Mike Randall has always had a global view of agriculture. His education, experiences and relationships have taught him both the grandeur of the entire world and the interconnectedness that we all share as co-inhabitants of the Earth.
He's also had an articulate vision of how landlocked South Dakota would be a participant in that world; specifically, he saw an opportunity for South Dakotans to live out a calling of "Feeding the World"; a calling that has been foundational to his life. It is a calling that spans generations and boundaries, borders and oceans; and a calling that unites producers, politicians, agronomists and zoologists. It is an eternal calling and is the highest of callings. This is a calling that Randall has had his entire adult life and is one that he has shared with those who have crossed his path.
Randall's vision started during his collegiate days at SDSU. As an Animal Science major, he had the opportunity to broaden and challenge his experiences through professors, classmates and friends. It was during this time that he first traveled abroad, going to Puerto Rico with the Lutheran Center on a mission trip. This was a formative experience for Randall, and he came home to start farming with a calling: to realize South Dakota's ability to "feed the world."
From this it follows that the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug, famed plant geneticist, Nobel laureate and father of the agricultural Green Revolution, would resonate strongly with Randall. Like Dr. Borlaug, Randall saw tremendous potential in the technological and scientific advancements that were beginning to occur and as a result, Randall became an active proponent of both the advancement of technological progress and the appropriate policies, whether through private, religious or governmental channels, to allow people access to the bountiful South Dakota harvests.
Randall shared his calling first with those closest to him. From an early age, he taught his four children the value of what the family farm and feedlot provided to the world and how the crops and cattle they produced would feed not only their own family and the people of South Dakota, but a multitude of others as well, both domestic and abroad. He encouraged his kids to learn more about the ways South Dakota fit into the global landscape and always communicated his calling of providing nourishment to the masses. As a result, his children have all had opportunities to work with and travel into various cultures as ambassadors of South Dakota agriculture.
From his family he then reached out to his local community. In addition to working as an elder on the local church board, Randall was a promoter of organizations such as Heifer International and Bread for the World, sponsoring families and communities across the globe and hosting people with those organizations when they visited his local church.
Randall worked on a state level with trade organizations as an ambassador for agriculture. He served as the President of the South Dakota Corn Growers for two separate terms; during this time, South Dakota's corn production rank rapidly rose to sixth in the nation and ethanol plants and exports both grew in numbers as a result of our increase in production. He also went to Argentina as president of the organization to understand the progress of the leading South American agricultural producers. Randall was also a board member of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council, constantly finding more avenues for our products to reach those who needed them. He was also an early participant in the blossoming South Dakota dairy market as he raised Holstein heifers during the influx of new dairy development that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Lastly, Randall reached out to the national and international community. He went on an excursion with the American Center for International Leadership to Hungary to learn about the opportunities to access markets that were in need of food, an experience that greatly impacted his leadership roles with South Dakota Corn. He also was called to testify in front of Congress about the need of South Dakota and other Midwest states to have updated rail infrastructure to allow access to both coastal and international markets. As mentioned above, he traveled to South America during his first term as President of the South Dakota Corn Growers.
Randall's vision of how both his farm and South Dakota Agriculture as a whole would become participants in the global marketplace has come true, thanks largely to the tremendous potential that existed in agricultural science and technology. He shared this vision with all of those he came in contact with: family, fellow producers, parishioners, colleagues and friends. He has encouraged countless people to be involved in the bountiful harvest that agriculture can produce; for evidence of this, one need only look at the occupations and accomplishments of his own children. He succeeded in part by following the wisdom of Micah 6:8: "Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. . .", and in doing this he has touched the lives of a multitude of South Dakotans, Argentines, Hungarians and countless others who can now best be described as Agriculturalists. But perhaps the greatest realization of his calling are the countless people that have benefited from the harvests that he and his fellow South Dakota Agriculturalists have produced. Year after year after year, Randall and his South Dakota colleagues have worked with scientists, biologists, veterinarians, agronomists, parishioners, senators, pastors, donators, traders, exporters and a multitude of others to fulfill the eternal calling of "feeding the world."
Written by Michael Randall's son, fifth-generation farmer, Jesse Randall; after accepting the Eminent Farmer/Rancher Honor, Michael Randall passed away from cancer on August 4, 2014.