After graduating in two years from the North Dakota State College of Science, Jerry spent 12 years in the oil industry. Two and one-half of those years were spent in the Middle East, where he encountered many harrowing experiences including facing the wrong end of an AK47 in Libya. Jerry worked a five-year stint as a hydraulics specialist on the northern slope of Alaska, as well as one winter in Northwestern Alberta, Canada.
Jerry worked numerous job locations in the western half of the United States before he decided to return to college. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He then worked another 18 years as an electronic engineer primarily in Nebraska before his path led him to Day County South Dakota.
“When I first got out of college, I started investing. My first opportunity was with an old family friend, who wanted me to own his farm. I was blessed with other opportunities adjacent to where I grew up, and I was able to grow my farm base in South Dakota,” says Jerry. “I started farming 25 acres just two miles from the farm where I grew up, although I was living in Nebraska at the time. I would plan time off to plant my 25 acres in the spring and hire it harvested in the fall. Eventually, I had enough land that I could consider making it work to farm full time.”
Jerry and his wife, Rita, decided they wanted to raise their sons in the country. In 2008, they moved to Webster, South Dakota.
To supplement his farming income, Jerry worked as a sales and service technician for the healthcare division of GE until he could justify farming full time. He then decided to replace his off-farm income with a seed dealership in 2008. He noticed that Latham® seed products were performing well in the F.I.R.S.T. trials and decided to learn more after passing by the Latham Hi-Tech Seeds booth at the Watertown Farm Show in 2015.
“I know I have superior products to sell, but I’ve found that selling seed requires deep, long-term relationships. I enjoy forming these relationships,” says Jerry. “With Gary Geske and Myron Keltgen on the Latham team, we really have access to two of the industry’s leading product specialists. I know that I can pick up the phone and call them whenever I have a question. I also appreciate Latham Seeds’ commitment to continuous training for its dealers.”
Another thing Jerry says he likes about Latham Seeds is that it’s a family-owned business that encourages families to enjoy spending time together at its business meetings. Rita and their two sons enjoy the annual Latham® dealer sales meeting. Their oldest son, Brian, is a sophomore at Webster Area Community School. He enjoys basketball and track. Last season he went to state in cross country. He is also working toward becoming an Eagle Scout. Brian is interested in technology and computers; he plans to pursue a career as an architectural engineer. Matthew, 13, loves anything that deals with farming. He’s excited that he was old enough to join FFA this year. He wants to learn how to weld and plans to sell seed, too. Matt also enjoys competed in the state 4-H archery competition.
Interest in shooting sports is growing thanks to a unique partnership between Webster 4-H clubs and the Isaac Walton League. The community of Webster got a new outdoor 3-D archery range from a $5,000 grant from the South Dakota Farm Bureau Centennial Community Initiative plus contributions from local businesses. The addition of the outdoor 3-D range means competitions can now be held in Webster, drawing in shooting sports enthusiasts from miles away.
“This has really been a cooperative project,” says Jerry, who serves as president of the Clark/Day Counties Farm Bureau. “I believe its location along U.S. Highway 12 will increase the visibility of shooting sports here and serve as another draw to Webster for people who enjoy outdoor sports. A new sign will go up at the shooting range this spring as part of an Eagle Scout project. It’s all coming together.”
In addition to serving on the Farm Bureau board, Jerry is serving as grand night for Knights of Columbus. He’s also in his fourth year as a CCD teacher. When he’s not busy working or volunteering in his community, Jerry enjoys riding snowmobiles with his family. They also enjoy traveling and attending KC Royals games in the summer.