While last year’s South Dakota State University Little International was canceled due to COVID-19, several traditions were still honored, including naming the 97th Little International Honored Agriculturalist, Donna Moenning. Moenning will be recognized alongside the 98th recipient, Kevin Vander Wal, at this year’s event.
A storyteller of life and agriculture, Donna (Schmidt) Moenning serves as an elite advocate for the agriculture industry bringing her energy, grace and passion wherever she goes. The recipient of the 97th Little International Honored Agriculturalist award serves the agriculture community by telling stories, building trust and finding common ground wherever life and work take her.
After receiving the 1983 National Association of Farm Broadcaster’s (NAFB) scholarship, she transferred to South Dakota State University to complete her final two years of college. Moenning filled her spare time as a student giving the weekly “Ray’s Western Wear Rodeo Report” and announcing at Little International.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Journalism from SDSU in 1984, she used her voice on-air as a farm broadcaster at KXRB in Sioux Falls for two years. Moenning quickly connected to South Dakota agriculture, and those connections led to a job for the National Live Stock and Meat Board in Chicago where she worked for livestock farmers and ranchers across the nation. Her efforts included the early “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” campaign, where she worked with news media and influencers including Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse and Nolan Ryan.
Moenning was named Outstanding Alumnus by the SDSU Journalism Department in 1995. The same year, she returned to a farm in Minnesota to marry Mark Moenning and start a family. She would be quick to tell you her best achievements are her kids – Mary, Samuel and Martha.
Moenning was called back to radio in Rochester, Minnesota where she continued to promote agriculture on-air for KROC and Y105. Then in 2004 she went to work for dairy farmers at the Midwest Dairy Association, first as Director of Industry Relations and then as the Vice President of Integrated Communications. Her communication initiatives focused on promoting dairy farmers and their commitment to on farm practices. This included engagement with the SDSU Dairy and Food Science Department as well as dairy farm families.
Today, she continues to broaden her plate in food and agriculture, using her voice to engage in communication and trust building efforts with The Center for Food Integrity, a client of Look East, a food and agriculture agency.
A forever fan of the blue and gold, Army mom and an avid quilter – Moenning says, “Every little piece of our lives eventually gets woven together. Sometimes it gets messy and doesn’t look pretty. But like a quilt, when you flip to the underside – it’s pure beauty.”