Specialty producers meet growing market in state
WAGNER, S.D. -- Consumers are increasingly interested in learning where their food comes from. The South Dakota Specialty Producers Association has created a variety of summer producer tours for individuals interested in growing food, learning ho...
WAGNER, S.D. - Consumers are increasingly interested in learning where their food comes from.
The South Dakota Specialty Producers Association has created a variety of summer producer tours for individuals interested in growing food, learning how to market specialty foods, or for anybody who simply wants to learn more. According to membership coordinator, Cory Tomovick, anyone in the public is welcome to attend.
"These tours help meet a growing demand," Tomovick says.
The organization was created to serve producers of local food, while placing a big emphasis on education.
"We want to provide opportunities to teach anyone who wants to learn how to grow food." Tomovick says. "The best way to accomplish that is from the people doing it successfully."
The first tours of the summer took place June 24 at Stewart's Aronia Acres and Srstka's Hops Farm, both near Wagner, S.D.
While at the farm of Jeff and Jolene Stewart, participants toured the farm and were given a presentation on growing berries in South Dakota. At the Srstka's farm, individuals saw hops production and learned about the brewing industry.
"Hops are new to South Dakota; not a lot of people know what they are," Srstka says. "People wanted to learn about how they grow, the soil amendments we use, the wide range of varieties and how we selected our seven varieties."
Kelsey Srstka estimates approximately 20 people visited the hops farm she and her husband recently began. "It was a big enough group to have a good discussion, but not too big that voices were lost."
Remaining tours held throughout the summer offer something for everyone. Upcoming events include growing in greenhouses and selling in boxes, July 15 at the Cedar Creek Gardens LLC with Chef Scott Brinker in Midland, S.D.; meat goats and growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, August 10 at the Pleasant Valley Farm and Windsong Valley Garden near Custer, S.D.; Schade Vineyard and SDSU Local Foods Education Center, August 17 at the Schade Vineyard near Volga, S.D., and the SDSU campus in Brookings, S.D.; gardens and greenhouses tour, August 27 at Country Road Garden and Rock Valley Garden with Chef Jeff Slathar near Rapid City, S.D.; and milling organic grains and growing fruit in high tunnels on Sept. 9 at the Dakota Earth Bakery in Alcestor, S.D., and the SDSU Southeast Research Farm near Beresford, S.D.
To participate on these tours, individuals must register for the meal. Costs may vary depending on the venue and chef. Master Gardeners and chefs have the option to earn continuing education hours.
The South Dakota Specialty Producers Association works with a variety of partners to provide these opportunities to learn. The Dakota Fresh Food Hub and the Black Hills Food Hub are important to the organization, as it is essentially a farmers market on large scale. These recently-established hubs sell fresh food to restaurants and institutions.
"Chefs are starting to be a big part of the local food movement in South Dakota," says Tomovick.
Membership of the association is made up largely of small local producers of food, including farmers' market vendors, wine growers and other small producers.
"Food hubs and farmers markets are increasingly growing, as well as the state local foods conference," Tomovick says. "All of these are indicators that there is a much bigger demand."