation instituted the Minnie Lovinger Award in recognition of the founder of all Farmers Union education programs.

Minnie Lovinger passed away more than 70 years ago, but not before she laid the foundation for all subsequent Farmers Union education efforts. As historian Lyn Oyos wrote in his history of South Dakota Farmers Union, Minnie Lovinger “snatched the thorny chance and broke the trail that others followed. Her soul has never left them in their sowing and reaping.”

To learn more about South Dakota Farmers Union youth programming, visit www.sdfu.org.

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