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Leslie Zeller

Leslie Zeller
Leslie Zeller

Eminent Farmer

County: Clay

Leslie Zeller, Vermillion, South Dakota, a veteran cattle feeder whose career in education, public service and agriculture spans 43 years, was honored as 1979 Eminent Farmer by the Board of Regents and South Dakota State University.

Zeller was instrumental in establishing the Animal Diagnostic Lab at SDSU. He headed a committee to promote the idea, held meetings across the state to enlist the support of an array of agricultural organizations, and testified often before legislative committees.

After graduation from Hecla High School, Zeller completed a two-year course at Aberdeen Normal School.

He took a teaching position at McIntosh, South Dakota, which he held for three years while saving up enough money to transfer to South Dakota State College.

He completed enough course work there to accept a job at Colton High School in the fall of 1940. Zeller was graduated from SDSC in 1941.

Marriage to Helen Johnson, also a student at SDSC, came in June of 1941. They have two children, Cynthia and Joseph.

Zeller worked as Brookings County Extension Agent until October, 1942 when he was called into the armed services. After his discharge in 1946, he worked for a little over a year as the Clay County Extension Agent, and then entered into partnership in a cattle feeding operation at Meckling, South Dakota.

Soon, an agri-business corporation recognized his skills and offered him a management position in a 920-acre feeding operation located nearby—a position he still holds.

After 12 years, he purchased a 265-acre place of his own but also continued to manage the larger place.

Zeller has been a three-year president of the State Cattle Feeders Association and served as National Vice President.

He also served as a 4-H leader for eight years, as a member of the school and town boards, Farm Bureau, Crop Improvement Association, and the Clay County Agricultural Fair Association.

Zeller was designated Honored Farmer at the 1970 Little International Exposition at South Dakota State University, selected as South Dakota Cattle Feeder of the Year in 1974 and was presented with both the County Conservation Award and the County Friend of 4-H award.

He also served a four-year term on the Livestock Sanitary Board and the SDSU Agricultural Advisory Committee.