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Young rancher gets involved for industry’s futureYoung rancher gets involved for industry’s future

Justin Kolb: “You can either get involved and try to make a difference, or you sit back and let things happen.”

Sarah McNaughton

June 30, 2022

3 Min Read
Justin Kolb and wife Katrina, with son Kace
KEEPING BUSY: Justin Kolb of Belle Fourche, S.D., stays involved in ranching, even while being a full-time mechanic. Kolb and wife Katrina, with son Kace, place agriculture in high priority.Justin Kolb

After growing up on his family ranch in Meadow, S.D., Justin Kolb now works “triple time” — first as a full-time diesel mechanic in Sturgis, S.D., then a ranch foreman at the Rocking Tree Red Angus ranch and, finally, a helper to his father on the home ranch.

“To be honest, I don’t really know how it balances, but it just works,” Kolb says, adding that the long hours are worth it to pursue his true passion of ranching.

As a youth, Kolb would run cows with his dad on their homeplace. “When I graduated high school, I went to college to be a diesel mechanic,” he says. “From there, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be done, so I went to Black Hills State University to get a history teaching degree. While there, I worked at the sale barn in Belle Fourche, and decided to quit school and go to work full time.”

Through all of his interests, experiences and education, Kolb knew one thing was true: his hope to get back to running cows full time. “This is where my life has been since I was probably 5 years old. That’s all I’ve ever known, and this is what I do.”

Living with his wife, Katrina, and son Kace in Belle Fourche, S.D., Kolb will often make the two-hour drive north to his father’s ranch to help work cattle. “I do my full-time day job, then go and help dad whenever he needs it. It might be at the drop of a hat to go up and work cattle, then come back and get everything straightened out at home,” he says.

Getting next generation involved

As a younger rancher in the industry, Kolb says getting involved in commodity and grower groups is vital. He serves as a director with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.

“My dad has been involved since I was maybe 5 years old,” he says. “About six years ago, I paid my dues and started going to meetings. Then, I got elected as a district director, and I’ve been in there ever since.”

Kolb says his father encouraged him to step into the association after his presidency. “It’s one of those things that is a family deal, and we’re proud to a part of it. I think a lot of the younger people my age need to get involved because some of the older guys are starting to step away,” he says. “The younger guys are starting to take over their ranches, so they can step up and get involved in the industry to keep things moving in the right direction.”

Kolb says as existing board members step down after decades of service, that leaves space for others to play their part in helping the industry.

“You can either get involved and try to make a difference, or you sit back and let things happen,” he says. “I’m trying to work my way into having my own place, whether that’s at the home ranch or somewhere on my own. If I’m involved now, at least down the road, I know that I did my best to help the industry move forward.”

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications, along with minors in animal science and Extension education. She is working on completing her master’s degree in Extension education and youth development, also at NDSU. In her undergraduate program, she discovered a love for the agriculture industry and the people who work in it through her courses and involvement in professional and student organizations.

After graduating college, Sarah worked at KFGO Radio out of Fargo, N.D., as a farm and ranch reporter. She covered agriculture and agribusiness news for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Most recently she was a 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D., teaching, coordinating and facilitating youth programming in various project areas.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, serving on the executive board for North Dakota Agri-Women, and as a member in American Agri-Women, Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, enjoys running with her cattle dog Ripley, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

Sarah is originally from Grand Forks, N.D., and currently resides in Fargo.

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