Introducing our new Local Food System Coordinator, Kathleen Rykhus.

Kathleen Rykhus, SDSPA Local Food System Coordinator, VISTA program.

Kathleen comes to the South Dakota Specialty Producers Association (SDSPA) through the Americorps VISTA program. Her year long assignment in this position will be to help build the local food system across South Dakota. Kathleen comes to SPA with a background in local foods promotion at the retail level.

Kathleen was born and raised in Brookings, SD, and has a BA in Sociology from Moorhead State University in Minnesota. Her involvement in local value-added food and body care products began at Lakewinds Natural Foods Co-op in Minneapolis. Kathleen has been in Sioux Falls since 2009, and her experience as Marketing Director for both Meadowsweet and Pomegranate Market in Sioux Falls, as well as consulting work with Daily Clean Food and Drink introduced her to the thriving local foods community in South Dakota.

“It’s nice to see a lot of familiar names and faces in my first week on the job, and I’m so excited for the chance to work with so many people who are passionate about promoting and expanding our local food system,” Rykhus said.

The Americorps VISTA program operates through the SDSU Extension project ‘Growing Strong Communities.’ “It’s a unique opportunity for capacity building,” Rykhus says “to create and support systems that have a positive impact on our communities.” Specific projects that Rykhus will work on include: outreach and support to Farmers Markets statewide, needs assessment and action planning for SDSPA, and the Local Foods Conference planning and hosting.

“I’ve attended the Local Foods Conference in the past, and this year will be a little different with the conference going online, but there’s no reason why that has to be a negative thing. Hopefully we will adapt and find a way to reach even more producers and get more people involved in local foods,” Rykhus said.

Food Systems are something that is on many people’s minds lately. “We have an opportunity to get more small scale producers involved and create lasting positive change in our nation’s food system, to bring the focus to the health of our communities,” Rykhus said.