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Cattlemen Host Toby Keith Concert To Benefit Hungry Families

Kealey Bultena
Todd Wilkinson addresses the need for quality protein for South Dakotans who are hungry. / December 15, 2015

Cattle producers in South Dakota are raising money to feed the hungry by hosting a Toby Keith concert. The famous country artist is slated to perform in the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls in June. Tickets go on sale on Friday, and proceeds from the concert go to Feeding South Dakota. 

Members of a statewide cattle organization started a Prime Time Gala three years ago. The concert component of the event benefits the hungry. Todd Wilkinson is president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.

“When we started this, the industry was on the top of the world. Last year we had a pretty good year. This year’s a little bit different,” Wilkinson says. “But one thing is always the same about cattle feeders and ranchers and farmers: they’re the eternal optimists. So no matter what it looks like out there next year’s always going to be better.”

Wilkinson owns a cow/calf operation near DeSmet. He says South Dakota ranchers want to feed the world – including their home state.

“You know, we’re the fifth biggest cattle producer in terms of cow-calf operations in the United States. That’s saying a lot when you’re competing against Montana and Texas. So there’s a lot of cattle in South Dakota, and those producers have a huge heart. And when they found out that there was a need to feed people protein in South Dakota, we were all shocked,” Wilkinson says.

Donations from the first two concert fundraisers put protein in 700,000 meals for hungry people. Organizers say the goal this year is to raise $150,000 for Feeding South Dakota.

"So when Todd and Ryan and several of the other board members came back to us and said, ‘We’re going to do this event, and we want to partner with you on it. We want proceeds from this event to be used to purchase and procure beef protein for you to use in your programs,’ you can’t imagine what an impact it was to us on that day, and it has been ever since,” Executive Director Matt Gassen says. “For over 12 million pounds of food that we distribute annually, it’s important to know that only about five percent of that what we distribute is actually  protein, so you can see that we struggle mightily to get our hands on enough protein to meet the nutritional demands of the people that we’re serving.”

Proceeds from the Toby Keith concert in June benefit Feeding South Dakota.

The Cattlemen’s Foundation raises money through tickets to the Prime Time Gala. That includes the concert and an upscale banquet. With that money the organization is establishing four scholarships that total $10,000 for students who want to work in the beef industry.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).