With only five cows between the two of them, ranch kids, Rebecca "Becky" (Schneider) Walth and her husband, Allen, began building their Glenham farm/ranch together in 1977.
Today the couple farms and runs a 350 cow/calf herd on 6,000-plus acres on the banks of the Missouri River.
"What is most exciting about what the ranch is today is that together we built it from scratch," says Walth, the 2015 Eminent Farmer/Rancher.
She goes on to tell the story of how it all began. "When we married, I had two cows and he had two cows. When my dad, Rinel Schneider, loaded them up to bring them to the 200-acre ranch we'd just purchased from Allen's uncle, he said, "'You need to start with five.' So, he threw another cow into the trailer.'"
Using Walth's words, they grew the ranch "bit-by-bit and piece-by-piece."
"People ask us if we fish I always laugh because we don't have time to fish it's nose to the grindstone," Walth says.
What the fourth-generation South Dakota farmer/rancher has made time for outside of the ranch are her children and the state's cattle industry. She was a 4-H leader; is a current Federation Director and research chair of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council; held offices on the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, as well as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association; represents South Dakota State University on and is the North Central Secretary of the Council for Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching; served as cooking chair of the National Beef Cook-off Committee; and has been a St. Jacobi Lutheran Sunday School teacher.
"It started with one position as the South Dakota Cattlemen's representative on the Beef Industry Council, and that led to another service position which led to another service position," Walth explains.
A 4-H alumnus, Walth says the organization gave her a strong foundation and influenced her decision to pursue a degree in Home Economics at South Dakota State University. She became a 4-H leader to provide the same experience for her now grown children, Steven Walth and Kristi Dwire.
"4-H was a very important part of my life growing up. As a parent, it was exciting to introduce our children to the program," Walth says. "As it did for me, 4-H opened our children's eyes to different opportunities and it also impacted their educational and career choices."
Allen is a '71 Animal Science graduate of SDSU. Both of their children are also alumni. Steven graduated with a degree in Agriculture Engineering and is a Senior Test Engineer for Gehl. Kristi is a pharmacist and works as a Pharmacy Manager for Thrifty White Pharmacy. "4-H helped us give our kids wings to fly," says Walth. Today the Walths have four grandchildren.
Prior to children, Walth, 61, supplemented the ranch income teaching Home Economics and Science in Pollock, Glenham and Mobridge school districts. She then took time off until her children entered school and returned to the workforce, spending more than a decade working for the State of South Dakota as a Regional Nutritionist and as a Child Protection and Adult Services Social Worker.
All the while, Walth made time to aid Allen in running the family ranch. "This operation is us. It's not a partnership and we aren't part of an extended family operation so we don't have outside help," she explains. "We all worked together on the ranch and made time for our kids' activities. There were many nights when we ate supper at 10 o'clock."
About the time her children were heading off to college, she and Allen decided it was time for her to return to the ranch full-time. "We really are a team. We make all decisions together. It hasn't always been easy„ sometimes we did things the hard way but we never blamed each other and we learned from our mistakes," Walth explains. "Allen is my best friend. We take the philosophy that each day is a new adventure and here on the ranch, no two days are ever alike."
An empty nester and full-time farmer/rancher, Walth decided to put her "farm-to-fork" knowledge to use and give back to the industry she and Allen gained so much from. "I have a valuable background which gives me a clear understanding of the industry from the time the calf drops here on the ranch to when it hits consumers' plates," Walth says.
"Besides," Walth goes on to say, "it was time to give back. There are a lot of things happening in this day and age that impact those of us in production agriculture. Whatever the issue, at the end of the day, we depend upon advocacy and research to help us succeed."
Not a passive observer, when Walth becomes actively involved in an organization, she dedicates her time to researching the issue(s) at hand and developing producer-friendly solutions. Those who have worked with her credit Walth for her creativity, leadership and thorough understanding.
"When I get involved, I jump in feet first," Walth explains. "I'm passionate about production agriculture. I enjoy watching God's creation and I love the land. We mean it when we describe our ranch as "God's Country."