South Dakota Beginning Farmer Training and Linking Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Frank James
Dakota Rural Action
Tonya Haigh
Dakota Rural Action

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, housing, feed additives, free-range, grazing management, watering systems
  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, marketing management, e-commerce, farm-to-institution, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, grass waterways, soil stabilization, wetlands, wildlife
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, composting, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, public policy, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks


    The South Dakota Beginning Farmer Training and Linking project graduated eleven aspiring/beginning farmers from a ten-month classroom and field based program in 2009/2010. Five developed formal mentoring relationships. Three began, expanded, or modified their operations, and three others changed the plans they had for their operations. Participants joined a new SD Farmer Network now including forty-one producers. Dakota Rural Action has built upon this project to tailor and expand the Farm Beginnings curriculum to meet the needs of South Dakota beginning farmers and ranchers.


    The South Dakota Beginning Farmer Training and Linking project is building an educational network for beginning farmers in South Dakota that (1) links them with existing sustainable farmers as mentors, (2) trains them in goal setting and values clarification, whole farm planning, financial planning, time & money, record keeping, sustainable farming methods, marketing, business planning, and connecting to resources, and (3) helps them find the land, equipment, and other resources they need to start farming. DRA is using evaluations and feedback of this project to refine the Farm Beginnings platform, developed by the Land Stewardship Project, to meet the unique needs of beginning farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. South Dakota’s sparse population, land tenure, and relatively low numbers of existing sustainable farmers and local foods marketing outlets present unique challenges. This project will meet the need for a sustainable, practical beginning farmer training program in South Dakota.

    Project objectives:

    1. 1. Beginning/aspiring farm families gain knowledge and skills (short term) and begin, modify, or expand a farming/ranching business (intermediate term)

      2. Beginning/aspiring farm families meet potential mentors (short term) and form mentoring relationships with experienced farmers/ranchers (intermediate term)

      3. Beginning/aspiring farm families gain a larger network leading to opportunities for land, equipment, and experience transfer (short term) and are able to tap into opportunities (intermediate term

      4. Dakota Rural Action gain knowledge to tailor Farm Beginnings program to South Dakota (short term), make modifications and plan additional courses (intermediate term)

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.