Local Foods Celebrated at 10th Annual Conference
Producers, chefs, market managers, consumers and those with a passion for local foods came together November 5-7 for the 2020 S.D. Local Foods Conference. This was the 10th annual conference, and the first virtual conference! All events took place online over three days of exciting and informative classes, workshops and presentations.
David Montgomery, author of Growing a Revolution kicked off the conference with a keynote of the same name. ‘Growing a Revolution’ was a fascinating discussion on the agricultural movement to restore soil health.
Following the keynote, a panel discussion featured South Dakotans who are at the forefront of innovation and growth for our local food systems. Rose Fraser, Executive Director of the Medicine Root Gardening Project, discussed the program as part of a wider initiative to create food sovereignty for the Lakota people in and around the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Chef Nicholas Skajewski of Skajewski Catering, discussed the importance of buying and using local foods at the wholesale level, and offered thoughts on how producers can increase sales to both small businesses and commercial/institutional buyers. One thing that he mentioned was convenience to appeal to wholesale buyers.
The topic of convenience continued with Black Hills Farmers Market manager Barbra Cromwell’s presentation on how she brought ecommerce to her market for the first time this year. She shared her experience with the website platform she used and all of the logistics that opened new avenues for growth and expansion through going online.
Executive Chef at Monument Health, Scott Brinker, wowed participants with an amazing four course meal using locally sourced ingredients. It was a drawback of hosting the conference online, that audience members didn’t get to taste the delicious looking food, but everyone learned a lot and MC Cindy Tolle assured us that her sampling was delicious!
Friday’s events started another dynamic presentation that covered online marketing for farms by Charlotte Smith of 3 Cow Marketing. Smith gave a keynote that was as practical as it was engaging. ‘3 Steps to a Profitable Farm’ gave participants an introduction to relationship marketing, with concrete examples of what to do to expand your network, improve customer relationships, and increase sales. Her ‘from the heart’ approach to knowing your customers, growing your network, and building customer trust is one that anyone can adopt at any stage of farming for business.
Friday’s breakout sessions brought us nationally known presenters who gave in-depth discussion on important topics for specialty producers. Dr. Raymond Cloyd addressed integrated pest management for fruit and vegetable growers in the region. Tessa Peterson discussed the Land Institute developed perennial grain, Kernza, and Steffan Mirisky of Seed Savers Exchange showed how South Dakota producers could get involved in saving and developing heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Friday’s chef demo was Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart, of Et-i-quette Catering in Rapid City. Her presentation not only demonstrated a great way to serve local buffalo, but also educated participants on the history of traditional Lakota Foods.
Conference attendees continued that learning experience with Lisa Iron Cloud’s ‘Traditional Lakota Food Preservation’ demonstration and Donna Adrian’s ‘Home Canning’ on Saturday morning.
Other Saturday workshops included AJ Granelli of Homegrown Pork and Poultry on the Pine Ridge Reservation who taught us how to process chicken at home. Cindy Tolle and her staff at Sturgis Meats demonstrated pork processing, and wrapping up the conference, Stephanie Peterson of Fruit of the Coop in Brandon shared a wealth of information on raising chickens for eggs.
Despite the challenges of bringing the conference online, each and every presenter brought amazing knowledge and enthusiasm to the event and SD Specialty Producers Association joins our partners in offering a huge thank you to them all!