Mr. Ralph H. Hansmeier, Bristol farmer and seedsman, received not only the 1982 Eminent Farmer award, but also South Dakota Agri-business Person of the Year—all within the space of six months.
Hansmeier, a 1930 graduate of Bristol High School, attended Aberdeen School of Business, then joined his father in the family’s extensive farming operation and its business, Hansmeier & Son—a seed supply house that produced and marketed Coteau Brand seeds throughout the upper midwest.
He joined his father, Henry, who founded the seed business from a 13-acre patch of Grim alfalfa early in the century, a variety that soon became noted for its cool weather hardiness.
Hansmeier’s first job was as bookkeeper, and despite the hard economic times of the 1930’s, he and his father held the business and most of the farmland together during the decade.
In 1942, he became a partner in the business which eventually became a family corporation in 1960, with all family members as stockholders and members of the board of directors.
The farming operation now consists of about 10,000 acres producing rye, oats, barley, millet, corn, and both spring and winter wheats. Hansmeier raises about 400-500 commercial cattle and maintains about 400 head of polled Hereford purebreds. He utilizes about 1500 acres strictly for production of certified seed for the firm, and he also contracts elsewhere for additional seed.
The business features a full line of grasses, alfalfa seed, seed grains, and sweet clovers, and, as Bristol’s largest employer, it provides jobs to 18 full-time workers, with additional help being employed during the spring season.
In his half-century of public and professional life, he has served on dozens of church, school, community, and farm organization work groups. In 1960, Senator Karl Mundt asked him to serve on the Advisory Committee on Soil and Water Conservation for the United States Department of Agriculture. He was Bristol City Treasurer from 1936 to 1947. He helped to found the Sun Dial Retirement Manor in Bristol during the late 1960’s.
He also served on the local board of education during the era of school reorganization in South Dakota.
Hansmeier was a charter member of both the South Dakota Kentucky Bluegrass Association and the Aberdeen Grain Inspection Corporation. He was a director of the South Dakota Crop Improvement Association for 12 years, and he was named South Dakota’s Premier Certified Seed Grower in 1978.
He and his wife, Wanda, have two sons and a daughter. Louise is a nurse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and his sons Keith and Floyd have joined him in the farming and seed business.
He and his wife now enjoy occasional travel and have been to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England, South America, various European nations, and China.