Three South Dakota men who dedicated a combined 75-plus years to cooperatives in South Dakota have been recognized with the state's highest cooperative honor.
Jake Boomsma of Huron, Milo Gilbertson of Vermillion and Barry Jensen of White River were inducted into the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame Sept. 15 in Oacoma. The recognition comes as cooperatives across the nation prepare to recognize October as Cooperative Month.
According to the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame Nomination Form, the South Dakota Cooperative Hall of Fame provides recognition for a person contributing in especially significant ways to the enhancement of the cooperative idea, its broader acceptance or to the substantial advancement of cooperative enterprise in any of its various forms.
Jake Boomsma of Huron has served cooperatives for more than 25 years on the local, state and regional levels.
Experiencing extreme hardship as a young boy while he was born and raised under German occupation of Holland, Boomsma believes and appreciates that the opportunities of America also come with responsibilities for service, wrote Hal Clemensen, Board President of South Dakota Wheat Growers in a nomination letter.
For 21 years, Boomsma served as a director on the board of South Dakota Wheat Growers, which has grown into one of the largest farmer-owned grain and agronomy cooperatives in the United States. During his eight-year tenure as board chairman, he led the process of building the first two grain shuttle-loaders in 1999 in the Wolsey and Mellette areas. Boomsma's strength and vision was fundamental to the continued growth and success of Wheat Growers in order to better serve its member-owners, wrote Clemensen.
Boomsma was instrumental as one of the leaders of the very first consolidation of rural electric cooperatives in the state of South Dakota as Ree Electric Cooperative and Beadle Electric Cooperative became Dakota Energy Cooperative in 1995. He served on the Ree Electric board and then the Dakota Energy board for a total of 16 years.
Boomsma served six years with the S.D. National Guard as Staff Sergeant of the 153 Engineering Brigade of Huron, was a board member of American Bank & Trust, a member of the Farm Bureau and actively works on his farm with family members. He is also a member of Bethesda Church in Huron where he serves in various ministries.
Jake and his wife, Cindy, have three children and nine grandchildren.
Milo Gilbertson of Vermillion has served cooperatives by leading the board of Clay Union Electric Corporation for 26 years, including nine years as vice president and president. Prior to that, he served nine years on Vermillion's Cooperative Oil Company as director and president. During his time with Clay Union Electric, Gilbertson also served on the board of directors for the South Dakota Rural Electric Association, Pierre, (22 years) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Arlington, VA, (16 years).
Throughout his 26 years on the Clay Union Electric board, Gilbertson oversaw the co-ops financial budget and can proudly recall only one rate increase during that time. He is also recognized for helping to provide satellite television to Clay Union's members and residents of the surrounding area. Gilbertson also demonstrated leadership by encouraging cooperatives to invest and refocus on Automated Meter Infrastructure (AMI). Through this, Clay Union is now embarked on a 'smart meter' program, said John Gors, Clay Union's manager, in Milo's nomination letter.
Gilbertson also continuously encouraged and enforced safety measures while serving on boards for SDREA, NRECA and Clay Union. Not only a leader of men of initiative in cooperatives, Gilbertson played an active role in his local community as well. He served on the board of directors for the Livestock Feeders Association for nine years, including three years as vice president, and was also a member of the National Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Farmer's Union, the Elks Lodge and the Moose Lodge.
Gilbertson and his wife, Sally, have four grown sons.
Barry Jensen has provided leadership and guidance within the cooperative community throughout his 30 years of providing service to them.
Jensen has served crucial roles for cooperatives beginning at the grassroots level in 1981 for Country Pride Cooperative, where he was elected onto the board of directors. For 20 years he has served on the board of Cooperative Finance Association of Kansas City as the only agricultural producer being vice chairman and is now chairman. Jensen also provides a leading role to Missouri Valley Insurance Company where for the past 13 years he has served as a board member and now serves as vice chairman. Since 2003 Jensen has been on the board of directors for South Dakota Association of Cooperatives and was elected as vice president in 2009.
For 11 years, Jensen served on the board of directors for Farmland Industries and has been a member of Midwest Cooperative, Golden West Telephone Cooperative, Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative and Farm Credit Services.
Jensen has always shown strong support for the principles of cooperative business and has a clear understanding of the influence that multiple voices speaking together can have for the good of the members, said Mike Trosen, CEO of Country Pride Co-op, who noted Jensen's commitment and involvement helped the cooperative achieve its success.
His leadership and initiative for striving for success does not end within cooperatives, for he has also proudly served his local community in various committees and associations including Mellette County Republicans, White River Masonic Lodge, Order of Eastern Star, Mellete County 4-H and 4-H Rodeo, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, Tiger Booster Club, White River Alumni Association, Mellette County Centennial Committee, White River Community Theater, White River Board of Education, White River Lions Club, South Dakota Flying Farmers and Ranchers and as a representative for the State of South Dakota for five years, where he firmly supported cooperatives by helping pass legislative measures.
Jensen and wife, Katie, have three daughters, eight grand children and are members of United Methodist Church.