April's Ag Advice by April Borders Over the past 30 years much of what North Americans considered to be farming has disappeared. Gone or fading fast are the small to medium sized fruit and vegetable farms, dairies and livestock operations that used to be part of agricultural industry.
The solution for the agriculture community (those that can afford to stay) has been to either get larger or to start selling products retail, doing their own on farm processing and diversification. This diversification can take many forms, from products, to methods of production, to marketing or a mixture of the three.
In order to help aid the farmers with diversification, the South Dakota Specialty Producers Association has been formed. This is a statewide association, formed by over 35 fruit growers and processors. This organization will serve not only fruit growers, but will represent a broad range of commodities, including vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, and other specialty crops.
Dr. Rhoda Burrows, SDSU Extension horticulture specialist, was instrumental in seeing this association form.
"Working together will enable producers to more effectively promote their products, develop a South Dakota product identity, market agri-tourism, work with legislators and policy-makers, and develop education programs," Burrows said.
The association will also serve as the platform for grower networking and information gathering, and will promote public recognition of viable specialty agricultural businesses. It will support research and submit grants to support initiatives while partnering with other organizations that share common goals. It was created as a statewide organization to serve in lobbying, educating, marketing and advocating for both the grower and the processors of fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, herbs, and other specialty crops.
Eldon Nygaard of Valiant Vineyards and Buffalo Run Winery, Vermillion, was elected president. Pat Garrity of Garritys' Prairie Gardens at Mission Hill is vice president; Susie South, BlueStem Ridge Vineyard, Crooks, is secretary. Burrows is treasurer.
Board members will be recruited over the coming weeks to reflect the broad diversity of horticultural commodities. If you are interested in joining this organization please contact the Clay County Extension Office at 677-7111 or call Burrows at 605-688-4731.