When Tammy Basel ran for the office of Vice President of the National Farmers Union, she introduced herself this way: “My name is Tammy Basel and I am a cattle and sheep rancher from western South Dakota. Agriculture has always been a part of my life I as live on the property that was homesteaded by my Grandmother. The near century family farm now includes; my husband Dallis, two sons and their families, and my 3 grandchildren.”
Dallis is the son of a nearby farmer – “I married the neighbor guy and I never moved far from home,” she said - whose land was just 15 miles away and, today, they operate both farms. Counting the generations, past, present and future, we could be seeing a sixth generation running the family farms in just a few short decades.
The fifth generation includes their son Ryan and his wife Shilo. They have three children; Brooke (8), Logan (6) and Kole (5). Another son, Marshall, and his partner, CJ, have a grandchild on the way.
The sixth generation has already staked a claim, according to Tammy. “My five-year old grandson, Kole, told his father, ‘When you die, I want this place,’” she said.
Explaining the sheep and cattle mix, she said, “By utilizing sheep and cattle, we have more diversity of plant life. Our financial goals are to get the most pounds per acre. We have 650 sheep and over 200 head of cattle – momma cows - plus 90 heifers which we will sell as bred heifers next fall.”
Like most members of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, she earned her appointment through hard work and an absolute dedication to serving her industry. Along with the time spent with the South Dakota Farmers Union, she’s served as National President of Women Involved in Farm Economics (2010 and 2011) and was appointed to two terms on the GIPSA Grain Advisory Committee (2010 and 2013).
She’s been a CBH Cooperative Director since 2004 where she is secretary/ treasurer, she’s treasurer of the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, district cooperative director for South Dakota Farmers Union, past state treasurer for South Dakota CattleWomen, and a member of South Dakota Stock Growers.
The reason behind all that work is a simple statement and it’s about being an effective agent of change. “I believe that rather than complain about something, you have to have a seat at the table,” she said but had one caveat. “I believe in getting the job done, but you can’t compromise your principles, morals and values.”
Nominated to the Cattlemen's Beef Board by the South Dakota Farmers Union and the South Dakota Stock Growers Association, she was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to begin her first term on the Board in 2016. “I’m going to my training session March 30-31, I’m very new to the board.”
What gets her excited is the face-to-face conversations with consumers. “I’ve been involved in state fairs and beef cook offs. Working on a South Dakota Cattlewomen initiative, she said, “I’ve been to Sturgis to talk with the bikers about lean cuts of beef. As they age, their doctors have been telling them to cut back on beef. I tell them they don’t have to do that. I talk with 200 people a day at that event from at least two countries and 15 to 20 states.”
I asked her about the growing role of women in the cattle industry. “Women have become more active,” she said, “We’re leaning in to get that seat at the table, rather than just be the helper. Women are stepping up to take leadership positions. We think diversity is important.”
An important question, though, was what she wanted to accomplish in her new role as CBB member. “I want to expand on the benefits of doing things like we’ve done at the motorcycle rally; telling people they don’t have to give up beef as part of a healthy diet.”