The second annual South Dakota Local Foods Conference was held recently to continue the dialogue on local foods among producers, consumers, farmer’s markets, retailers, schools and others. The conference provided attendees from across the state two days of breakout sessions, networking, and instruction.
USDA Rural Development State Director, Elsie Meeks attended the conference, taking the opportunity to award South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension a Rural Business Opportunity Grant of $50,000. The Rural Development funds will be used to build capacity in South Dakota’s local food system through the establishment of an online Local Foods Center which will create structured connections between local growers and resource providers.
“The online Local Foods Center and Local Foods conference are examples of how USDA Rural Development is dedicated to supporting economic growth in rural areas. It has been a USDA-wide focus to provide resources and support to American farmers and ranchers,” said Meeks. “Supporting local and regional food systems provides an economic boost to rural communities in South Dakota.”
The first day of the conference focused on production of specialty crops with sessions on herbicide drift, marketing of food, insect pest management and winemaking. The second day of the conference began with Diana Endicott, founder and director of Good Natured Family Farms’ Alliance in Kansas. Endicott gave an overview of the Alliance’s collaboration model with a supermarket chain, highlighting aspects of the system, including production, processing, distribution and marketing strategies.
Other topics at the Local Foods Conference included fruit and vegetable consumption; regulations facing specialty crop producers; business planning; Farm to School; social media; farmers’ markets; local foods on Native American reservations; and preservation of specialty foods.
Attendees enjoyed locally grown foods provided at the breaks and luncheon.
“Consumers in South Dakota want to know where their food comes from. We’ve found that producers are excited to share their food and their story with their customers,” said Alison Kiesz of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. “This conference was a great way to bring everyone together to promote local foods in South Dakota.”
The conference was a collaborative effort of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, SDSU Extension Service, USDA Rural Development, Dakota Rural Action, Buy Fresh Buy Local South Dakota and the South Dakota Specialty Producers Association.