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Dakotafire Cafe: Participants say ag education is missing

Dakotafire Café participants gathered in the new Front Porch restaurant in Langford to discuss agriculture and community connections. Photo by Heidi Marttila-Losure [1]

Dakotafire Café participants gathered in the new Front Porch restaurant in Langford to discuss agriculture and community connections. Photo by Heidi Marttila-Losure

by Doug Card, Britton Journal, and Langford Bugle

A group of about 25 people gathered in Langford on Aug. 3 to talk about ways to help strengthen the ties between agriculture and area communities.

The occasion was the latest Dakotafire Café, a series of events intended to spark community and regional conversations about topics covered in the bimonthly Dakotafire magazine that appears in The Britton Journal, Langford Bugle, and other regional newspapers. A meal sponsored by the Langford Community Foundation and GrowSD was served by The Front Porch.

“Most of our small towns have a place where locals gather to solve the world’s problems over a cup of coffee,” said Heidi Marttila-Losure, publisher and editor of the magazine. “These events are intended to bring that spirit of problem-solving conversations to the issues that affect our communities. We want to get the conversation moving beyond the pages of the magazine.”

The discussion during Monday’s meeting centered on the question, “How can communities help to create better agriculture, and how can agriculture help to create better communities?”

“There are two basic ideas,” said Marttila-Losure.  “Dakotafire communities exist because of agriculture. (And) what unites us all is that we care about rural communities and want them to survive.”

District 1 State Sen. Jason Frerichs, a farmer from Wilmot, addressed the group, which was then broken into smaller groups for discussion. Frerichs noted that he sees examples of people wanting to connect with their rural roots and that rural matters are important in South Dakota. He also stressed the importance of keeping young people involved in agriculture and rural communities.

“Young people don’t want things given to them, but they want a chance,” said Frerichs. “We need to be sure to help them connect to that rural way of life and be proud of it.”

When attendees broke up into small groups, they discussed a series of questions. They included what was important regarding agriculture and its relationship to community; what stands out about how ag and communities impact each other; what beliefs and assumptions, if challenged, could open new possibilities for both agriculture and community to make the other better; and what people and organizations could do differently to help communities make agriculture better and agriculture to make community better.

Groups shared ideas that were discussed and opportunity, education and effective communication were hot topics.

There was consensus that opportunities are available for young people, but educational opportunities may be lacking. Currently, neither Britton-Hecla nor Langford Area schools offer agriculture classes.

It was also emphasized that one solution doesn’t cover every community, but a lot of communities face the same struggles. Most agreed that agriculture and communities work pretty well together, but there is also a disconnect that could be improved by more effective education.

Attendees were asked to write down one action they would take as a result of the discussion to wrap up the Dakotafire Café, and Langford resident Paula Jensen of GrowSD, who assisted as a facilitator for the event, congratulated those in attendance.

“You have shown that you are a courageous leader in your community by taking part in this conversation,” said Jensen.