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Albert Sickler, winner of the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce's Ag Person of the Year award, looks through old pictures of livestock shows in his home Friday.

Ag beginnings

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After moving into town just a few years ago, Dickinson resident Albert Sickler said there are a few things he misses about being on a farm, such as being around the animals.

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Sickler, who grew up 23 miles northeast of Dickinson, has been in the area his whole life and has been a proponent of agriculture, from helping start the agriculture department at Dickinson State University to starting the Roughrider Livestock Show, now known as the West River Livestock Show.

For all of his work in the field of agriculture, Sickler was named the 2009 Agriculture Person of the Year by the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee.

One of 12 in his family, Sickler said his parents were homesteaders and eventually farmed with his parents. He married in 1946 to Viola Rohr and was drafted in the Army a short while later, where he spent a little more than year in the service in Washington and Virginia.

"That was the only vacation I ever had," Sickler said with a smile. "I was the chauffeur of the company commander, so I had it made."

Following the service, Sickler and Viola moved to their farm which they operated for 60 years.

Agriculture has always been something Sickler has been interested in.

"In agriculture you're your own boss, you're out there where nobody bothers you," Sickler said. "Of course, you gotta love the soil and you gotta love cattle and I love both."

Agriculture has changed tremendously since he started farming, he added.

"It's unbelievable," Sickler said. "My grandson has bought a new tractor and if I had to go out there tomorrow morning and run it, I wouldn't know how to run it, it's that complicated."

In the early '70s, Sickler became actively involved in trying to get a livestock show closer to home.

"In order to show cattle...you either had to go to Valley City or Minot or someplace and there was nothing out in western North Dakota," Sickler said. "I got the idea, why shouldn't we have something out here in this part of the state also?"

After much work raising awareness and support for the show, it became a reality.

"We had tremendous amount of support from all over," Sickler said.

Although he's more of a viewer now than a participant, Sickler said he hasn't missed a show yet.

"He put a lot of work into it to get it going," said Dale Luhman, member of the chamber ag committee. "He's very, very deserving and I guarantee he'll be there come next Friday (for the livestock show). You know you'll seem him there every year."

Sickler's second wife, Dorothy, who he married after Viola passed away, said she's not surprised Sickler won the award.

"I'm very happy for him," Dorothy said. "I know he spent a lot of hard years working on the farm and trying to get something going in the community for the farmers.

"I tell him he's a keeper," Dorothy said with a laugh.

Feeling it important to have an ag department at DSU, Sickler worked hard lobbying for first the department, then the building and then the indoor arena.

"I think it's important for kids to go to school for agriculture, especially in this area," Sickler said.

The department, first met in an old highway department building, until a building could be built, he added.

Sickler served on the Ag. Dept. Advisory Board for 18 years.

As for challenges in the farming and ranching industry, Sickler thinks it's going to be harder for "the little guys".

"The only problem that I see and I think is too bad it's happening is that it's getting so computerized and getting so hard, like to buy a tractor that's $125,000 to $150,000," Sickler said. "It's squeezing out the little guy that would like to farm that has no more chance of farming."

Sickler said he has four children, 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Although his grandson runs his farm now, Sickler said he tries to go out every Friday and see his two cattle.

"I still like to go out there and see the animals and see how things are going and I still try to keep up with the farm operation as much as I can," Sickler said.

"Of course, when they tell me there's some work to be done, I tell them I'm very busy in town and I head for home," Sickler said with a laugh.

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