South Dakota Organizations Collaborate to Build Resilient Food System

Right now is the best time to start or expand your plans for specialty crop production in South Dakota. Though the Covid-19 pandemic revealed our food systems were not as strong as believed, we are not allowing that to be the end of the story. Instead, there is funding from the USDA to organizations in each state to support specialty crop production and create more resilient and regional food systems.

The USDA is supporting the creation of Regional Food Business Centers (RFBC) throughout the United States. South Dakota is in the North Central RFBC along with Minnesota and North Dakota. Though the states will collaborate on broader food system projects, much of the work to support the boots on the ground will be done on a state level. 

South Dakota has a group of collaborators, known as Technical Advisors (TA), who engage with a particular group of producers or businesses.  Each TA assessed the needs of their stakeholders in the later part of 2023 and used those results to create action plans detailing the best ways to meet the needs of their stakeholders.

The SD Specialty Producers Association (SDSPA) and the Value-Added Ag Development Center (VAADC) are two of the TAs in South Dakota and are working to find ways to benefit both of their constituencies. Creating a five-year action plan was the first achievement for SDSPA and VAADC in their collaboration. Together, SDSPA and VAADC have pinpointed actions and strategies that fall under three categories: farm & food business development, food system supply chain advancement, and outreach and networking. Overall, it is apparent that South Dakota needs more specialty producers and value-added businesses. 

To learn more about the specific goals and action steps, the action plan can be read here

To achieve these goals of increasing the number of and sales from specialty producers, SDSPA and VAADC will be working to build programming that offers technical assistance to producers. Some programs include improving marketing for specialty products, helping local producers obtain financial assistance, and expanding or improving current infrastructure.

SDSPA and VAADC are currently offering technical assistance with the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) grant, available through S.D. Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. If a producer is interested in applying for an infrastructure or equipment grant through the RFSI, SDSPA and VAADC are available to assist in crafting business plans, grant writing assistance, or other support. 

As more opportunities become available for specialty production, SDSPA and VAADC will keep members informed. With programming becoming more readily available, we hope you’ll join us and help create a more resilient, impactful food system in South Dakota.