Thank You! Tom Barnes
The Board of Directors and SDSPA Membership wish Tom Barnes the very best as he shifts his time & talents to spend more time with wife & farm partner Susan to focus on raising their goats and building their cabin rental farm experiences.
Tom, of Pleasant Valley Farm near Custer, S.D., joined the South Dakota Specialty Producers (SDSPA) Board in 2017. Soon after he stepped up to serve as Vice President until Nov. 2019. He is optimistic, dedicated and a visionary. He cares about his goats. He cares about his land. He thinks of long-term sustainable solutions. From rotational grazing methods and goat yoga to building three vacation rental cabins, the Barnes’s have their thumbs on the pulse of the future of small agriculture in South Dakota.
He served actively, promoting SDSPA and the South Dakota meat goat industry by offering a farm tour in 2017, promoting local foods at AgFest in 2018, teaching on goat production at the S.D. Local Foods Conference in 2018, providing a booth and talk at Value Added Ag Day at the State Fair in 2018 and 2019, supporting Rapid City’s AgriCulture on the Square this fall and much more. We appreciate his generosity with time, work and support to many goat promotion efforts and to those who are interested in building their own goat businesses.
“Tom did a super job on the SDSPA board helping wherever he could. He stepped up and did a great job as Vice President. He conducted many meetings with enthusiasm which made us all feel very thankful to have him. He will be missed by the board,” said Jeff Stewart, SDSPA board member.
Tom and Susan live in the southern Black Hills, just 7 miles southwest of Custer, near the area that Susan’s family originally homesteaded. They raise meat goats: registered Boers, high percentage cross bred Savannahs and high percentage cross bred Spanish. Tom and Susan started out in 2004 with a few hand-me-down goats and the learning process began! They are dedicated to creating a quality goat meat.
Originally, they planned to sell their goats conventionally by taking the goats to market. But after finding that the meat was super good, healthy, and people enjoyed learning how to cook it, they began their search for a local market. Now, they sell all their meat to a wide range of customers include ethnic and mainstream in both private and commercial settings. They found people who have eaten goat all their lives as well as people looking for a healthy source of protein to be the foundation of their customer base.
In 2019 the Barnes’ expanded the agritourism component of their farm operation by adding cabin rentals. Their farmhouse rentals are positioned so guests can enjoy the farm, with front porches to watch wildlife, the sweet and silly goats, and catch the sunset at the end of the day. Guests have the option of farm tours and other activities. Tom loves helping the children meet and learn about the goats, even naming them! Tom and Susan are working to build a successful agritourism destination for educating consumers as well as making a wonderful destination for family vacations.
“With the addition of their three vacation cabins, guests get to experience not only the goats, but the Black Hills away from the traditional tourism trade. This is ‘visionary,’ and Tom and Susan know what they are doing. They reflect REAL South Dakota – authenticity, hard work, and joy in living,” said Cory Tomovick, SDSPA member.
“Tom a tremendous advocate for the goat industry. He & Susan love to share their experiences and knowledge to help others build similar operations,” said Kim Brannen, SDSPA Treasurer.
Tom knew that not many people in South Dakota have tasted goat meat and quickly found chefs who could change perceptions. Chef Jeff Slathar (Colonial House, Rapid City, S.D.) brought in Chef Tony Balay and taught a class on roasting a goat and then paired it with a chimichurri sauce and flat bread. Yum! However, it was Tom that knew local food paired with a chef is the big picture- to reconnect the consumer with their food. When we do that, the possibilities for growth of a local food economy will materialize.
The Barnes’s cannot raise enough meat goats for the market and have determined that their biggest job is to help create more producers.
In 2018 Tom helped support the Value Added Agriculture Development Center (VAADC) along with South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension to host a South Dakota Meat and Dairy Goat Workshop in Brookings that brought in producers from a 5-state area. Six highly qualified local and international speakers addressed goat production challenges and solutions for goats.
Helping young people learn about food production and encouraging the next generation to take over the role of growing our nation’s food were both initiatives that Tom tackled.
In early 2018, Tom teamed up with Chef MJ Adams of Rapid City and provided an introduction to meat goats presentation to Douglas High School students in Box Elder. Barnes presented ‘Grazing Goats and the Nutritional Value of Goats Meat’ to students from the family and food science class. He discussed how the goats are raised and their meat quality. Chef Adams prepared goat meat chili. Students were able to try a new food and learn that this meat is a healthy option— high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol.
They built a second small home on their property and invited a young couple to learn their business. To add incentive, the young couple were encouraged to add produce production in the way of a garden, as well as learning how to raise meat goats. The efforts can be replicated and developed to a larger degree across the state when growers take the steps to engage the younger generation. Besides just being a good thing to do, it might also be a solution to keeping up with the demand for local food in our state.
We will miss Tom’s infectious enthusiasm for the work that SDSPA accomplishes with producers across the state but know he supports that work in the background. He provided good cut-to-the-chase insights to the rest of the SDSPA leadership team and was always willing to pitch in to make our educational efforts a success. He has a great way of talking with people and waking up their curiosity about goats & goat products – who else could get over a hundred skeptical people at the S.D. State Fair to taste test his award winning Goat Chili!
“Tom is inspirational. His passion for local, supporting local, growing local and selling into the local marketplace is why I was exposed to SDSPA. Tom encouraged me to become a member. Today I am on the board because of Tom and will continue to inspire local producers just as Tom inspired me,” Cindy Tolle, SDSPA board member.
We wish Tom & Susan the best as they continue to breed & market goats and influence new consumers to try their goat meat. And as they build their agritourism business with beautiful hand-built vacation cabins and memorable farm experiences.