Country Pride Board of Directors
Listed below is our current board of directors. Click the links to view a photo and bio on each of our board members.
“I’ve always thought that the cooperative system was the best way of doing business,” says Gary Christensen, who is serving his sixth term as a director of Country Pride. “That’s why it’s important to be committed and take the time to make a contribution.”
First elected in 1990, Gary has seen his share of change in the cooperative, which was then Farmers Coop Oil Association. “As we’ve grown,” comments Gary, “it’s been great to see the way the board works together. Members from both sides of the river and in different communities still work together to look out for the whole cooperative—and not just their area.”
Gary farms with his brother Doug near Winner. Their operation includes crop farming and a cow/calf business. They also sell commercial Angus bulls. Gary and his wife, Connie, have a teenage son, Logan.
As he looks at the cooperative’s business today, Gary identifies the high cost of energy as a major challenge. “With all of the trucks Country Pride runs, the cooperative is our energy division’s biggest customer,” says Gary. “That high cost of energy is a challenge to our farmers and ranchers and also to the co-op.” Another challenge, he adds, is the rising cost of benefits like health insurance. “You absolutely have to have benefits in order to retain quality employees, but the costs keep going up.”
“Our main goal is having a profitable co-op so that we can stay in business for our patrons,” insists Gary. “It’s important we offer a competitive price. We may not be the cheapest, but we want to be competitive.”
He concludes: “It’s been educational being on the board. It’s nice to figure out ways to work with other people to strive for common goals.”
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As the longest-serving member of the Country Pride board of directors, Barry Jensen understands his cooperative’s history. First elected in 1981, this White River rancher is proud of what Country Pride has become. “We serve a lot of farm communities today,” says Barry. “I probably have the most pride and still get the biggest kick out of working with my own cooperative. It’s been like raising a child. You devote so much time and effort into trying to make it right that you can’t quit in the middle of the stream.”
Barry’s wife, Katie, is the librarian at White River High School. They have three daughters. Wendy Conrad and Katie Bates live in Rapid City. Paige Kelly is in Atlanta; add to that mix seven grandchildren with another on the way. Barry is also a state legislator and a director of the Cooperative Finance Association and Missouri Valley Insurance Company. Most recently, Barry was nominated to the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2010. He has been a school board member and county commissioner. In other words, he’s seen his share of challenges. The cooperative is no exception.
“Like so many ag businesses, Country Pride has come up against challenges over the years,” says Barry. “Today we’re on very solid ground financially. We also have very good employees. That position allows us to weather the storms that have taken some cooperatives down. I feel very good about where we are right now.”
Barry would like to see Country Pride return even greater patronage, and he understands that shrinking margins will continue to be an issue. He sees this cooperative continuing to be a vital part of many South Dakota communities. “I want to make sure this business remains for the sake of the communities we serve and the people who own the cooperative.”
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Cody Jorgensen is a fourth-generation rancher in the Ideal area. First elected a Country Pride director in 2001, Cody is serving his third term. “It's a great, personal opportunity to learn more about production agriculture in terms of the retail side of the industry. I enjoy giving direction to the company from the perspective of someone actively involved in production agriculture," states Cody.
As a partner with his father, Greg, and uncle, Bryan, in Jorgensen Land & Cattle Co., Cody says he brings experience from their diversified enterprise to the board. In regards to challenges that producers are currently facing, Cody says that it's important for producers to stay on top of their financials. Another challenges he has addressed is consolidation and economies of scale as the average age of our producers and the size of their operation continues to increase.
At home, Cody enjoys spending time with his wife, Abby, and their three children: Phillip, Emma, and William. He also loves hunting pheasants, which he can combine with his work. One of his primary responsibilities is heading up his family’s commercial pheasant hunting business. Cody is also Chairman of the Rosebud Cattlemen's Association and Vice Chair of the Tripp County Republicans.
His roots in the area and with Country Pride are deep, says Cody, who explains that his family has been involved with the cooperative since its origin. Concludes Cody: “I really enjoy being a part of this board.”
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Mike Levi operates a cow/calf and feed/finish operation with his father-in-law and brothers-in-law southwest of Winner. Originally from Montana, Mike has been tending to his South Dakota beef herd for the past 19 years. He was named an associate director for Country Pride in 2001, becoming a full-voting board member three years later, and has been re-elected to the board in both 2007 and now again in 2010. He has served as board secretary and is currently vice chairman.
“The challenge for producers are the highly volatile markets we are forced to deal with every day,” says Mike. "We also need to stay abreast of the many new government regulations. Locally, we are dealing with aging infrastructure, the need for new infrastructure, and very limited capital to service those needs."
Mike, who runs a computer and IT consulting business on the side, says he enjoys figuring out how something works and then putting it back together—whether it be a computer software problem, herd health challenge, or issues facing Country Pride. “As a board of director, I take my responsibility very seriously. I fully realize I am a custodian for all of the members of Country Pride, and that I need to balance my decisions based on what's best for all members."
Mike is married to Cindy, an Ag Banking Assistant with Wells Fargo, and they have three children: Michelle, Michael, and Mackenzie.
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Mike Miller has had four years of experience on the Country Pride board of directors. Named an Associate Director in 2002, he became a voting director two years later. This Freeman-area farmer grows corn and soybeans and has a cow/calf business. Mike’s wife, Michelle Friesen, teaches private music lessons.
Serving on the Country Pride board is a responsibility Mike truly enjoys. “I believe in the direction our co-op is taking, and I look forward to our monthly meetings and being involved in Country Pride.” He adds that it’s also easier to serve on the board of a financially strong company. “The board of directors is involved in serious business,” explains Mike, “but because our co-op is financially strong, we can focus on how to expand our business options.”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. It’s important, Mike says, to be able to revolve equity back to the patrons. “That’s the idea the cooperative was founded on,” he says. “As a board, we concentrate on how we can best do that and we’ve been able to make strides in that area in the past few years.” Another challenge, he says, is to provide quality products at competitive prices.
This Freeman farmer has also been pleased with Country Pride’s willingness and ability to embrace technology—keeping up with the growing changes in the farming business today. “We have a lot of technical expertise that we’re able to bring to our patrons,” says Mike.
“Country Pride has a great board and management team,” concludes Mike. It’s great to be a part of it.”
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In 2004, Neil Reiman was named as an Associate Director on the Country Pride board. In July 2006, he was named a Voting Director, filling the seat left by the retiring Dean Norberg of Burke.
Neil is a Butte, Neb., farmer and rancher with his father, Jim, and brother Larry. The trio has a cash crop, cow/calf, and feedlot business. Their Country Pride location is Fairfax. Neil’s wife, Cathy, is a clerk magistrate at the Boyd County Courthouse in Butte. The couple has three children: Megan, a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kristen, in seventh grade, and Trent, a fifth-grader.
Not only does Neil keep busy with his own farm/ranch business and active family, but he is also President of Butte Implement Company, a business owned by local farmers.
With all of that on his plate, why is this Nebraska farmer willing to devote time to serve on the Country Pride board? “It’s a good experience,” says Neil. “And I want to see our cooperative remain profitable so we keep it going for the next generation. It’s nice to have local control of your company, rather than have it be dictated from some headquarters outside the area.”
He says the interest from other smaller cooperatives to become part of Country Pride in the last few years says something positive about Country Pride. “They must feel we’re here for the long haul, or they wouldn’t want to come aboard. They must like what they hear and see.”
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Mark Schaeffer believes in cooperatives - that’s why he’s willing to serve on the Country Pride board. His commitment goes back to when this Olivet farmer served on the Farmers Oil Company board of Menno prior to the merger with Country Pride. He was then named an Associate Director for Country Pride and later a Full Director. "I want to serve as a director because I've done business at the co-op as long as I've been farming, and I want to see that the business remains profitable and continues to serve the producers in our community."
Mark was re-elected in 2007 and now again in 2010. "I take my responsibility as a Country Pride director very seriously. It's not always easy to make some of the decisions we have to make, but we have to make them, and I enjoy the challenge."
Mark raises crops and runs a cow/calf operation. He also serves as a director on the local B-Y rural water district board, the Hutchinson Country Conservation District, and on the council of the Peace Christian Reformed Church of Menno. He says that experience is beneficial when it comes to decision-making at Country Pride. He adds that a major challenge of a cooperative today is providing the service that customers need and keeping up with the changing ag industry.
Mark and his wife, Trudi, have four children who are all married: Breanne, Brad, Daniel, and Luke. Daniel has joined Mark in the farming operation.
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This Freeman-area farmer is serving his first term on the Country Pride board, but he’s no newcomer when it comes to helping guide an ag business. He’s a founding member and current director on the board of POET™ Bio-Refining Chancellor. Dennis is excited about the opportunity to work more closely with his cooperative.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the cooperative through the years and am looking forward to continuing that association as a director,” he states. “Country Pride is a strong company, and that is very important right now considering the current economic challenges facing our country. We need to stay strong, because patrons in our region rely on us to provide multiple lines of products and services.”
Dennis and his wife, Linda, utilize those products and services themselves as they run a farming operation that includes crop production and a cow/calf business.
As an ag producer, Dennis can foresee several challenges ahead for agriculture. “The current economic situation in our country may also impact the ability of patrons to access credit,” he notes. "And those same economic conditions could make it more difficult for farmers and rural businesses to move both inputs and products. Keeping the rural infrastructure, such as roads, in good shape will continue to be difficult. That impacts businesses like our cooperative that depend on roads to receive and deliver products.”
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Jerry Schwarting remembers when he first came on the board in 1993; the then Farmers Oil Coop Association had approximately $7 million in sales. Today, at Country Pride, that figure has increased to approximately $70 million in projected sales in next year’s budget.
“My goal is to help keep Country Pride profitable so it can continue to be a viable player in our region,” says Jerry, who is running for a fifth term. “Our challenge is to provide quality goods and services to our customers at a competitive price.”
Jerry and his wife, Helen (“Boots”) are family ranchers near White River. Their family includes daughters Sarah (Eric) Gropper, Long Valley, SD, Jenny in Pierre, and Jerod. They also enjoy spending time with their granddaughters Tawny and Elizabeth.
As a customer himself, Jerry appreciates the fact that Country Pride services the smaller rural areas of South Dakota. “If it weren’t for the cooperative, our town would possibly not have a hardware store, shop, an agronomist, or feed representative, among other services,” states Jerry. “It wouldn’t be profitable for an independent to offer these.”
“I enjoy the challenge of being a director,” he explains. “We try to stay ahead of the curve.” He also appreciates the current board members—explaining that today’s board represents a variety of ages and ideas. “The younger directors are a valuable asset. They bring in new ideas and knowledge,” he says. “But there’s also a place for the experience of the older members as well.”
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Alan raises corn, wheat, soybeans, hay, alfalfa, and runs a 275-head Hereford cow/calf operation near Platte. As a fourth-generation South Dakota farmer, Alan has seen a lot of changes in agriculture and the cooperative business. “Risk management, volatile markets, and increasing input costs (particularly cash rent and fertilizer) are the biggest obstacles facing producers right now,” says Alan.
After serving on the Platte Co-op Association’s board for more than 12 years, Alan joined the Country Pride board following Platte’s unification with Country Pride. "My responsibility as a Country Pride director is to help provide guidance as to the direction in which the cooperative is headed. It takes a fair amount of time to do the job right, and I take the responsibility seriously," states Alan. Besides serving on the CPC Board of Directors, Alan also serves on the Platte Township board.
As a full-time farmer since 1982, Alan now runs the operation with his brother, Leon, and son, Eric. Alan’s wife, Sheila, and their teenage daughter, Kayla, also pitch in when needed. In his spare time, Alan enjoys hunting, fishing, and woodworking.
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As farms continue to grow larger, the co-op that can provide exceptional service will thrive in the twenty-first century, says Duane Winckler, who farms between Delmont and Wagner, S.D. “Getting more bang for your buck is the focus, and Country Pride provides excellent service.”
Duane, who farms with his brother, Verlin, says their father taught them the value of the local co-op. “That’s where he bought everything, and he was always a strong supporter of farmer-owned co-ops,” says Duane, who sells all his grain to the local co-op and relies on their specialists to scout his fields, apply fertilizer, and more.
The changing needs of today’s farmers will require co-ops to become even more service-oriented, says Duane, who has farmed full-time since 1967 and served on the Wagner Farmers Co-op board before the business unified with Country Pride. He cites his own operation, which used to have chickens, milk cows, beef cows, hogs, and sheep but now specializes in corn, soybeans, winter wheat, and sunflowers, in addition to a 200-head cow-calf herd.
“I appreciate that Country Pride keeps its equipment upgraded, and their employees know my fields. Everything is done on time, which is a big plus,” says Duane, who notes the Country Pride would like to get more rail access, especially for fertilizer deliveries.
In addition to his years of service on board of the Wagner/Lake Andes Irrigation District, Duane and his family have been active in many community activities in the local area. Duane’s wife, JoAnn, has worked at the Commercial State Bank in Wagner since the late 1960s. The couple enjoys visiting their three grown daughters and five grandchildren, who all live in the Sioux Falls area. In his spare time, Duane likes to hunt deer, pheasants, and turkeys.
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