Oldham farmer, Gary Duffy, has focused much of his off-farm time on discovering ways to add value to crops and livestock raised by South Dakota farmers and ranchers.
"Because we are located in the middle of the nation, transportation costs eat up a lot of our profits. If we can process things in the state and export a finished product whether that is ethanol or livestock then at least we keep some value here at home to help South Dakota's economy grow and improve our citizens' lives," says the third generation Kingsbury County farmer and 2015 Eminent Farmer.
Putting his words into action, Duffy served as the founding board president of the South Dakota Value Added Development Center. The organization helps individuals and groups determine the feasibility and financial ability of starting agricultural value added projects. "We'd rather spend $50,000 and find out something won't work, than have someone invest $250,000 and discover something was missed, such as there not being a viable, consistent market," explains Duffy, who counts South Dakota's ethanol industry as one of the greatest value-added successes he's been involved in.
"For the state's corn farmers, ethanol provides us with a way to diversify our markets and process corn within the state and ship a product that is much more valuable than a kernel of corn," says Duffy, who raises corn, soybeans and a cow/calf herd with his cousin, Sheila Huntimer, and her husband, Jim. The operation includes 1,500 acres some of which was land his great-grandfather farmed.
Over the years, Duffy has not only invested in ethanol plants, but through his involvement on the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council board of directors, he has traveled across the U.S. and internationally to establish markets for corn and dried distillers grains (DDGs), a co-product of ethanol.
In 2014, the South Dakota Corn Growers presented him the Excellence in Agriculture award for his contributions to the corn industry in South Dakota. In 2007, the South Dakota chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the honorary society of agriculture, recognized him as a distinguished alumnus.
Along with his involvement in the S.D. Value Added and Corn Utilization Councils, Duffy has also served on the board of directors for the South Dakota Corn Growers Association and South Dakota Crop Improvement Association, and is a member of the South Dakota Soybean Association.
Locally, he has served as a member of the Oldham School Board, on the Board of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota and was President of the Oldham City Council. He continues his service by being a member of the South Dakota Soybean Processors board of directors and well as being on the board of the East Dakota Water Development District.
To this day, Duffy also serves as a licensed sports official, refereeing high school basketball, volleyball and football games.
"Giving back is part of our family tradition," he says, noting that his uncle, Tom, served as a Kingsbury County Commissioner and his mother, Darleen, who was named Eminent Homemaker in 1998, was involved in Extension and 4-H.
His inherent passion for farming led him to study Mechanized Agriculture and Soil Science at South Dakota State University. As a student, Duffy was introduced to politics. He worked one Legislative Session proofing bills and was hooked. "Sometimes politics becomes too much about who has a "'D' or "'R' behind their name. I learned that there are some really good people serving our state and it doesn't matter what party they are from. Together they are trying to do what is best for the people they represent," says Duffy, who has since served as chairman of the Kingsbury County Democrats, participated in Tom Daschle's Senate Campaign and was a member of the Agriculture and Rural Americans for Obama Committee.
"When there is a Presidential campaign, I want to get in on the ground floor to help shape policy in agriculture's favor," he says.
Back on his family's operation, Shamrock Farms Inc., Duffy continues to farm full-time. "Even to this day, I enjoy watching crops grow. It still amazes me that you can put seed in the ground, watch it grow and turn around and harvest that crop it's truly one of God's wonders."
When he returned to the farm in 1975, degree in hand, he farmed with his dad, Louis, and uncle, Tom. He says without their support and that of Jim and Sheila, he could not have been as involved off the farm.
Over time, the family increased the farm size by purchasing or leasing land from retiring family members and their children. "We've been able to keep all the land in the family," he says.
With his wife, Judy, Duffy has four stepson's: Sean, Matt, Tom and Aaron Chandler. The couple enjoys spending time with their six grandchildren.