Minnesota Soybean Business

‘Leading with positivity’ South Dakota rancher is a walking billboard for agriculture

Amanda Radke is like you. The South Dakota rancher has been eager to visit indoors and resume in-person events with her fellow producers at agriculture  gatherings.

It’s been a long time coming.

“Audiences are so excited to be back together,” she said. “The ag community is so close knit, and we’ve missed that fellowship and camaraderie.”

Radke will serve as the keynote speaker during the first day (Jan. 19) of the 2022 MN AG EXPO. At her 2 p.m. keynote, Radke expects she’ll see some familiar faces in the audience during her roughly 45-minute presentation. Radke’s husband, Tyler, hails from Mountain Lake, a farming community about 50 miles southwest of Mankato.

“It’ll be a return to home in some way,” she said.

Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D. She’s a natural orator and first began publicly speaking at a 4-H contest at just eight years old. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University, Radke was named a 10-Beef Industry Leader by Cattle Business Weekly and appeared on Media Industry’s Top 15 People to Watch Under 30 list, for her contributions to the BEEF Daily blog. Her speech at AG EXPO will focus on her lifelong investment in agriculture.

“I try to show I’ve got boots on the ground experience,” she said. “We talk a lot about family dynamic and the ups and downs of production agriculture and all the things people are juggling every day to make it work.”

Radke says the 2022 version of her speech will address the “elephant in the room,” and spotlight how producers can shift their mindsets and join together to uplift rural communities.

“The monkey wrench of COVID, it challenged people in a lot of different ways and we talk about that,” Radke said. “There’s been a lot of hardship here in the past couple years and it’s OK to be not OK, but it’s not OK to suffer alone, so I encourage people to rally together again and support each other and prioritize that community that makes ag so great.”

Radke will also encourage farmers to embrace innovation and adaptability in their operations.

Amanda Radke is also the author of five agriculture-themed children’s books.

“I highlight the things that people have done in the past few years to thrive in unprecedented times,” she said, “and the key breakdown is willing be innovative and pivot your business model, connecting and serving your customers in new ways by providing solutions.”

Getting after it
Farmers, of course, don many hats, and Radke wears more than most. In addition to ranching and dozens of speaking gigs each year, she and her husband, Tyler, raise four young children. Radke also continues writing her
Beef Daily blog; has written a series of children’s books and launched a clothing and jewelry line on her website, amandaradke.com.

“I’ve learned there’s no such thing as balance,” she said. “For everything there’s a season, just like farming. You’ve got to give yourself a lot of grace but when it’s time to get to work you got to put both boots on and get after it.”

Radke says her apparel line helps farmers speak out and advocate on issues they may not be comfortable voicing out loud.

“I’ve realized people are shy to speak out but if they can wear a message on a tee, it can spark a conversation,” she said. “It’s making people walking billboards for ag and when I get approached, it gives me a chance to talk about ag.”

She’s also active on social media, where she proactively dispels myths and misconceptions about farming and production agriculture. Now’s not the time to sit quietly on the sidelines, she says. In 2019, Radke wrote an open letter to Ellen DeGeneres following the television host’s #BeNeatEatLessMeat tweet. Radke’s response generated tens of millions of media impressions and more than 50 media interviews.

“I’m a firm believer that social media has to be one of the hats that we wear in our day-to-day business,” she said. “We want voters and consumers to be informed and empowered, but unfortunately they’re getting a lot of biased sources that have an agenda. We have to teach people about what we’re doing in the field and how our products serve them and make their lives better, and we have to be ready to answer the tough questions and be available and transparent and available to consumers.”

Radke connects with her audience by stressing optimism during stressful times.

“I speak about leading with positivity and doing things that strengthen our communities,” she said. “If we’re going to change heart and minds about who we are in agriculture, we have to start by doing good in our communities and being a visible face and getting involved.”


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