2021 S.D. Local Foods Conference Highlights

The 2021 South Dakota Local Foods Conference was held virtually November 4-6th. Consumers, producers, wholesale buyers and professionals who support the production of healthy, sustainable foods in South Dakota joined the event.

The conference kicked off on Thurs., Nov. 4, with Rob Hage, of Blind Butcher Brewery Co, who told the inspirational story of how his family adapted their farm to be more sustainable and provide meat for themselves. 

Since Hage was diagnosed with pigmentosa- RP, the University of Iowa and his doctors have given him a promising option of treatment in the upcoming years. To support this research, as well as awareness of the condition, Rob’s family started a brewery in a machine shed they had on the farm. This non-profit operation brings awareness and funds to a fairly unknown condition, while also providing a place for people to gather.

Following Hage’s presentation, the North Central SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program) Farmer’s Forum shared stories of three research projects being conducted in our region. 

Mark Brannen, of Benson Bounty LLC in Omaha, described his project incorporating native plants into his diversified vegetable farm.  Dr. Amanda Blair with SDSU Extension talked on her project relating to Enhancing Producer Resources to Build Small Meat Processing Capacity and Local Meat Demand.

The third research project was by Shannon Mutchelknaus of Wayward Springs Acres in Aurora, S.D.  His project is on his High Efficiency Year-Round Tropical Greenhouse, in which he is able to provide tropical produce to a cold-northern climate, including tomatoes in the winter, figs, limes, passion fruit and Carolina reapers.  Those interested in learning more about SARE projects in South Dakota are encouraged to reach out to Amanda Bachmann. 

On Nov. 5, the Local Foods Conference started with a presentation of the 2021 Specialty Producer of the Year, which was awarded to Vaughn Reints of Better Roots Farm LLC.  There was also recognition of the 2021 DRA Member of the Year, Trish Jenkins & Jeremy Smith of Cycle Farms. 

Jean Martin Fortier, known as a founder of the Market Gardener Institute, shared how producers can keep soil alive and healthy.  Fortier’s goals are to help producers realize that even with a small amount of land, producers can grow a substantial amount of food through careful management. 

After our keynote speaker, attendees could choose from 10, one-hour, sessions offered on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. 

These topics included Small Enterpirce Produce Pricing & Budgeting with AJ Granelli, IPM for Organic Production with Amanda Bachmann & Gared Shaffer, An Overview of South Dakota’s Specialty Crop Program with Bill Smith, Living Mulch: A discussion of On-Farm Innovation with Cover Crops with Dr. Kristine Lang & Dr. Rhoda Burrows, Diversifying with Agritourism with Jacey Ellsworth & Peggy Schlecter, Back to our Roots: Rood Preservation Across South Dakota with Megan Erickson, Chicken Keeping, Egg Processing & Entrepreneurship with Stephanie Peterson, Revisiting South Dakota’s Cottage Food Laws with Rebecca Terk, Growing Farm to School with Anna Barr, and Plants, Passions & Problems with Colton Riley & Alexis Schmidt. 

The SARE Farmer’s Forum presentation and Living Soils presentation notes are now available. Video recordings are available for purchase until May 31, 2022. After that point, some of the videos may be shared publicly, free of charge. Please note, Jean-Martin Fortier’s presentation was not recorded. If interested in purchasing other videos from the conference click here.

Watch our event calendar for the announcement of the 2022 S.D. Local Foods Conference.