Farmer, business professional, conservationist, choir member.
Ruth Hoefs doesn’t sit still for long. And as Ducks Unlimited’s new Minnesota state chairwoman, she is eager to lead the state’s 42,000 members on a mission to conserve waterfowl habitat.
Her Ducks Unlimited volunteering role started 20 years ago when she was invited to a banquet.
"I didn’t know a whole lot about them, and I was awed and amazed by what I realized that night. I kept learning more and more about what Ducks Unlimited does," she said.
She’s held several roles in Minnesota throughout the years. Hoefs even earned her federal firearms license to help facilitate Ducks Unlimited gun drawings at banquets. "When people come to a DU banquet and win a gun, if they can take it home with them that night, they are so excited," she said.
Her passion for Ducks Unlimited started and continues on her homestead in Le Center, her childhood farm that’s been in her family since 1953. She farms 350 acres, including a feed lot for Holsteins, sheep and lamb. Hoefs also row crops corn, soybeans, winter wheat, peas and hay.
Hoefs, whose maiden name is Svoboda, grew up on the family farm where they raised their own chickens, eggs and beef. The farming tradition runs deep for the former Le Sueur County Dairy Princess, who still has part of the sculpted butter head she received as a Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist.
"I watched what my parents did with the place and made it the land it was. I enjoy making improvements now that it’s my responsibility," she said. "I love it. It’s rewarding."
As a farmer, Hoefs is a vocal proponent of sustainable agricultural practices. Her farm is about 20 miles from the Minnesota River, a significant waterfowl migration corridor. On her land she has helped waterfowl habitat in a few ways, such as putting up a ditch buffer along a country drain to reduce runoff.
"I’m here to help restore, or hang on to, the habitat that is there for the ducks. It can be there for the future of our youth," she said.
Her examples earned her the 2013-14 Le Sueur County Conservation Farmer of the Year. She educates local landowners on how their actions help people as well as wildlife.
"I’m hoping I can point out to them that there is a reason a wetland is a wetland. It’s not just for ducks," she said.
Hoefs’ father was a waterfowler. She credits his love of the outdoors and her time on the farm for her appreciation of wildlife and spending time in nature.
Farming is only part of Hoefs’ daily life. She manages two Genesis Growing Solutions Convenience stores, is a member of the Le Sueur County Fair Association Board and the Le Sueur County and Minnesota Cattlemen’s Associations, and is a member of the St John’s Lutheran choir and hand bell choir.
Hoefs is excited for her state chair responsibilities. Part of her role will be to work with the state’s 3,400 Greenwings members and 2,200 sponsors. She’s the first woman to hold the state chairmanship. She believes in DU’s mission, to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl.
"We have a strong volunteer group that does an awesome job," she said. "We have so many chapters that pour their heart and soul into Ducks Unlimited."