Dakota Rural ActionDakota Rural Action http://dakotarural.org Grassroots Organizing for the Future Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:10:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Farmer Veteran Coalition Joins DRA in Reaching Out to Veteran Farmers http://dakotarural.org/farmer-veteran-coalition-joins-dra-in-reaching-out-to-veteran-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmer-veteran-coalition-joins-dra-in-reaching-out-to-veteran-farmers http://dakotarural.org/farmer-veteran-coalition-joins-dra-in-reaching-out-to-veteran-farmers/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:11:17 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4693 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 19, 2014

Contact: Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher, Organizer, Dakota Rural Action, 605-697-5204heidiku@dakotarural.org

By Request:  Additional spokesperson contact information and photos of graduates.

 

Farmer Veteran Coalition Joins Dakota Rural Action in Reaching Out to Veteran Farmers

 

Rapid City, SD – The Farmer Veteran Coalition, a non profit organization working with veterans, their families, and employers to support those returning to or beginning careers in food and farming, is sponsoring veterans scholarships for a farmer and rancher training program that will be offered in Rapid City this winter.

 

The course, called Farm Beginnings, is hosted by Dakota Rural Action, and is a 10-session training program providing participants the opportunity to learn first-hand about low-cost, sustainable methods of farming and ranching and the tools to successfully launch a profitable enterprise. This is the second time Dakota Rural Action has offered the course in Rapid City and the class will likely move to another location in the state next year.  The class is taught by local farmers, ranchers, and agriculture professionals.

 

Zack Carter, a young veteran who took the Farm Beginnings course last year said, “”The Farm Beginnings class was such a great experience that opened up several new avenues.  I now run cattle with another student from class who was also sponsored from the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The class and the farmer network were and still are involved with decisions I make on a daily basis.”

 

The course is open to anyone interested in getting started in farming or ranching.  Need-based scholarships are also available for non-veterans who need financial assistance with tuition cost.  Farm Beginnings participants can be of any age, do not need to currently own land, and come from wide range of experiences and farming and ranching interests. Over 50 families have enrolled in the course in the past five years and 83% of graduates are currently engaged in farming activities.

 

Prospective participants can contact Dakota Rural Action at 605-697-5204 x 220 or email Program Coordinator Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher at heidiku@dakotarural.org.  The course deadline has been extended until the class fills. Course information and online application can be found at www.dakotarural.org/farmbeginnings.

 

Farm Beginnings® is an established curriculum developed over a decade ago by the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project that is now replicated in several different states, including IL, NE, ND, and NY. Dakota Rural Action has adapted the curriculum to meet the needs of South Dakota farmers and ranchers. The project is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2010-03066.

 

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Dakota Rural Action is a grassroots family agriculture and conservation group that organizes South Dakotans to protect our family farmers and ranchers, natural resources, and unique way of life. www.dakotarural.org

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DRA landowners slam Noem, Thune for anti-rancher votes http://dakotarural.org/dra-landowners-slam-noem-thune-for-anti-rancher-votes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dra-landowners-slam-noem-thune-for-anti-rancher-votes http://dakotarural.org/dra-landowners-slam-noem-thune-for-anti-rancher-votes/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 23:21:39 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4688 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Contact: Paul Seamans, landowner crossed by Keystone XL: 605-280-7546

John Harter, landowner crossed by Keystone XL: 605-840-9478

Sabrina King, Dakota Rural Action Office: 605-939-0527

LANDOWNERS SLAM NOEM, THUNE FOR VOTING AGAINST SOUTH DAKOTA FARM AND RANCH INTERESTS IN FAVOR OF BIG OIL

Noem votes against requiring Keystone XL operator to pay into Oil Spill Liability Fund, while Thune speaks on the Senate floor in favor of pipeline despite unfinished in-state process

Brookings, SD – With the Senate once and for all voting no on Keystone XL, South Dakota’s landowners continue to be dismayed at Representative Kristi Noem and Senator John Thune’s ongoing representation of big oil interests, rather than the interests of their own constituents.

Noem took a stand last week against South Dakota’s ranchers by voting no on an amendment to HR 5682, which would have required operators of tar sands pipelines like Keystone I and Keystone XL to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Fund. And today, Thune advocated for TransCanada on the floor of the United States Senate.

“TransCanada wants to duck responsibility to pay into the trust fund, and at the same time they want to shift liability of spills to landowners,” says Paul Seamans, in response to Noem’s vote on HR 5682. Because the product carried by both Keystone I and Keystone XL is diluted bitumen for Canada’s tar sands mines, not oil, carriers are not required to pay into the fund that covers oil spills. As a result, those costs and risks are shifted onto landowners and taxpayers.

And despite South Dakota’s on-going review of the pipeline permit by the Public Utilities Commission, today Thune advocated for the passage of S 2280, forcing the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. John Harter, a South Dakota landowner crossed by the route and facing on-going legal battles to protect his land from TransCanada, called Thune out for his statements, saying, “Republicans are trying to pull what they’ve been slamming President Obama for: forcing policy through without going through the proper channels. They’ve been slamming him and now they’re doing it.” Harter and other South Dakota landowners have met with Thuen about the pipeline, and he says, “Thune knows the farmers and ranchers aren’t for this. It will hurt our water resources and our agriculture.”

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Dakota Rural Action is a grassroots family agriculture and conservation group that organizes South Dakotans to protect our family farmers and ranchers, natural resources, and unique way of life.www.dakotarural.org

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Still space available in the Farm Beginnings class! http://dakotarural.org/space-and-scholarships-still-available-for-farm-beginnings-class/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=space-and-scholarships-still-available-for-farm-beginnings-class http://dakotarural.org/space-and-scholarships-still-available-for-farm-beginnings-class/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:25:59 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=2125 FB Do you Want to Farm

Now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 class in Rapid City

Farm Beginnings is a farmer and rancher-led training and support program offered by Dakota Rural Action that provides participants an opportunity to learn first-hand about low-cost, sustainable methods of farming and offers the tools to successfully launch a farm enterprise.

 

 

 

  Dyck Farm

 

What is the course?

Farm Beginnings is a training program taught by local farmers and ranchers that provides participants with the support and education needed to launch a profitable and sustainable enterprise. Beginners of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to apply and participants do not need to currently own land.

This is the sixth year DRA has offered the Farm Beginnings course in South Dakota. This year classes will be held every other Saturday in Rapid City. All sessions are led by established local farmers and ranchers and agriculture professionals. Classes provide real world skills in areas such as Whole Farm Planning, Financial Planning, Marketing, Business Planning, Connecting with Resources, and Connecting with Mentors. Additionally, students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of on-farm tours and skills sessions offered during the spring and summer, as well as engage in mentorships or apprenticeships with local farmers.

The course provides a solid base of knowledge around farm business planning as well as the opportunity to network with both beginning and established farmer mentors.

 

Who should take Farm Beginnings?

Anyone interested in developing or transitioning their enterprise. Participants can be of any age, do not need to own land, and prospective, beginning, part-time, and full-time farmers are welcome!

 

What kind of enterprises are participants engaged in?

Participants come with a wide array of sustainable farming interests and experience, including:

  • Cattle, hogs, goats, sheep, poultry, and other livestock
  • Dairy
  • Grazing
  • Vegetable and fruit production
  • High Tunnels
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farmers markets
  • Crops and Hay
  • Fiber production
  • Specialty products like value-added foods
  • Flowers and herbs

 

The size and scale of production ranges from very small (just a few acres or a small urban plot) to large (hundreds or thousands of acres in production). Experience levels range from no experience farming to currently owning and operating their own farm.

Read about some of the experiences of people who have completed the course:

Graduate Profiles and Student Feedback

 

Is there an on-farm component?

Yes, the course is closely connected to DRA’s Farmer Network, a group devoted to making connections between beginning and established farmers through resource sharing and education. Opportunities within the Farmer Network include access to on-farm internships/apprenticeships, farm tours and field days, land and equipment linking, and more.

 

When and where are classes held?

Classes begin in December and will be held in Rapid City, SD at the West River Ag Center.

2014 Class Schedule

How do I apply and when is the deadline?

Class size is limited and early application is encouraged. Deadline was Oct. 31, however we will accept applications until the class fills.  Apply ASAP.  A $100 non-refundable deposit is required with your application. Applications can be completed online or in paper format. Information packets and paper copies of the application are also available.

Apply for the class

 

What is the tuition and is there financial aid?

The cost of the class is $1500 per farm unit for the 10-month program. There are a limited number of scholarships for up to $750 that are generously donated by community members and businesses to help support participants who need financial aid. Participants also have the option of spreading out payments over the 10-months of the program.

Participant tuition only covers a fraction of the course costs and Farm Beginnings is made possible through grant support from the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Veterans: Special retraining funding are available to help with course tuition. Please contact us to learn more.

 

Have questions about the course, the application process, or would like to request an information packet? Contact Us!

Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher
Organizer/Farm Beginnings Program Coordinator
Ph: 605.697.5204 ex. 220
Email: heidiku@dakotarural.org

DRA’s Farm Beginnings program is a member of the The Farm Beginnings® Collaborative, a national alliance of independent regional groups of farmers and farmer-training support organizations working together to promote Farm Beginnings, a farmer training model that is community based and farmer led.

 

This project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2010-03066.

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South Dakotans to fight TransCanada on their own turf http://dakotarural.org/south-dakotans-to-fight-transcanada-on-their-own-turf/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-dakotans-to-fight-transcanada-on-their-own-turf http://dakotarural.org/south-dakotans-to-fight-transcanada-on-their-own-turf/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:25:33 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4672 Press conference: Capitol Building sidewalk, 15 minutes after PUC hearing ends
Press call: Wednesday, October 29, 11:30am CT: 866-952-7528, Passcode KXL

Dakota Rural Action will be live-tweeting the PUC hearing; follow @DakotaRural

 

Pierre, SD – The fight to stop TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline can add one more state to its battleground: South Dakota. A powerful coalition of local allies has intervened in the certification of the pipeline permit at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, and the battle for the open U.S. Senate seat in South Dakota could be decided by voters strongly opposed to Keystone XL.

Four tribal nations and a number of grassroot Native groups, each belonging to the Oceti Sakowin, have petitioned to intervene. Those tribes are the Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Yankton Sioux Tribes. Dakota Rural Action, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and several South Dakota landowners have also petitioned to intervene. This coalition is comprised of tribal nations, non-profit organizations, individual tribal citizens and non-tribal landowners; each dedicated to the protection of Mother Earth and the natural resources of South Dakota and is called No KXL Dakota.

TransCanada has opposed the intervention of several applicants to party status, including the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Utility Commission Office, both Native entities dealing with energy issues in South Dakota. The Public Utilities Commission will decide Tuesday, October 26 at 11:00am CT who will be approved as a party.

This high-profile pipeline battle has intensified with the South Dakota congressional race. Republican candidate Mike Rounds is the only candidate fully endorsing the pipeline, while Democratic opponent Rick Weiland has gained local support because of his opposition to Keystone XL and Independent Larry Pressler has also courted the Native vote.

No KXL Dakota allies have pledged to stand their ground and not back down in the now-local battle over property, land, water, human trafficking, and treaty rights.

Contacts: Dallas Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network Organizer: (507) 412-7609

Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktonwan Protect the Sacred: (605)481-0416

Paul Seamans, Dakota Rural Action Board Chair: (605)280-7546

Lewis Grassrope, Wiconi Un Tipi Lower Brule Organizer: (605)208-0606

 

Supporters: Pte Ospaye Cheyenne River Spirit Camp

South Dakota Peace and Justice Center

Rosebud Sioux Tribe Utility Commission Office

 

Contact Quotes:

Paul Seamans, Dakota Rural Action: “The PUC treated people involved in the KXL permit hearing in 2009/2010 with much respect. They listened to us, were fair with us, and added 50 conditions to the permit, due in large part to the testimony of concerned citizens. I expect things to be no different this time.”

Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktonwan Protect the Sacred: “At a time when North American is reeling from violent acts, we cannot forget about violent acts against the environment. Our water is already polluted and we are at a tipping point for destruction.”

Lewis Grassrope, Wiconi Un Tipi: “We are here to ensure that this committee [the PUC] hears our voice on this opposition to the pipeline or any pipeline through these lands. We are only spiritual human beings trying to protect and preserve our rights under natural law. Our concerns are the many problems that will come from this pipeline. Oil spills into our only drinking supply of the Missouri River and the Ogallala Aquifer. The man camps that will be coming if the pipeline is built. The destruction and depletion of lands, water, wildlife, and people. Now after hearing that all we see coming is death to our ecosystem and people.”

Joye Braun, Pte Ospaye Spirit Camp: “Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp mission is stand in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the social evils that come with Big Oil, to educate the people about the KXL Pipeline, fracking, and the pollution that occurs with oil production. Pte Ospaye Spiritual Camp is located just outside of the Bridger Community on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and 2.2 miles from where the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline proposes to go through. It is a hugely historic area known for centuries as a crossroads for Natives Peoples to travel through on their way to the Black Hills. It is ground zero for the Lakota people fighting this pipeline as it would have to pass through this area first to try and get to the other camps and Nebraska.”

Dakota-Trace-Art-Land

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Annual Meeting Silent Auction will Rock! http://dakotarural.org/annual-meeting-silent-auction-will-rock/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=annual-meeting-silent-auction-will-rock http://dakotarural.org/annual-meeting-silent-auction-will-rock/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:26:38 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4506 Now there’s another reason to come to the 2014 Annual Meeting November 7th and 8th in Pierre, SD.  In addition to Winona LaDuke speaking, hor devours catered by the “Sioux Chef” Sean Sherman and the SD Chicken Summit, we have already have some great donations to the Silent Auction.

Composters and Raised Beds

Dakota Rural Action received a generous donation from Good Ideas Inc.

They have donated a selection of composters and raised beds like this one Compost-Wizard-Dueling-Tumbler

Women’s Work Wear

We also have women’s work pants donated by Red Ants Pants and Gamine Workwear.  These pants are American Made and designed for working women.

 

Red Ants PantsGamine Workwear

 

 

 

So come to the Annual Meeting prepared for a Rockin’ Silent Auction.  And thanks to everyone for the donations!

Sign up to attend the Annual meeting here: http://dakotarural.org/about-2/annual-meeting-2014/

Or call the Dakota Rural Action office at: (605)697-5204.

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Black Hills Power attacks solar energy http://dakotarural.org/bhpattackssolar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bhpattackssolar http://dakotarural.org/bhpattackssolar/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 20:01:31 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4453 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, September 4, 2014

Contact:

Steve and Lynn Hammond, Dakota Rural Action members with home solar system: (605)484-4410

Sabrina King, Dakota Rural Action Organizer: (605)939-0527

BLACK HILLS POWER USING RATE INCREASE TO STOP SMALL-SCALE SOLAR

Rate design will effectively kill solar industry in Black Hills Power electric territory

 

Rapid City, SD – Black Hills Power, an investor-owned utility which provides power to residents in western South Dakota, is using its most recent rate increase request to put the brakes on growing interest in independent electricity production, particularly small-scale residential solar electric systems.

The company is requesting approval from the Public Utilities Commission for a 10 percent increase in electric rates. But hidden in the request is a change in how they deal with customers who choose to generate their own electricity. If approved, customers in Black Hills Power’s service territory who put up an electric generating system like solar or small wind will be required to pay the “Residential Demand Service” rate. This rate will result in an additional $5 to $20 beyond what a non-generating customer pays. These costs will make investing in small-scale electricity production nearly impossible for residents, hurting local solar businesses and solidifying Black Hills Power’s monopoly in the region.

“Putting in a Residential Demand Service charge is really a hidden fee or penalty charge on solar energy and is the wrong thing to do,” says Steve Hammond, Dakota Rural Action member and owner of a solar electric system. “Solar energy saves our fossil fuels for future generations and solar energy will reduce everyone’s electric bill.”

Dakota Rural Action has intervened in the Black Hills Power rate case and will defend local energy production and the right of citizens and small businesses to invest in, generate, and sell electricity in western South Dakota.

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Dakota Rural Action is a grassroots family agriculture and conservation group that organizes South Dakotans to protect our family farmers and ranchers, natural resources, and unique way of life.www.dakotarural.org

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Free Farm and Ranch Estate Planning Workshops July 22 & 24 http://dakotarural.org/free-farm-and-ranch-estate-planning-workshops-july-22-24/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-farm-and-ranch-estate-planning-workshops-july-22-24 http://dakotarural.org/free-farm-and-ranch-estate-planning-workshops-july-22-24/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 22:16:15 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4317 Risk has always been a part of agriculture. One of the riskiest, most stressful, and ignored issues of critical importance to ranch and farm families is estate or transition planning.

For this reason, Dakota Rural Action and the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline are jointly hosting a free workshop on farm and ranch business succession and estate planning, as well as new beginning farmer initiatives in the 2014 Farm Bill.  Workshops will be held:

 

  • Tuesday, July 22, 2014 in Spearfish at Hudson Hall, Room C, 222 West Hudson Street

 

  • Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Pierre at Best Western Ramkota, Lake Rooms, 920 W. Sioux Avenue.  (A carpool from Sioux Falls/Brookings is possible, contact heidiku@dakotarural.org)

 

The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

 

Presenters include Dave Goeller (Univ. of Neb. Lincoln Beginning Farmer Program Coordinator) and Joe Hawbaker (farm and ranch attorney).

Ignoring estate transfer planning and family decision-making can increase family stress levels. Successful farm and ranch estate planning includes transfer of assets (inheritance) and handing over the business control (succession) to the next generation in a way that increases a family’s economic and interpersonal well-being. Ranch and farm families desiring to establish a successful transfer plan need accurate and current legal, tax, economic, and human relationship information.

This workshop will provide participants:

  • Legal and economic tools for developing effective estate plans and generational farm transfers.
  • Discussion on the importance of family communication, of setting goals, and understanding expectations.
  • Information on using trusts, wills, and titling for business entities in making the farm family estate and business succession planning successful.

Register for the workshop by calling the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258.

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Keystone XL and South Dakota http://dakotarural.org/keystone-xl-and-south-dakota/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=keystone-xl-and-south-dakota http://dakotarural.org/keystone-xl-and-south-dakota/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 19:14:01 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4265 As of June 29th, TransCanada has a permit they can’t build with.

While their permit may not be expiring, the need to certify the permit opens up the door for all South Dakotans to come together to protect our land, water, farms and ranches, and our way of life – as well as standing up for those all up and down the pipeline route from Alberta to Texas who have to deal with tarsands in its various forms.

South Dakota Codified Law 49-41B-27 requires that if construction has not commenced within four years after a permit has been issued, the utility (in this case, TransCanada) must certify to the Commission that the pipeline continues to meet the conditions upon which the permit was granted. So, if TransCanada wishes to go forward, the company will need to make a filing for certification.

Due to the immense opposition in Nebraska and across the country, TransCanada has not been able to break ground in South Dakota since their permit was granted in 2010. So we now have an opportunity to go back to the PUC, with all the information we have now that we didn’t have back then, and make the case that South Dakota doesn’t need this pipeline.

We don’t intend to ask for a re-route; that simply takes the burden off one rancher and puts it on another. We don’t want any farms or ranches to be put at risk of a spill, and there is a lot to protect here in South Dakota, including the Sandhills, the Mni Wiconi Rural Water System, and the Missouri River.

Will will continue celebrating our growing alliances within South Dakota, and we will be ready when TransCanada files for certification. We hope you will be right there with us.

dakotarural.org/join

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Homegrown Sioux Falls hosting 3rd Annual Tour de Coop June 8th http://dakotarural.org/homegrown-sioux-falls-hosting-the-3rd-annual-tour-de-coop-june-8th/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=homegrown-sioux-falls-hosting-the-3rd-annual-tour-de-coop-june-8th http://dakotarural.org/homegrown-sioux-falls-hosting-the-3rd-annual-tour-de-coop-june-8th/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 18:01:20 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4249 2014 Tour de Coop

Homegrown Sioux Falls Hosting

3rd Annual Tour de Coop on June 8th

Sioux Falls, SD – Sioux Falls residents are invited to the 3rd Annual Sioux Falls Tour de Coop, a celebration of backyard chickens, on Sunday, June 8th, starting at 2:00 pm. The tour features five coops and kicks off at 1216 N. Main Ave., Sioux Falls, SD. Over 70 people attended last year’s Tour to learn more about raising chickens in the city.

The event is point-to-point, meaning tour participants will move as a group from stop to stop.  Pariticipants will be able to view a variety of coops and receive presentations and resources regarding backyard chicken-raising.  Maps will be distributed at the beginning of the Tour.  Refreshments and door prizes will be featured at the last stop where participants are invited to stay and mingle with other chicken aficionados.

Katie Barnes, whose coop will be featured on the Tour, says that raising backyard chickens helps her family live more sustainably. “It’s a small green contribution that works well for our family. Chickens not only provide fresh eggs for us but are also an asset to our garden.  They add nitrogen to the soil, assist with composting, and they love weeds.  We like to know where our food comes from, especially when raising our children.  We want to share our chicken coop to show how easy it is and hopefully inspire others to raise chickens as well.”

Chickens are also easy to care for, says Ty Kaiser, another tour host, “With proper planning of the coop, feeder and water, raising chickens can be much easier than raising dogs.  Chickens are also very entertaining to watch and interact with.  Each of the “ladies” has a personality all their own.  In having our own flock we’re able to show our friends, family and neighbors that raising your own food in town can extend beyond the garden.”

The tour is hosted by Homegrown Sioux Falls, a chapter of Dakota Rural Action.  It is free and open to the public.

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Dakota Rural Action is a grassroots family agriculture and conservation group that organizes South Dakotans to protect family farmers and ranchers, natural resources, and unique way of life.  www.dakotarural.org

Sioux Falls Tour de Coop event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/714762848567242/

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How the grassroots work http://dakotarural.org/how-the-grassroots-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-the-grassroots-work http://dakotarural.org/how-the-grassroots-work/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 17:53:14 +0000 http://dakotarural.org/?p=4089 It’s always good to check in and remind folks why we do what we do – so without further ado, here’s a great overview of Dakota Rural Action.

From Board Chair Paul Seamans and Black Hills Chapter Secretary Gena Parkhurst:

The past few years has seen Dakota Rural Action garnering a higher profile across the entire state. With this increased awareness of our presence comes the question of who is DRA, and what do we stand for? It might help to know why we came into being.

Over 26 years ago DRA was started in the rural areas of eastern South Dakota in response to the 1980’s farm crisis. The cause of the crisis was drastically lower commodity prices along with dramatically higher interest rates (interest went from 7% to over 20% in very short order). From our modest start DRA has grown to over 500 memberships in six chapters across the state, with a main office in Brookings and a West River office in Rapid City.

Today, DRA continues to work on issues important to farmers and ranchers but we have become so much more. We work extensively on the many issues associated with local foods and we have had great success in our beginning farmer program. We have a member committee involved in promoting renewable energy and other member groups promoting urban chickens and still others working on revising the states raw milk laws.

Of major concern to our members is the protection of our environment. The protection of our natural resources is very important to us with the protection of our water being the most important. DRA is allied with the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance to protect our water from uranium mining in the Black Hills and we have allied with our native friends and neighbors in our quest to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.  DRA has no history of working on issues of a social nature. DRA’s membership hasn’t expressed the desire, nor does it have the resources, to address most social issues. DRA feels these issues are best left to individual members to resolve according to their own conscience.

DRA is a membership driven group…meaning the issues we work on are chosen by members. We use the consensus model, to achieve common ground. The consensus model creates strength by unifiying members who then drive our work.

DRA empowers members to get involved with government. DRA employs an organizer who serves as a part-time lobbyist in Pierre during the legislative session. Her role is to work with members to get them to feel comfortable when speaking with legislators directly, and to keep members informed of happenings in Pierre.

DRA’s empowerment of members extends far outside of the group: several membersare running for state and local elected office. Many members have had success when getting involved with community issues.

In spite of the predominance of bad news in the headlines, Dakota Rural Action empowers people who care to make a difference!

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