Pushing Local Food Forward in South Dakota: an RFBC Update

In a state as rural and large as South Dakota, it can feel as if those advocating for local food are doing so alone. Fortunately, you’re not alone! South Dakota Specialty Producers Association (SDSPA) has been partnering with the state planning districts and the Value-Added Ag Development Center (VAADC) to bring some cohesion and vision that would push South Dakota local food forward. This work is being done with the help of the Regional Food Business Centers (RFBC), of which South Dakota is a member of the North Central RFBC with Minnesota and North Dakota. After compiling surveys and interviews with producers, processors, and stakeholders in South Dakota, a statewide Action Plan was created in April.

The statewide Action Plan sets the agenda and goals for the next four years of programming and assistance given to local food. After hearing from people across the state involved with local food, one of the biggest needs was indicated as a lack of processing, aggregation, warehousing, and distribution, also known as the “mid tier” of the food chain. South Dakota producers can grow, raise, and produce food, but processing it or getting it to customers in an efficient way is a challenge. South Dakota local food participants also are lacking in infrastructure; either physical infrastructure on their own farms or that can be shared and the formal networks to work together. To address these challenges, three goals for South Dakota were created: 

  1. To assist producers and food businesses to build critical infrastructure
  2. Develop statewide mid-tier value chain for local products
  3. Facilitate and expand food system trainings and educational programs.

Based on the 2022 agricultural census, South Dakota ranks last in the nation for sales in “vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes” and 47th in the nation for “fruits, tree nuts, and berries” (data on honey or specialty meats and grains are not readily available). South Dakota producers don’t need the statistics to back up how many of us feel: that sales need to and can increase. That’s the hope of the three goals set for the state by the RFBC partnerships; that South Dakota local food can be supported, grow, and can serve local communities. 

If you’re working to grow local food, you’re not alone. But all producers and processors will need to work together to create a truly stable and resilient food system in South Dakota. As the RFBC partnership moves from setting goals to pursuing them, if you have ideas or know of any ways that we can push the needle forward for local food in South Dakota, let us know! Let’s show our communities that South Dakota food is the best food.