Heritage Farm donors give farm land, assets worth $6.9 million

Funds to support scholarships, programs and research

Donors of nine legacy gifts of farmland and agricultural assets valued at $6.9 million were formally recognized June 16 as part of the Heritage Farms program at South Dakota State University.

The gifts will generate funds to support scholarships, programs, and research, all of which are projects of It Starts with STATE: A Campaign for South Dakota State University. The campaign aims to raise $200 million by Dec. 31, 2012, to meet strategic initiatives of the University.

Sixty-five individuals and families are now members of the Heritage Farms program, which was started in 2001.

President David L. Chicoine and Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, thanked the donors for their generosity and for entrusting their farmland to SDSU. “Your gifts give us the opportunity to achieve a new level of excellence at South Dakota State University,” Dunn told them.

A Heritage Farm is a farm, ranch, or rural property given as a gift to the University through the SDSU Foundation. In addition to land, gifts of farm machinery, livestock, and crops are recognized by the program. A permanent display of bronze plaques representing each gift is located in the atrium of the Northern Plains Biostress Laboratory on the SDSU campus.

“The Heritage Farms wall of honor is designed to provide a lasting tribute to the history of the family farm and the family’s relationship to SDSU,” says Jeff Nelson, senior gift planning advisor for the SDSU Foundation. “It illustrates how private contributions make the promise of public research, education, and Extension a reality for future generations.”

Dale Harpstead, a former SDSU agronomy professor now living in Michigan, reminisced about growing up on his Roberts County family farm during the Great Depression. “A Heritage Farm can be a harbor or a safe haven, but it also can be a launching pad, a place from which to reach into the unknown,” says Harpstead, who went on to work in agricultural development in Washington, D.C., and abroad.

“My time at SDSU exposed me to a larger world—a larger world of science, the larger world of political activity, a world view. SDSU gave me the bases which have lead to the success I have enjoyed.”

The following Heritage Farms inductees were recognized:

  • Richard and Sharon Beitelspacher of Bowdle gifted partial interest in a quarter section of ranch land to SDSU to support the Cow and Calf Research and Teaching Unit. The Beitelspacher Ranch is in Faulk County, two miles east of Bowdle. Richard’s father established the ranch in the 1950s. Richard and Sharon, along with their four children, built a reputable purebred black Simmental herd. Three of their children attended SDSU.
  • Ortwin Buss of Clark was among the first to take advantage of the Foundation’s Green Trust concept, converting gifts of grain to long-term income in a charitable trust. Other current and deferred gift arrangements have benefited SDSU’s Seed Technology Laboratory and student scholarships. The Buss farm was a diversified grain and livestock operation covering 2,000 acres in Clark County near Bradley.
  • The Mary G. Decker Estate gifted 80 acres of farmland near Carpenter in Beadle County to SDSU to fund agricultural research and scholarships for single mothers wanting to attend college. Decker, formerly of Huron, died in 2008. Throughout her more than three decades of work in social services, she developed a deep respect for single mothers. While she was living, Decker began a scholarship fund for single mothers wanting to attend SDSU. Delwin and Pam Hofer of Carpenter accepted the honor on Decker’s behalf.
  • Frank E. ’56 and Mildred T. Denholm of Brookings named SDSU as a beneficiary of western Day County farmland in their living trust. Frank, an attorney and former member of Congress, was born on the homestead of his father, John J. Denholm. John Denholm built the family’s small house by hand to perfect the claim under the Homestead Act of 1862. Frank’s father was a strong supporter of the Extension Service and urged his children to attend South Dakota State College. Frank graduated from SDSU in 1956.
  • Thomas R. ’65 /MS’71 and Marilyn G. ’67 Gannon of Sioux Falls arranged a gift of 950 acres of land in northern Lake County to fund future scholarships. Both Thomas and Marilyn attribute their career success to the education they received at SDSU and say they want to help provide similar experiences to future students. Thomas and Marilyn met while attending a 4-H event on campus. Thomas went on to graduate from SDSU with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in agriculture engineering. Marilyn received her sociology degree from SDSU. Over the years, Thomas and Marilyn have invested in farmland near the Gannon Farmstead.
  • Dale ’50/MS’53 and Mary Harpstead of East Lansing, Michigan, gifted a half interest of his family farm in Roberts County to support graduate research. Because of his career in research and higher education, Dale appreciates how challenging it is to secure funding for research. Dale graduated from SDSU with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in agronomy. After completing his doctorate degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he joined the SDSU faculty as an assistant professor of agronomy. In 1961, Dale joined the Agriculture Program of The Rockefeller Foundation and worked as head of its corn breeding program in South America. He went on to serve as professor and chairman of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Michigan State University (1969-1984). In 1984, he accepted a two-year appointment with The Board for International Food and Agriculture Development, Department of State in Washington, D.C.
  • Dwane and Dawn Marsh of Humboldt funded a charitable life-income trust with corn, soybeans, and twenty-four machinery items after retiring from farming in 2008. The trust remainder will eventually provide a permanent endowment. Dwane, a third-generation farmer, has restored more than eighty antique tractors. The Marsh’s son-in-law attended SDSU; two granddaughters currently attend SDSU.
  • Roger ’66 and Arlys Tilberg of Montivideo, Minnesota, donated a partial interest of the family farm to sponsor an animal and range science scholarship. Located on 160 acres in Davison County, the century farm began as a tree claim. The Tilberg family continues to farm the land today. Roger credits 4-H for helping him develop the confidence he needed to have a successful career in livestock, feed, and animal health sales. A 1966 animal science graduate of SDSU, Roger received scholarships to help pay his tuition and he wanted to give other students the same opportunity.
  • Robert ’59 and Eveleen ’60 Wilson of Lakeville, Minnesota, donated farmland that was once farmed by Evie’s grandfather, Alfred Eberle, who formerly served as dean of the College of Agriculture at SDSU. The gift, which funds a charitable gift annuity, includes a half interest in 611 acres of land two miles east of Brookings. The Wilsons sponsor a graduate research assistantship for a plant science student. The couple met at SDSU. Bob is a 1959 pharmacy graduate; Evie is a 1960 secretarial science graduate.

Five of the donors retained income rights from their gift. The other gifts were outright gifts or bequests of land, according to Nelson.

For more information about the Heritage Farms program, contact Jeff Nelson toll-free at 1-888-747-7378 or by e-mail at jeff.nelson@sdsufoundation.org.

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