If you’ve spent much time in South Dakota, you understand the important partnership between agriculture and rural communities. Often times, populations within city limits aren’t high enough to support local businesses and schools on their own. It takes those coming from miles around to help ensure that these small towns remain vibrant. To do our part, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture offers many services and programs to assist rural communities.
Within our department, the Agricultural Development Division offers specialty crop block grants. These grants can be used to market, promote, and research specialty crops such as hops, vegetables and grapes. They can also assist producers who may want to try something new in their operation. Last year, recipients of the grant varied from the Vermillion Area Farmers Market, the Native American Advocacy Program and a number of school districts. One of the most exciting projects that was made possible through the specialty crop block grant was done by the Edmunds Central School District, where they grew about 70 varieties of specialty crops in a sophomore science class to help implement more plant science and actual research into their curriculum.
In addition to helping specialty crop producers, the department assists counties with weed and pest control through our Agricultural Services Division. We offer over $500,000 in grants that support a number of projects, which include the purchasing of pesticides and application equipment for the control of noxious weeds and educational and research efforts to find new and better ways of controlling noxious weeds and declared pests.
To further help South Dakota’s rural communities, our Resource Conservation and Forestry Division offers urban and community forestry challenge grants. These grants can be used to help communities solve specific community forestry problems, such as removal of existing trees with broken and decayed limbs. Additionally, these grants can be used to demonstrate the importance of trees in South Dakota communities. Recent grants have supported education and training, tree care and maintenance, tree inventories and new plantings.
Although not widely known, our department also works to help rural fire departments through our Wildland Fire Division’s volunteer fire assistance grants. This funding is used to do the vital work of organizing, training and equipping fire departments in rural areas. Through these funding opportunities, fire departments in rural communities are trained to prevent and suppress wildland fires. Rural fire departments or organizations who buy fire suppression, education and prevention equipment can be reimbursed for the cost through these grant funds.
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture is committed to being a good partner to our rural communities. Just as agriculture is diverse in our state, so is the assistance that we can provide. Whether it’s your community or someone else’s, keep us in mind. We’re here to help. Give us a call or check out our website at sdda.sd.gov.