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What motivates local food producers?

A variety of producers from across the Dakotas explain what pushes them to do the work that’s required to grow or raise local food.

What motivates you to be a local food producer?


Carrie Knutson of Prairie Diamond Ranch [1]

Carrie Knutson of Prairie Diamond Ranch

Prairie Diamond Ranch, Steele, N.D.

Grow forage feeds for dairy and beef cattle. Sell range-fed Aubroc/Angus beef and A1 and A2 dairy herdshares. Soon will be offering grass-fed milk.

“I ranch, dairy and farm because cattle have always been a comfort to me. I love watching them grow and experimenting with different genetics. To me, the farm is similar to a giant canvas. Each year, a little more is accomplished to mold it into what I’d like to leave the next generations. I direct market the herdshares and beef because I believe people should have the privilege of making the choice of products they wish to consume.”   —Carrie Knutson

Dan, Theresa, David and Ginger Podoll of Prairie Road Organic Seed [2]

Dan, Theresa, David and Ginger Podoll of Prairie Road Organic Seed

Prairie Road Organic Farm and Seed, south of LaMoure, N.D.

Raise a variety of vegetable seeds that are well adapted to production in the Northern Plains region

“Our food security depends upon farmers’ ability to obtain and grow a diversity of seeds that are ecologically adapted and well-suited to their farming systems and markets. Gary Nahban’s book Where Our Food Comes From states, ‘[I]t is the social, economic and political access to seed diversity at critical moments that can make or break a community’s means of achieving food security.’ We are committed to doing our part to provide access to seed that is locally adapted and resilient.” —Theresa Podoll 

Amber and Ross Lockhart of Heart and Soil Farm [3]

Amber and Ross Lockhart of Heart and Soil Farm

Heart and Soil Farm, Grandin, N.D.

Grows vegetables and some fruits using sustainable, organic methods.

“What motivates us? First and foremost is the focus on community, land stewardship and ecological diversity. We get to help feed our neighbors, take care of the soil, grow a variety of foods and help keep all those wonderful seed varieties around. Our great love of food is another motivator. Food is such an important part of the human experience—it is the centerpiece of our celebrations as well as the focal point of our everyday lives. It was important to us to try and reconnect ourselves with what we eat and along the way we thought, ‘Hey, why not connect ourselves and our food with those around us as well,’ and thus began Heart and Soil Farm.” —Ross & Amber Lockhart

Scott Hansen of Llama Trax Gardens [4]

Scott Hansen of Llama Trax Gardens

Llama Trax Gardens, in the beautiful rolling hills south of Valley City, N.D.

Raise a wide variety of vegetables and deliver them fresh to members of their community-supported agriculture endeavor.

“We love growing and having fresh vegetables on our table as many days out of the year as we can. Our own children are grown and raising families themselves so we like to make sure our kids and grandchildren are getting the best for their tables as well. Extending that out to members who support us helps us stay and maintain a family farm that has been in the Hansen family for generations.” —Scott & Sandy Hansen

Grace Freeman of Prairie Moon Herbs [5]

Grace Freeman of Prairie Moon Herbs

Prairie Moon Herbs, rural Vermillion, S.D.

Specializes in early spring greens and peas, and fall crops. Raises herbs for retail and wholesale. Keeps bees and sells honey and herb-infused beeswax and honey products.

“I have been growing organic produce since I was 16 years old and have been involved with organic farming and marketing practices since the early 1980s. This type of farming makes sense to me, and the hard work is just part of this path. The rewards come with eating the freshest produce with the most flavor and then sharing it with others who have the same reaction: ‘YUM!’ I have studied herbs since about the same age, 16 years old, and love sharing the knowledge of the edible wild plants along with the cultivated medicinal herbs.” —Grace Freeman

Tomi, Blaze, and Trey Jones of Coteau Sunrise Farm [6]

Tomi, Blaze, and Trey Jones of Coteau Sunrise Farm

Coteau Sunrise Farm, Britton, S.D.

Started a community supported agriculture business in Britton four years ago. Grow a variety of different vegetables along with strawberries and raspberries both outdoors and in a high tunnel.

“Our initial reason for beginning this project was for a summer job. As my brothers and I saw the demand in our community it became more about helping our neighbors eat healthier and showing people how important locally grown produce is for the health of a community and meeting a chemical-free fruit and vegetable demand. Whatever we choose to do in the future, my brothers and I will never think that food simply comes from the supermarket!” —Tomi, Blaze, and Trey Jones


Jill and Dan O'Brien of Wild Idea Buffalo Co. [7]

Jill and Dan O’Brien of Wild Idea Buffalo Co.

Wild Idea Buffalo Co. LLC, Rapid City, S.D.

Raise grass-fed, grass-finished, humanely harvested, antibiotic- and hormone-free bison.

“Our greater mission is for environmental stability. To achieve this we have a holistic approach to our ranching, and participate wholly in grassland conservation and restoration. Bison are the native herbivore to the Great Plains. They evolved with all the other species not to just survive, but to thrive. They are the natural grazing management tool for our grassland range. The buffalo meat is simply a byproduct of the grass, water and sunshine they take in. This natural diet makes their meat not only delicious and healthy, but also sustainable, providing environmentally conscious consumers an alternative to questionable red meats.” —Jill O’Brien


Sue Balcom and Elle Waldoch of The Root Dwellers Farm [8]

Sue Balcom and Elle Waldoch of The Root Dwellers Farm

The Root Sellers,  Mandan, N.D.

Grow Safe Seed and Prairie Road Organics bedding plants for vegetable gardens.

“My motivation for growing plants for people is simply to give them an opportunity to try new varieties like many of my favorite heirloom tomatoes. By growing Prairie Road Organic transplants, I am supporting another local business from Fullerton, N.D. Selling a six-pack of six different varieties means everyone can experiment with plants that cannot be found at the local chain store greenhouse. I have been growing food, canning, creating and sharing local food my entire life. Now, I have the distinct opportunity to share that with my granddaughters in hopes they have a healthier, more food-secure life.” —Sue Balcom

Cliff Millsapps [9]

Cliff Millsapps

Cliff Millsapps, Gary, S.D.

Produces grassfed beef.

“For the past 12 years I’ve lived out my passion for thoughtful, organic, full time farming that had been brooding in me for 35 years prior. During the 35 years I stayed with a full-time job, while watching people my age that I knew go under trying to farm. The past 12 years the increasing customer shift away from cheaper is better, and toward food that they have confidence in has been the necessary market that I needed to make the plunge into modest-scale farming and succeed.

“I get to work for myself, work outdoors, see nature, and solve the daily challenges that keep the work interesting. I feel like I’m doing something productive and noble. More and more people are moving toward meat that they feel is raised in a more natural way, and the future looks good for young people to succeed in this kind of business. At 63, I’m looking to retire and let the next generation of farmer take over. For the right person I have the right turnkey operation.”


Son Max, now 24 and still helping sometimes in a pinch at Cider Hill Farm. [10]

Son Max, now 24 and still helping sometimes in a pinch at Cider Hill Farm.

Cider Hill Farm, Arlington, S.D.

Sell bread and other baked goods and Bella Luna mobile wood-fired pizza. Host HarvesTable farm-to-table events at various locations from June-October.

“The ability to work from home as my kids were growing up was a prime factor in my decision to start.  All five of our kids have helped in some way at different points, from actually helping with gardening (we started with that and moved on to the products we now sell) to baking, milking, selling at market, making pizzas, waiting tables. It’s been good experience for them, enabling them to make some money and accumulate a wide range of skills. They’ve all learned to pitch in and help.” —Joan Williams

Gardendwellers Farm [11]

Gardendwellers Farm

Gardendwellers Farm, Esmond, N.D.

Grow culinary herbs to sell to restaurants, grocery stores and more.

“The desire to be my own boss, the desire to have a company where I can provide a product that is good for people and the environment, uses talents that I have and is good for me as well.” —Holly and Barry Mawby


Sue Greenlee of Garretson, S.D.  [12]

Sue Greenlee of Garretson, S.D.

Dave and Sue Greenlee, Garretson, S.D.

Grow several varieties of wine grapes, some table grapes, as well as other fruits. Are a licensed and bonded winery, and sell wine to our customers.

“We love South Dakota life, and enjoy the hard work and challenge that it takes to make a go of it. I may put a sign up that says “Food miles – Cranberry wine: 300 (Wisconsin Rapids, WI), everything else: zero!” —Dave Greenlee


Wild Moon Salsa [13]

Wild Moon Salsa

WildMoon Salsa, Fargo, N.D.

Produces fresh and processed salsas.

“WildMoon Salsa customers are the best! We want to share authentic family recipes with others, so they can enjoy great-tasting salsas with chips, in their cooking, and having fun with family and friends!” —Pernell Knutson


Dwight Duke of Skyline Ranch [14]

Dwight Duke of Skyline Ranch

Skyline Ranch Produce, Hensler, N.D.

Grows a very large variety of produce.

“The love of working hard. The smiles on customers faces when they see the fresh produce I take to market, not to mention the number of people that line up to buy local produce at every market I go to.  I feel the Lord has blessed me with abundant energy and the love of growing an abundance of produce. I could say more but the garden is calling me.” —Dwight J. Duke