Spearfish Local is a Black Hills State University initiative that brings together local producers, distributors, purchasers, and consumers of local food while engaging BHSU students in the process.
Black Hills State University, located in Spearfish, South Dakota, created Spearfish Local in the spring of 2014. The goal of Spearfish Local is to grow support of the local economy and for the community to work together to achieve greater things than we could as separate organizations. We strive to support the local economy by assisting businesses to promote their products and keeping local dollars in Spearfish, assist consumers to identify local products, promote healthy eating choices with fresh produce, reduce transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions, build community resilience, connect BHSU students with community members working on local food issues, and provide real world work experience for BHSU students.
Our program launch, held June 2014, began with a strategic planning workshop and the creation of the Spearfish Local Advisory Council, comprised of representatives from various aspects of the food system. We held workshops for kids and adults (healthy snacks, organic gardening, yoga) and then finished with a free community meal. The community supper was an exercise for our university’s dining services, who worked to locate all meal ingredients from local sources. We served 400 meals of locally sourced hamburgers, salad greens, deviled eggs, cucumber and tomato salad, and rhubarb crisp. Through this meal we showed that local food is delicious and abundant. We’ve since utilized university dining services to provide local food for sustainability events held on campus.
Spearfish Local serves as an internship program for Black Hills State University students. With grant funds, we have been able to employ 15 student intern positions since the summer of 2014. The students are placed in positions across the community, working on all aspects of the food economy from harvesting CSA shares at a local farm to communications for a neighboring vineyard. The interns work on their own projects but we come together as a team to work on special activities. Our interns created programming for 350 third and fourth graders including games and farm field trips to demonstrate the difference between fresh and processed food. Students are also actively working on research to understand how we can break barriers to local food purchases in Spearfish cafeterias and restaurants and by individuals.
To inform consumers on where to find local food, we developed a local food badge. Businesses that sell or cook with local food can proudly show their support of the local economy by displaying the badge in their windows. Requirements for badge were determined by the Spearfish Local Advisory Council and the badge was designed by a BHSU graphic design student. The badge provides a way to inform heathier choices for our community and visitors. Launched December 2014, twenty businesses have registered for the badge, a significant number for a town with a population of 10,000.
At BHSU, we are fortunate to have support from our administration to create new sustainability projects. They allowed for the time required to apply for grants to find funding for our ideas. Private grant funds enabled us to pay for student work at small businesses off campus that would not have been able to pay for help otherwise. Grant funds also paid for the community supper at our program launch, enabling us to keep the meal free and expand our reach.
Our Dining Services has purchasing policies regarding their meal services on campus. However, these were bypassed by using their catering arm. As their client, we asked for local food and they were allowed to purchase from farmers instead of a distribution company.
MISTAKES & LESSONS LEARNED
Students hired for a semester are not always cognizant of or able to meet the deadlines required for grantwork. On some occasions, students have moved on a slower timeline than we orginally planned. There are also occasions when a grant period does not coincide with the school semester. We were fortunate to be granted a short no-cost extension for one project and have worked in a conservative timeline on the projects we're currently undertaking.
We formed an Advisory Council for Spearfish Local with the intent to represent the wide spectrum of the local food economy and to continuously direct our program in the right direction. The Council meets several times during the year to evaluate the direction of the program. The Council’s current members include the City of Spearfish’s Mayor, the city Public Works Director, Spearfish Chamber of Commerce Director, a hospital dietician, a producer, a retailer, a consumer (“the lazy mom”), and BHSU faculty, staff, and students.
Our current work includes research needed for our region. A graduate student is creating a geographical foodshed analysis. This project involves creating a GIS database and map of farms located in the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota. Once complete, this report will serve as the backbone for continued analysis. One example is an economic study of the financial impact local food has on the region.
Another student met with area cafeteria managers to assess the local food access in schools, hospitals, nursing facilities, and retirement homes in the community. We are assessing the cumulative barriers for their use of local food and developing potential solutions.
We are producing a YouTube video series to promote local food. Each video features a local farmer, restaurant, or retailer that sells local food. The videos show what makes that business unique and the people and the work that goes behind growing or preparing the local product. We’re also featuring a video that explains the Spearfish Farmer’s Market. The videos are intended for community members and tourists.
Next on the horizon is the coordination and development of a local food hub. This was identified as a need during the cafeteria analysis. The food hub will serve as a one-point distribution company for the region’s local food. The food hub manager would also be able to identify needs in the region for particular foods which could help farmers expand their businesses with in-demand crops. There are many ways to establish a local food hub, so we are currently in the process of determining what direction is best for Spearfish.