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Educating, Motivating, Inspiring | December 2022

by Cheryl Kepes

Photos courtesy Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke speaks up for farmers and speaks out against anti-agriculture movements.

Amanda Radke is known to be a bit of a spitfire. The cattle rancher, blogger, motivational speaker, boutique owner, columnist, children’s book author, and 5-foot-2-inch mother of four will go toe-to-toe with any politician, celebrity, media giant, or organization spreading misinformation about agriculture. She encourages her audiences to join her by “leading with kindness, providing factual information, and being tough on those who want to put us out of business.”

Heart of the Matter

Armed with years of experience, the South Dakota native tours the country speaking at agricultural events, workshops, and conferences. Amanda also utilizes her website, blogs, podcasts, television appearances, and social media platforms to educate the public about agriculture. “I think the biggest way we can make an impact is to show people our hearts. They truly don’t care what we do until they know what our intentions are and who we are,” Amanda Radke shared.

Her heart and determination to advocate for agriculture took root during her childhood. Growing up on a Limousin operation in Mitchell, S.D., she developed a passion for ranching and for people in the agriculture industry. When she was 8 years old, she won a purple ribbon at a 4-H public speaking contest; and she was hooked. Amanda continued to speak competitively at 4-H and FFA events throughout high school. Her high school speaking career culminated with her winning the National Beef Ambassador contest and the National FFA Extemporaneous contest.

On the Road

Amanda started speaking professionally in her adult years thanks to the prodding of Nebraska rancher and Rural Route Radio host, Trent Loos. “It wasn’t even something that was on my radar as a career, but thanks to him (Trent Loos) for giving me that encouragement and I am now on the road at least four or five times a month speaking at different events,” Amanda explained.

Amanda tackles each speaking engagement with the goal of empowering men and women in agriculture. The topics she addresses include challenging producers to look for solutions-based business opportunities, evaluating the dynamics of their multi-generational business, and following God’s calling. “Every family has unique challenges, but we all want the same thing which is to keep the business running and honor previous generations and allow for future generations to stay in production agriculture,” Amanda said. “It’s just not always a straight line to achieve those things.”

On Social Media

In agriculture circles Amanda’s known as a champion of agriculture. Her social media presence soared in 2019 due to her open letter to Ellen DeGeneres responding to Ellen’s push to #beneateatless meat. Amanda’s letter went viral on social media and led to more than 50 media interviews.

She utilizes a variety of social media platforms to inspire and motivate people working in agriculture. The content Amanda shares on her social media accounts and website serves to disseminate facts and truths about the agriculture industry.

Children’s Book Author

Most of Amanda’s career has been devoted to advocating for agriculture in front of adult audiences. However, her ventures have led her to discover another demographic in need of agriculture education – children. “I started noticing that there were a lot of cartoons, books, and movies that really characterized who we were in agriculture and made the animals have the full range of emotions while the farmer or rancher was typically the side character or the bad guy in the story,” Amanda explained. “I really wanted to flip that narrative on its head and make books that showcased the real heroes which are the farmers and ranchers who tend to the land and the livestock and feed people.”

In 2011, Amanda wrote her first agricultural-based children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf.” Artist and Red Angus cattle rancher, Michelle Weber, brought the story to life with her illustrations. The book tells the story of a young boy, Levi, and his quest to find his missing heifer calf, Little Red.

The success of “Levi’s Lost Calf” opened the door for more collaborative works. Three years ago, the Georgia Beef Board commissioned the duo to create another children’s book, “Can-Do Cow Kids.” Since then, the popularity of their books has snowballed. “We work to tell agriculturally accurate stories in a way that’s fun and engaging and educational for kids,” Amanda said.

Amanda and Michelle have published seven children’s books, with an eighth being released in December 2022. Due to demand, Amanda and Michelle established a publishing house called Ag Storytellers. The business facilitates new projects in partnership with agriculture-based organizations and companies.

The popularity of her children’s books continually opens new avenues for Amanda to convey truths about agriculture. Schools from across the country ask Amanda to read her books and share her story in their classrooms. “I have been everywhere from Los Angeles to New York City reading these books,” Amanda shared. “It is really rewarding to be able to teach kids where their food comes from. In a lot of cases, I am the only farmer they have ever met.”

During her school visits, Amanda capitalizes on the opportunity to teach children about the abundance and variety of jobs available in the agricultural industry. She emphasizes positions in agriculture related businesses are available to all students regardless of whether they grew up on a farm or ranch.

Family Life

Though Amanda holds many job titles, the one she keeps closest to her heart is the title of Mom. Amanda, her husband, Tyler, and their four children, Scarlett (8), Thorne (6), Alexander (5), and Croix (4), live in Mitchell, S.D. Though she’s fiery and passionate about agriculture, nothing eclipses her commitment to her faith and family.

In 2019, Amanda and Tyler felt God calling them to be foster parents. Since then, the Radke family has cared for more than a dozen foster children. “It is really rewarding for us to teach kids about farm life and give kids that are vulnerable and need space to heal the opportunity to spend time in nature, outside with cattle, and with our family,” Amanda said.

The Radkes count it a blessing to be able to share their agricultural lifestyle with kids who might never get the experience otherwise. Additionally, an unexpected blessing developed from their foster care journey. The Radkes adopted their son, Alex, out of foster care in 2021.

Ranch Life

The Radke family partners with Amanda’s parents, Dave and Peggy Nolz, to operate Nolz Limousin. The ranch hosts an annual private treaty bull sale in which customers choose their next herd sire on a first-come, first-served basis. Nolz Limousin has been producing purebred Limousin cattle for more than 40 years.

Limousin isn’t the only breed under the Radkes’ management. The Radke family operates Radke Cattle Co., a purebred Maine Anjou operation. Tyler grew up raising Maine Anjou cattle and continued developing the herd after marrying Amanda. “He brought some Maines to the place and there have been some growing pains there let me tell you,” Amanda said with a laugh.

Radke Cattle Co. focuses on raising steers and heifers to sell in the fall. “I always tell folks as hard as it was to change and focus on two breeds when Tyler and I first came back to the ranch, instead of taking away from the pie or a slice of the pie, we found ways to diversify,” Amanda stated.

One Opportunity at a Time

Amanda never misses an opportunity to share about the important contributions farmers and ranchers make to feed the world. She encourages people involved in agriculture to strike up conversations about what they do with members of their communities. “I think there is this misconception that in order to be an advocate we have to go viral on TikTok or reach millions of people, but genuinely I think it is one person at a time, one interaction at a time, and continually showing up and being around people who are interested in learning more about what you do,” Amanda said.

Though battling the stream of attacks against agriculture can be daunting, Amanda embraces the challenge. “In rural America there are some of the finest people in this country who are working hard, raising their families, and trying to do what is right. And I think if the general public had a chance to meet us, they would genuinely fall in love with us,” Amanda stated.

Amanda’s determined to inspire others in production agriculture and to win over anti-agriculture activists. For her - it’s more than a career, it’s a calling.

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