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Named South Dakota’s Outstanding Weed and Pest Supervisor for 2023

Sully County Weed and Pest Supervisor Paula Barber was named Outstanding Supervisor by the Association of South Dakota County Weed & Pest Boards during their 24th annual conference February 15-17, 2023.

The Blunt native grew up the youngest of three and says she had an idyllic childhood “traveling with my dad when he was working construction” during the summer across the state and into neighboring states.

During the school year, she attended Blunt Elementary School and graduated Sully Buttes High School.

After graduation, Paula along with high school sweetheart Ken Barber attended South Dakota State University where she earned a degree in Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and a minor in English. She taught school at Highmore-Harrold and Emery before giving up her teaching position to join the family business, Barber Farm Service and Barber Chemical started by brothers Mark and Ken Barber in 1985. “I chose to work more with the business,” said Paula. “I loved teaching, but you can’t do both.”

In the mid-1980s, to help manage noxious weeds and pests on private, state, federal and municipally owned lands, South Dakota initiated a program under the Department of Agriculture, the South Dakota Weed and Pest Commission. A decade later, the South Dakota Association of Weed and Pest Boards, which advocates for the industry, was formed.

“Dale Weischedel was one of the first Sully County Weed and Pest Supervisors,” said Paula, adding that Rod Grueb and Scott Yackley also served in the role. “I can remember that they were without a supervisor, and needed someone to step up to the plate,” said Paula of how she came to be the Supervisor. “I had the time, and decided I could do it. The more I got into it, the more I thought, ‘this is my calling.’”

During her 27-year tenure as the Sully County Weed and Pest Supervisor, Paula says that some things remain the same, some have changed, and some have come full circle. “We’ve got bio agents now [for controlling noxious weeds] that have done a tremendous job,” said Paula. “I still see results from bio agents that were put out years and years ago.”

The latest industry development is the use of drones. “It’s really exciting. Drone sprayers are being used more and more all the time.” Sully County contracts with private applicators for their weed management.

Her years of experience and enthusiasm for weed and pest programming culminated this year in her being named South Dakota’s Outstanding Weed and Pest Supervisor for 2023.

In her nomination, Paula was lauded for her service to Sully County as Weed and Pest Supervisor since 1996. In her 27 years helping the community fight noxious weeds and pests, Paula has conducted many projects to keep the county clean.

Among Paula’s initiatives are spraying county right of ways for noxious weeds and educating residents at meetings and local events.

Paula’s larger projects were an educational DVD, the use of a helicopter to spray the river hills along the Oahe Reservoir for noxious weeds, and the release of insects to control thistle.

In 2008, Paula launched a campaign to help educate new landowners understand the importance of controlling weeds on their property. At the time Sully County was seeing an influx of new home owners to the recreation areas around the Oahe Reservoir. Many of the new residents did not have a background in agriculture and were not aware of the problems noxious weeds posed. That year Paula made DVDs that educated the viewer about noxious weeds and distributed them to the new residents and landowners.

Paula was one of the first county supervisors to utilize a helicopter in controlling noxious weeds in areas not easily accessible by ATV.

For many years Paula has been helping Sully County residents control Canadian thistle with the use of gall flies and stem mining weevils. The first releases of insects were made in 2000, and the gall flies in particular have traveled tens of miles from the original release site.

The nomination offered praise for Paula’s outstanding work as a Weed and Pest Supervisor, and applauded her role as an outstanding wife, mother and grandmother, and named her and her family great assets to the community.

“In the summertime, I love to go to the river, and in the wintertime, we love to go to the river in Arizona when it’s nice enough.” Ken and Paula have a winter home in Lake Havisu, AZ, and offer praise to their outstanding Barber Farm Service staff which makes being gone from work possible.

Source: Onida Watchman