Country Pride Board of Directors
Listed below is our current board of directors: Gary Christensen - Fred Egleston - Cody Jorgensen - Mike Miller - Neil Reiman - Mark Schaeffer - Jerry Schwarting - Alan Summerville - Duane Winckler.
Gary Christensen, Board Chairman
“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 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.”
As a life-long resident of Mellette County, Fred Egleston has seen his share of changes in the area and in the ag industry. He explains that he ran for the CPC Board of Directors so he can stay involved, help with the strategic planning of the farmer-owned cooperative, and to help keep the co-op strong. "Some of the challenges facing farmers today are government regulations and also the world economy," Fred describes. "Keeping up with change can be difficult. We have to be able to understand that it's not just about South Dakota's economy or the United States, but the world economy affects the ag industry and us."
Fred believes in staying active and volunteering in his community. He has served on the Mellette County Conservation District Board, the White River School Board of Education, and the Cody Township Board. "Communication with members is extremely important so people can understand why a decision has been made," Fred states.
Currently Fred runs a cow-calf operation just north east of White River, SD with his wife Ardeth, son John, and daughter-in-law Sharon. He is a third-generation racher to operate the family farm which was homesteaded by his grandfather in 1912.
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 also serves as a 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.”
Mike Miller, Board Secretary
Mike Miller was named a Country Pride Associate Director in 2002, and became a voting director two years later. During his 14 years as a Board Member Mike has served as the Board Secretary for 8 years and continues to serve in that role. 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.”
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.”
Mark Schaeffer, Board Vice Chairman
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. Mark first served as a CPC associate director and then became a regular director and has now served two terms.
He reports that he’s proud knowing Country Pride was able to continue to grow during a drought that affected the entire company’s trade territory. "A challenge of being on a board is that sometimes our decisions are not popular but they are the best for the company. I enjoy working with other farmer/rancher directors and our goals are to have Country Pride be profitable, a competitive and good company for customers to do business with, and a good place for employees to work.” An example of this Mark reports is Country Pride’s VRT program. “This is something that the average producer wouldn’t have and the cooperative is providing that needed service.”
Mark raises crops and operates a cattle feedlot with son Daniel. He also serves as a director on the local B-Y rural water district board and the Hutchinson County Conservation District. Mark and his wife, Trudi, have four married children: Breanne, Brad, Daniel, and Luke and their families which include 8 grandchildren.
Jerry Schwarting remembers when he first came on the board in 1993; the then Farmers Oil Coop Association had approximately $7 million in sales. Now that number is $128 million in sales for the past fiscal year and it is expected to continue to grow. “My goal is to help keep Country Pride profitable so it can continue to be a viable player in our region,” says Jerry. He enjoys serving on the board and helping Country Pride evolve so that it can continue to provide the best products and services to its shareholders and states this is done while keeping the cooperative's balance sheet strong.
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.” One of the most recent accomplishments he is proud of is the $5.2 million dollar grain and agronomy expansion in Winner, SD.
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.
Alan raises corn, wheat, soybeans, hay, alfalfa, and runs a 380-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. After serving on the Platte Co-op Association’s board for more than 12 years, Alan joined the Country Pride board and has served for 6 years. "My responsibility as a Country Pride director is to help provide guidance as to the direction in which the cooperative is headed," states Alan.
When reflecting on his time as a CPC board member, Alan is proud of the board’s commitment to re-invest in the company such as the grain and agronomy expansion project in Winner. He is also quick to point out that the local cooperative is equipped to help farmers with the challenges they face in today’s business environment. He explains two key components readily available to customers are: expertise and technology. “Helping with marketing needs in today’s volatile markets is one way, and helping with the new seeding and fertilizing technology will allow farmers to make more from the same acres,” explains Alan. He continues to look forward to serving on the board and planning for the future needs of the area farmers and the cooperative.
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 daughter, Kayla, also pitch in when needed. In his spare time, Alan enjoys hunting, fishing, and woodworking. Alan also serves on the Platte Township board.
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.