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Schmidt moves on in ag career

By Staff | Jul 25, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT NDSU Extension Agent Yolanda Schmidt sits at her desk in the Pierce County office on her last day.

Yolanda Schmidt spent her final day on Tuesday, July 14, at the Pierce County Office of the North Dakota State University Extension office reminiscing about the job where she did “everything and the kitchen sink.”

“My main job duties fell under ag and natural resources, so lots of cattle calls, rations, crop calls, weed identification, fertilizer questions and pesticide questions,” the former Pierce County NDSU Extension agent said.

“Then,” Schmidt added, “there are questions from homeowners about lawns, gardens and trees, like, ‘What’s wrong with my tomato plant? What’s wrong with my tree? What can I do about it?'”

“I worked with specialists in our region on different projects,” Schmidt noted, listing her many duties. “We just had the water quality project, which runs through the growing season. We had a wheat stand survey (measuring the number of wheat plants in a field sample). In previous years, we’ve done grazing readiness surveys. In the fall, we do wheat midge surveys and soil sampling. Every Monday, I do a crop progress report for the USDA.”

“I also do a drought monitor report for NDSU and the state climatologist,” Schmidt said.

“They use everyone’s reports to gauge our drought status,” Schmidt explained. “The rain we just had recently changed our drought status. We’ve now moved into the ‘moderately dry’ category. That’s less severe. The reason drought monitoring is important is that can trigger government assistance for producers. But it has to stay eight weeks at a certain level.”

“Oh, and I can’t forget 4-H,” Schmidt added, smiling. “The county agent oversees the program and provides guidance and assistance to our volunteers, who essentially carry out the programming.”

Schmidt ended an eight-year stint at the Extension office to take a job with the Rugby office of the Federal Natural Resource Conservation Service located in Hartley’s Mall.

“I started here August 1, 2012,” she said.

Schmidt said agriculture has always been a part of her life.

“I grew up on a small dairy with a stanchion barn,” Schmidt said, explaining, “that means there were 13 stalls on one side and 12 stalls on the other with spaces for the cows’ heads to go in.”

“It was about a 50-head dairy that my parents transitioned to beef cattle when I was in the sixth grade,” she added. “They started to breed the dairy cows for beef. The first 25 cows were dairy/beef cross. Those are all gone now, so they’ve transitioned strictly to beef cattle.

Schmidt said the farm, located southeast of Towner, transitioned in 1998, shortly after she graduated from TGU High School.

“I was a Towner Cardinal, but that changed after I graduated,” Schmidt said. “Rugby was where we did business as a family. My parents worked in Rugby before they were fully farming and ranching. So, Rugby is just as much home as Towner.”

Schmidt said after she graduated high school, “I went to NDSU. That was my goal ever since I was in FFA. We would go to NDSU for our state conventions and I knew very early on that I wanted to go to NDSU, so I did.”

“I got my bachelor’s in animal science,” Schmidt said. “I originally wanted to go to vet school, but I learned about how much it cost and how long it took, and how competitive it was, so I just chose animal science because it gave me the flexibility to explore a wide range of career options. I wanted that flexibility.”

“My first job out of college was at a startup dairy in Parshall, North Dakota. I was a herdsman,” Schmidt said, adding the dairy increased in size from 400 to 800 cows.

Schmidt said after two years at the dairy, “I decided to go back to NDSU to finish an ag business degree, but while I was at NDSU, I was at a cattle reproduction seminar in South Dakota, and I got offered a job at a large dairy there as a herdsman. That was a 1,200 cow dairy which expanded to just under 2,000 head by the time I left. I was there three years.”

“Then,” she added, “I got into teaching at a tech school in South Dakota in their animal science department.”

Schmidt said, “Being originally from North Dakota, my plan was always to get back. I just happened to see this position and gave it a try, and here I am.”

“I like the variety best,” Schmidt said of her job at the NDSU Extension office. “The variety can get overwhelming sometimes, but there’s never a dull moment. You’re never twiddling your thumbs, ever.”

“There’s always an opportunity to keep learning,” Schmidt noted. “There’s always a day when someone walks through the door with something you’ve never seen before or you don’t have an answer for, so you’re learning right along with the people you’re serving.”

Schmidt said leaving her job “was not an easy decision, but it’s been a lifelong goal of mine to work for the NRCS, so when the opportunity presented itself, I felt it was one I couldn’t pass up.”

“I’ll definitely miss everyone here at the courthouse and the 4-H families and everyone I’ve worked with in the community, but I’ll still see people around,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt says she still enjoys country living.

“I live about 4 miles away from my home place, about 17 miles away from Rugby,” Schmidt said. “I live with my golden retriever and two cats.”

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