HURON — The pioneer spirit and love for the land and its people has led to a lifetime of outstanding service for this year’s Spirit of Dakota Award winner, Angela Ehlers of Presho.
A fourth generation Lyman County resident and landowner, working and caring for the land has been a driving force throughout her life.
Her journey began on a diversified crop and livestock operation located between Fort Pierre National Grasslands and Lower Brule (Jul Wicasa Oyate) Reservation. As a young girl she studied everything and shared her knowledge and ideas on any topic you would ask her about — literature, music, science, math, and of course, agriculture.
Her passion for the land led her to South Dakota State University where she earned a bachelor of science degree in two majors, commercial economics and ag business. Still on her bucket list is to go back and finish her master’s degree or become a master woodworker.
From the beginning, Ehlers knew she wanted to pursue a career in agriculture by planting her roots in South Dakota.
She has been Executive Director of the S.D. Association of Conservation Districts for 32 years, moving the association forward through challenging times.
“I will find a way” describes her dedication and commitment.
As Executive Director of SDACD, Ehlers works closely with over 60 conservation districts. During her tenure new coalitions have been formed, including the S.D. Agricultural Land Trust, the Grasslands Coalition, and the Soil Health Coalition. Her leadership reaches beyond the South Dakota borders as she works with various agencies to ensure the people of South Dakota have clean water and air, along with clean energy for a healthier environment.
As a long time Lion’s Club member, Ehlers helped organize community projects including eye tests for youth, helping the chamber organize a successful annual farm and home show and build a basketball court in the city park.
Every Memorial Day weekend, she visits the city cemetery and Catholic cemetery to decorate graves of family members. A few years ago, she noticed many graves that had been neglected, so she gathered decorations for them and cleaned up the headstones.
When asked if she knew those buried there, her response is simple: “No, but somebody did and this person mattered to someone. They deserve respect and recognition for their contribution to this community and their family during their lifetime. It’s just the right thing to do.”
In the public policy arena, she provides support and leadership on drainage, conservation program funding, road funding and precision agriculture. She is a key supporter of activities for S.D. Ag Unity.
Through her vision to showcase all aspects of agriculture, AgFest has become an annual event held during the legislative session in Pierre.
Her leadership extends to the Avera St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation in Pierre, where a new cancer treatment center will make a lasting difference in. health care services in central South Dakota.
The former newspaper editor and publisher has served on various local boards, including city council (now mayor!), Medicine Cree Golf Course, and the Lyman County Ambulance District, with more than 40 years as an EMT (emergency medical technician).
She is a lifelong member of Christ the King Catholic Church in Presho.