When it comes to her family, farm or community "No," isn't in Phyllis Niemann's vocabulary.
For much of her life, the Clear Lake native has balanced helping her husband, Henry, on their farm, being actively involved in her five children's and now 16 grandchildren's lives, working off the farm and volunteering countless hours.
"Someone once told me when they asked me to volunteer, that, "'when you ask a busy person, you get the job done,'" said Niemann, who even though she semi-retired 10 years ago, still volunteers and works as an insurance agent and sells Avon.
She finds the saying as true today, as back then, as she now asks people to volunteer.
Growing up on a farm near Clear Lake, Niemann was no stranger to farm work. After marrying Henry at 19, the young couple built their farm from the ground up. She worked as a legal secretary in town and he worked as a hired hand until they took the leap and bought their own place.
"It was a tough start. We started from scratch, with Henry's family helping us by letting us exchange work for harvesting equipment," she said.
Along with raising crops, the couple was in the dairy business for 32 years. Niemann worked on the farm with Henry. As they were building their family, she would get up early to help him with milking before getting the children ready for school. Then it was off to work.
"I enjoyed the opportunity the farm gave us to all work together as a family. Our children helped with chores."
Throughout their farming career, the couple implemented many conservation practices and enrolled acres in the Conservation Reserve Program. Niemann contributed to the pheasant population in Deuel County when on her own, and against her husband's better judgment, Niemann purchased hen pheasants from Pheasants Forever and released them into the CRP.
For several years, Henry planted CRP acres for Deuel County Conservation District. Familiar with the organization and wanting to become more involved, Niemann was elected to serve on the Conservation District Board of Directors, a public office she holds today.
Over the years she has served as a 4-H leader, been actively involved in the 4-H Leaders Association, hosted international and interstate 4-H exchange students and served as chaperone in the dorms at State Fair. She is a member of the United Methodist Church, where she has taught Sunday school, served as the youth music director and is president of the United Methodist Women. She has been overall chair of the work groups and cookbook committee. She currently serves on the worship and auditing committees of the church and is an organist.
Volunteering throughout her community, she's chaired the local cancer walk for her church, served on the PTA, was room mother for each of her children, delivers Meals on Wheels, was on the Clear Lake Centennial cookbook committee, as well as helping out whenever needed at a community events, whether it be working or baking something.
When her father retired 21 years ago, as director on the board of directors for Deuel County Farm Mutual Insurance Company, she took over his position as director, and is an active director and agent on what is now Dakota Farm Mutual, holding the secretary's position on the board for many years.
For Niemann, service to others began at home with her five children Ronda Boughton, Mike Niemann, Krista Thompson, Doug Niemann and Sharla Haugen.
A 4-H member herself, she credits the organization with her interest in trying new recipes and learning new ways to prepare food. Her family, friends and many community members have benefited from Niemann's love for baking, cooking and canning. She has often been referred to as the "pickle lady." If Niemann knew someone was struggling, she'd be at their doorstep with a fresh batch of cookies or meal.
Through 4-H, she shared her passion for the culinary arts by teaching all of her children how to cook even her sons.
"I taught all my children to cook and sew. I thought that if the girls could go out and help the boys with chores, then they could help out in the house," she said.
A 4-H leader for more than 15 years, she said getting ready for the fair and contests was often a family affair. She begins to laugh as she recounts how the whole family got tired of apple pie when her daughter Ronda was preparing for the 4-H pie baking contest.
"The community of Clear Lake has been home to me, my entire life. I want to see it grow and remain active. The only way this will happen is through community involvement, and if I can better the life of someone else, then I'm willing to do what it takes to get the job done," Niemann said.