Making Room On The Farm

Inside Dakota Ag

Five for five -- this Master Farmer brings all his sons home and they grow their corn, bean and beef farm together.

Published on: January 7, 2013

John Sumption, Frederick, S.D., has accomplished something that few other farmers can boast. He and his wife, Margaret, have brought all five of their sons back to farm.

Sumption was recently named a Master Farmer by Dakota Farmer.

“My greatest joy is seeing them all together and making it work,” he says of Chris, 41; Eric, 39; Mark, 38; Taylor, 37, and Warren, 33.

A joy that is a close second is having grandchildren now helping out on the grain and cattle farm.

John and Margaret have 19 grandkids ranging from 1 to 20 in age. All their grandchildren live within nine miles of them.

“We don’t farm as big as some of neighbors,” Sumption says, “so it was a challenge finding enough income and work so they could all come home.”

John and Margaret Sumption share a sense of accomplishment in seeing all five of their sons come back to the farm
John and Margaret Sumption share a sense of accomplishment in seeing all five of their sons come back to the farm

Sumption’s sons got a foothold in the business by custom farming for neighbors. Over time, some their customers offered to rent them land. Then some offered to sell them land.

The Sumptions also built a new feedlot so they could finish more of their calves. They run about 1,000 stock cows.

“All those years, I thought we were just producing corn, soybeans and beef. But I was wrong,” Sumption says. “We were really creating a place where we could all live and work together.”

The importance Sumption puts on family extends to their community. He’s supported the schools, serving on the boards of the Elm Valley School District in Frederick and the Hub Area Technical School in Aberdeen. He and other investors kept their grain elevator open when it was going to close. He now serves as vice-president of the company. He serves on the Federick Community Development board.

John Sumption talks with son Taylor corn harvest.
John Sumption talks with son Taylor corn harvest.

Sumption has also been active in South Dakota Farmers Union. He’s served as president of his county organization and was on the state South Dakota Farmers Union board for 14 years. He recently retired from the state board.

“John is one of the most respected farmers and ranchers in this state, and we’re honored that he chose Farmers Union and gave this organization a lot time in service over the years,” said SDFU President Doug Sombke, when he announced Sumption’s retirement. “He’s an inspiration to many people

About Master Farmer

Master Farmer is one of the oldest farmer recognition programs in the U.S. It recognizes active producers -- men and women -- for their achievements in farming or ranching and for their contributions to their community, state and/or industry.

Easy to nominate

It’s easy to nominate someone for Master Farmer recognition. Just email your nomination to me and tell me why you think the person deserves to be recognized. My email is

Read about the other 2012 Master Farmers.