- Education and Training: extension, technical assistance
South Dakota is a rural state with a population of about 860,000 people (US Census 2016). The unemployment rate in SD was 2.7% in June 2016, which is the lowest in the nation (SD Bureau of Finance and Management 2016). Agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry with over $25 billion dollars in generated revenue contributing to 20% of state’s economy and employing 15% of the population in agriculture production and related fields in 2012 (South Dakota Department of Agriculture 2014). South Dakota’s beef industry is the main driver of the livestock economy, with 1.69 million beef cows in the state, it ranks 7th in the nation (USDA-NASS 2016). Pasture and rangeland account for half of the land use with the remaining used for crop production. The major crops are corn, soybeans, wheat, all hay, sunflower, oats, and sorghum (USDA-NASS 2016). Conventional agriculture tends to dominate the state with only a small minority of producers that are involved with alternative, sustainable, or organic agricultural practices. There are very few non-governmental agencies (NGOs) working on sustainable agriculture issues in the state.
South Dakota State University (SDSU) is the Land Grant institution with missions in research, teaching, and extension. SDSU Extension has seven regional hubs strategically located across the state where 46 field specialists with specific duties in generally one discipline reside (iGrow 2016). Extension’s core focus areas are: 4-H & youth, livestock, agronomy, healthy families, community development, and gardens. Extension mirrors the agricultural climate in South Dakota, however, local foods, community development and soil health are gaining traction. South Dakota SARE has been coordinated by Dr. Alexander (Sandy) Smart, a rangeland ecologist, in the Department of Natural Resources, since January 2015. Dr. Smart has spent considerable time rejuvenating the advisory board and increased activity to outreach professionals through travel scholarships and mini-grants.
Initiaitives for 2017-18 are:
- Soil health
- Livestock crop integration
- Local foods
- Building sustainable operations