Join SDSPA!   

Interested in membership with the SD Specialty Producers or Beverage Producers Associations (formerly Wine Growers)? Please complete these 2 steps. Submit our membership form. Then complete payment using the button below.

Membership Options

Membership & newsletters include processing fee. 

Paper Application

See About Us to learn more about our organization.


Find Us on Facebook!

Please make sure you select "Get notifications" under "Liked."  


Support SDSPA!

Contributions or gifts to SDSPA or SDBPA are not tax deductible. However, they may be tax deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses. Consult with your tax advisor for information.

<< Back to main

2017 SD Local Foods Conference Speaker Bios

Posted 11/1/2017 10:04am by SDSPA Marketing Contractor.

We are pleased to present the following speakers for the 2017 South Dakota Local Foods Conference!

Chef MJ Adams, Corn Exchange (Rapid City, SD)

Chefs Panel (Saturday)  

MJ Adams love of local foods developed early in her childhood from time spent between Vashon Island, WA and Mitchell, SD. Living in NYC in the mid-1980’s, volunteering at the James Beard Foundation led her to meeting Jacque Pepin, Julia Childs and Craig Claiborne among others. This encouraged her to attend and graduate from the French Culinary Institute. Moving to Rapid City in 1996, she opened the first Corn Exchange which was sadly destroyed by the downtown Sweeney fire of 1997. They reopened in 1998 and for 15 years the Corn Exchange grew into a dining experience. One of the highlights was being featured in Gourmet magazine in 2003. The restaurant closed in the spring of 2013. Her current project is being the Host/Culinary Consultant for Savor Dakota, a show on SDPB in its second year.  

Angela Avila, Director of Hospitality and Retail Sales, Prairie Berry Winery (Hill City)

Marketing a Unique South Dakota Experience, the Prairie Berry Story (Saturday)  

Angela was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Prior to her current career in the wine and beer industry, Angela was as Adjunct Professor of Photography at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT and a small business owner in Rapid City, SD. Angela has been working with Prairie Berry LLC in the Black Hills for the past 9 years and returned to Sioux Falls in 2014 to open Prairie Berry East Bank, the most recent extension of the family of businesses. As Director of Sales and Marketing, Angela oversees Prairie Berry Winery and Miner Brewing Company in Hill City, SD, as well as Prairie Berry East Bank in Sioux Falls. Angela currently serves on the Downtown Sioux Falls Inc. Board of Directors, is an avid supporter of the local art and music scene and a volunteer with the Sioux Falls School District. Angela and her husband Pete have two young boys, Sawyer (9) and Asher (5) and can often be found on their front porch with their kids and two dogs, listening to music and entertaining friends.  

Tom Barnes, Pleasant Valley Farm (Custer, SD)

Meat Goats & Dairy Goats (Friday)

Tom Barnes grew up on a University of Wyoming Ag research center with sheep as it’s primary livestock.  He attended the University of Wyoming, majoring in Range Management and Soil Science and then spent the next thirty years working for private industry, advising them on the Clean Water Act’s rules for protecting our surface waters.  After retirement to the Black Hills, he and his wife, Susan began raising goats. 

Curtis Braun, SDSU Extension (Sioux Falls, SD)

Creating Value Added Products (Saturday)

Curtis Braun has a Bachelor’s in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and a MBA from the University of St Thomas. He has spent the majority of his career in the food industry. Curtis has worked for 8 years at General Mills holding such positions as a finished product Labeling Coordinator, Ingredient Specification Coordinator, Food Safety Regional Auditor, Quality and Regulatory Operations Ingredient Manager, and Food Safety and Quality External Supply Chain Quality Manager. Curtis also has experience working as a Quality and Technical Manager with Kerry Ingredients. Curtis started working for SDSU Extension – Food Safety in May of 2017 and also teaches a Food Safety and Quality management class at SDSU. In his free time, Curtis likes to spend time with his wife, work out, ride motorcycle, and serve God helping the church.

Chef Scott Brinker, Rapid City Regional Health (Rapid City, SD)

Local Foods & Healthcare (Thursday)              

Chefs Panel (Saturday)

Chef Scott Brinker works as the Executive Chef for Rapid City Regional Hospital. He grew up in Springfield, SD. He graduated from Mitchell Vocational School with an AAS in Culinary Arts in 1991. He has 40 years of experience in food service industry and 10 years in healthcare.  

Kevin Crosby, Xanterra Parks & Resorts (Keystone, SD)

Sustainability Initiatives at Mount Rushmore (Saturday)

Kevin Crosby joined Xanterra Parks & Resorts in 2014 as the Sustainability Manager for Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Rocky Mountain National Park. In this role he is responsible for an Environmental Management System, energy efficiency initiatives, recycling, environmental stewardship training, encouraging local and sustainable food purchasing, and many other areas contributing to Xanterra’s commitment to “protect the environment.” He previously served as the first Sustainability Coordinator for Taylor University in Upland, Indiana where he developed expertise in lighting, utility management, HVAC controls, and green building. Kevin earned a M.S. in Environmental Science in 2010 and a B.S. in Engineering Physics in 2009 both from Taylor. He enjoys finding ways to make the communities in which he lives more sustainable by working with organizations such as the Rapid City Sustainability Committee and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA).  

Kiah Crowley, Sunrise Hives (St Onge, SD)

Spearfish Local Foods Community Panel  (Saturday)

Kiah Crowley is co-owner of Sunrise Hives, a family owned and operated apiary located in Spearfish, SD. A second generation bee keeper, born and raised in Spearfish, Kiah doesn’t see herself anywhere else.  On most days you will find her in the shop pouring honey or working on her line of all-natural body products.   When she isn’t messing with their hives you can catch Kiah with her hands in the dirt! Passionate about creating a better world for not only us but for the bees too, Kiah donates her time to educate children on the importance of bees.  Kiah also serves as Vice President for the Black Hills Farmers Market.       

Jared DeGraaf, Elite Events (Spearfish, SD)

Chefs Panel (Saturday)  

After his short time at culinary school, Jared DeGraaf realized that the mainstream restaurant business was not an option for him. He didn’t pursue a career in cooking for twelve years. A few years ago, he and his wife took a great interest in eating healthier for their bodies and the earth. They began sourcing better ingredients like organic and locally produced goods. After moving to South Dakota, this interest evolved into a passion as they were able to meet more men and women producing and sourcing foods. Now, they offer this “passion” in edible form to the people of the Black Hills through their company, Elite Services Catering by creating food events sourced with local ingredients. They hope to spark a “food revolution” in each of their clients.

Atina Diffley, Organic Farming Works LLC (Farmington, MN)                                          

Organic Weed Control for Small Scale Growers (Wednesday)

Atina Diffley is an organic farmer and consultant (Organic Farming Works LLC), public speaker, and author of the 2012 memoir, Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works. From 1985 to 2008, she and her husband Martin ran the Gardens of Eagan, an urban-edge, organic vegetable farm, which he started in 1973 as one of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest. Atina’s areas of expertise include post harvest handling, brand-name marketing, greenhouse management, and organic farming systems. She presently serves on the boards of three organic agriculture non-profit organizations and is also the editor and designer of Roger Blobaum’s Organic History Website, and a co-author author/editor and lead trainer for Wholesale Success: A Farmers Guide to Selling, Postharvest Handling and Packing Produce. For reflections, tips and decision-making tools subscribe to her on-line blog, What Is A Farm.

Jeff Drumm, Crow Peak Brewing Company (Spearfish, SD)

Brewers Panel (Saturday)  

Jeff Drumm is the founder and head brewer at Crow Peak Brewing Company in Spearfish, SD.  Jeff, his wife Carolyn and their two daughters decided to make a lifestyle change and moved to Spearfish, SD in 2004.  After graduating from the American Brewer’s Guild Craftbrewers program and apprenticing at Wild River Brewing Co. in Grants Pass, OR, Jeff and Carolyn founded Crow Peak Brewing Company in 2007.  Now in his tenth year of business, Jeff is still happily producing beers for distribution in South Dakota and beyond.  

Matt Fridell & Tanya Olson, Tallgrass Architecture (Custer, SD)

How to Make Local Food a Destination in Your Community (Friday)  

Tallgrass Landscape Architecture is an emergent firm with deep roots in the American West.  Based in the Black Hills of South Dakota and with project experience from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, we specialize in landscapes for the High Plains and Mountain West and have deliberately located our office in a small community -  Custer South Dakota - in an effort to maintain an understanding of the special interests and issues of rural living and business.  Many of our planning efforts have been in smaller towns and we actively volunteer and participate in programs like Design South Dakota, community boards and commissions, professional speaking engagements, and our professional organizations to understand issues that impact our communities and work.  We understand the strategic development and partnerships communities, agencies, and organizations need to make big things happen. We provide comprehensive design services, professional facilitation, and project management. 

Russ Finch, Greenhouses in the Snow (Alliance, NE)

12 Month Greenhouse (Thursday)

Forty five years ago, Russ Finch used geo thermal tubes buried eight feet to harvest heat from the earth and flow it through the outdoor unit of a heat pump that they placed in an 8’ x 8’ room in a new home. It worked so well they thought it would work to use it without the heat pump for a greenhouse. So, twenty years later they built the 78’ x 17’ greenhouse. He knew they would have to grow tropical plants to prove it would work. Citrus was the answer. For the next 18 years it was just a hobby. Then the director of the Alliance Chamber of Commerce became interested so they started to sell plan packets. Four years ago, they started selling just the frame and Lexan glazing system. All the other parts are available locally. There are now over 40 completed units in 8 states and Canada. One of the states is Alaska.

Almost all the units are commercial for farmer markets and local growing. The potential for these greenhouses is limitless. It is too soon to have data from produce sales but from what we are seeing by lowering the cost of energy, we can grow perennials such as citrus and hundreds of other flowers, vegetables, etc. The list is endless. The original greenhouse uses less than a dollar a day for energy and is automated so there is no need for a person to work in the greenhouse every day. They have left for ten days in the winter with no problems. The new design is much more efficient than the original unit. Automated unit costs on a farm or ranch run around $22,000 if you have access to a backhoe and furnish labor. The greenhouses are easy to construct as everything slides together – no welding or special tools required. 

Aleaha Ghere, Botticelli Restorante (Rapid City, SD)

Chefs Panel (Saturday)  

Aleaha Ghere graduated from the French Culinary Institute May of 2008. The FCI started the "Italian Culinary Academy" where she also attended culinary school at ALMA in Colorno, Italy. Aleaha went on to work under famous Chef Bruno Barbieri in Verona, Italy where she learned what it was like to work in a 2 Michelin Starred restaurant. Aleaha returned home to her family owned business and became the Executive Chef at Botticelli. Aleaha is now the Executive Chef and Owner of her quaint little restaurant at 523 Main St. in Rapid City, SD. In the summer her restaurant only buys produce from the local farmer's market, and the local farms, but hopes that one day, she will be able to buy local produce, meat, and grains year round. Her next project is a roof top garden about Botticelli, with a small patio to dine with the vegetables.

Katie Greer, Black Hills State University, Sustainability Program (Spearfish, SD)  

Spearfish Community Local Foods Panel (Saturday)

Katie Greer is Assistant Director of Facilities Services at Black Hills State University. She works on a number of sustainability initiatives in her position including Spearfish Local and the Black Hills Food Hub. Katie has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Tennessee and lives in Spearfish with her husband and son.

Michelle Grosek, Bear Butte Gardens (Sturgis, SD)

Growing Organic (Saturday)

Michelle Grosek owns and operates Bear Butte Gardens with her husband, Rick.  Bear Butte Gardens is located 5 miles northeast of Sturgis and the Groseks grow and sell USDA certified organic vegetables, hay, poultry, and eggs.  They also raise pastured beef and lamb and collect honey from their bee hives.  Organic vegetables are sold through CSA shares, health food stores, small restaurants, and through direct sales to customers at the gardens.  All other products are sold directly from the gardens/farm.  Michelle can be reached at

Dr. Rachel MK Headley, Ecotone Foundation & Best Day Farms (Spearfish, SD)                                                      

Local Foods & Healthcare (Thursday)

Hydroponics (Saturday)

Dr. Rachel MK Headley is passionate about local food, in that it creates rural resiliency, provides a source for healthy, nutritious, and trusted food, and is overall a key component to the kind of community of which she wants to be a part. Rachel has worked in partnership with Katie Greer and Petrika Peters at BHSU to support local food in Spearfish and the broader Black Hills region through Spearfish Local and the Black Hills Food Hub. Rachel is a business consultant, specializing in supporting organizations through big changes.

Kirk Hulstein, SD Department of Tourism (Pierre, SD)

Opportunities in Agri-Tourism (Saturday)

Kirk Hulstein is the South Dakota Department of Tourism's Industry Outreach and Development Director and serves tourism businesses and communities across the state. In addition, he provides oversight on many of the research initiatives including consumer insights, market analysis, visitor demographics, and campaign reporting. Prior to his 11 years with the department, he was employed at Wells Fargo Financial Bank and was responsible for underwriting loans, business development and management of an auditing team.

Trish Jenkins & Jeremy Smith, Cycle Farm, LLC (Spearfish, SD) 

Considering Carbon - A Local Perspective on A Global Issue (Saturday)

Jeremy Smith and Trish Jenkins run Cycle Farm, LLC, a small, diversified mixed vegetable farm located in Spearfish Valley. They grow over 40 different crop types and sell direct from the farm and to local restaurants. They are enthusiastic about building community and local resiliency through the food system using human-powered, no-till and regenerative farming practices. Jeremy’s background is in aquatic invertebrates and ecology, travel by bicycle, cobblery and circus arts. Amidst many things, he is interested in building utility bicycles and human-powered tools for small scale agriculture, carbon farming, and the incredible genetic diversity in lettuce. Trish has a Masters degree in Earth Science and is a GIS consultant for regional and national non-profit land conservation organizations. She is passionate about seed stewardship, fermentation, local fibers, and bringing people together around food.  

Mike Kilroy, Brewer, Firehouse Brewing Company (Rapid City, SD)                                

Brewers Panel (Saturday)  

Mike Kilroy has spent the last 16 years brewing in some form or another.  It started with a book he got for Christmas and he has been brewing professionally for the past 6 years at the Firehouse Brewing Co.  Although some days are better than others, he truly enjoys what he does.  He may never get rich but, he will never run out of beer  

Frank Kutka, Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society (Dickinson, ND)

Buffalo Bird Woman - A Celebration of Indigenous Gardening Techniques (Saturday)  

Frank Kutka grew up in southeastern Wisconsin where he learned about gardening and small scale agriculture.  He studied biology and animal ecology before living with his family in northern Minnesota on a small farm.  After studying plant breeding in New York, he and his family moved to western North Dakota.  Frank has coordinated the USDA SARE program in the Dakotas, taught agriculture courses, and helped to coordinate the Farm Breeding Club for the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society.  He currently breeds maize, squash, and other crops for the region.  

Deborah Madison, Chef & Author (Galisteo, NM)

Local Foods & Healthcare (Thursday)

Keynote Address, “"If I Were Visiting South Dakota, What Would I Want to Eat?" (Friday)

The Journey to Success - Local Foods & Tourism (Friday) Book Talk and Signing Opportunity (Saturday)  

Deborah Madison is the founding chef of Greens restaurant in San Francisco and the author of fourteen cookbooks, including Local Flavors, Vegetable Literacy, and The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, as well as innumerable article on food and cooking, farms and gardens. In My Kitchen (10-Speed Press) is her most recent book and admittedly, one of her favorites. In her words, “It was a fun book to write and contains a lot of narrative back-story to old and new favorite recipes plus it’s filled with photographs.” Deborah’s books have garnered many awards, among others, 5 James Beard awards, 2 Julia Child cook book of the year wins, the MFK Fisher mid-career award, and the Andre Simon award. Most recently, Vegetable Literacy received both a James Beard and IACP award.  

After living in Rome for a year at the American Academy, then in Flagstaff, Arizona, Deborah moved to Santa Fe where she became the manager of the Santa Fe farmers’ market and subsequently served on its board for 12 years. She also opened a restaurant and became a traveling cooking teacher for some twenty years. Deborah is co-founder of the Monte Del Sol school garden, and was a board member of The Seed Savers Exchange for 6 years. A long time member of Slow Food and the founder of the Santa Fe chapter, Deborah worked for several years on the national ARK committee and the International Slow Food Committee on Biodiversity, both groups dedicated to identifying and reviving forgotten edible plant and animal breeds of culinary virtue. A Master Gardener, Deborah lives in the village of Galisteo, New Mexico, with her husband, artist Patrick McFarlin, where she writes and attempts to grow her own food and flowers. For more information on Deborah Madison, please visit her website (  

Peggy Martin and Bud Manke, Cedar Creek Gardens (Midland, SD)

Workamping & Interns (Friday)  

Cedar Creek Gardens is owned by Peggy Martin and Bud Manke. They have several acres into field production and 5 high tunnels. We grow for both farmers markets and wholesale.   

Brian Maruska, HomeSlice Media Group (Sturgis & Rapid City, SD)

Online Marketing of Local Foods (Friday)  

Brian Maruska is the Director of Digital Sales at HomeSlice Media Group. He spends his days training business owners, large and small, locally, regionally and nationally, on how to use digital marketing to their advantage to bring in new customers, promote their brand and growing their overall bottom line.

Kari O’Neill, SDSU Extension, Community Development Field Specialist (Kyle, SD)

South Dakota Food Hubs (Saturday)

A native South Dakotan, Kari O’Neill was born and raised on a farm/ranch west of Faulkton. She has been with SDSU Extension for thirteen years.  She was one of the founders of the Community Development focus area, and is currently a Community Development Field Specialist located at Martin. Her main interest areas are leadership, strategic planning and public issues. Her current passion is launching Dakota Fresh LLC, as the first producer-owned food hub in the state. 

Sam Papendick, Hay Camp Brewing Company (Rapid City, SD)

Brewer’s Panel (Saturday)  

Sam Papendick is the owner/brewer at Hay Camp Brewing Co. Hay Camp opened the doors January 2014 and relocated to a larger space this April 2017. They currently have about 250 bbl production capacity annually. Sam grew up in Rapid City and has a B.S. (Colorado State University) and Ph.D. (SDSM&T) in Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Michael Prate, REDCO Community Food Initiative (Porcupine, SD)                                                      

Food Sovereignty (Friday)

“Hailing from the shining metropolis of New York, Mike graduated from Fordham University with a BA in Theology with a question – how could live a meaningful and healthy life (classic theology nerd).  In 2013, he moved west to the Plains for a year of service in the community of St. Francis, where he served as a radio DJ, youth mentor, and teacher. He has lived in Sicangu Country for the last four years, and has fell in love with the land, his work, and most importantly, the people.  He is passionate about healthy and local food, but also about growing healthy people and strong communities that will be equipped to raise future generations in a sustainable and meaningful way.  He currently lives south of White River with his partner Margaret, cat and dog, 40 chickens, and soon-to-arrive horse.”

Cheri Rath, Executive Director, Value Added Agriculture Development Center (Pierre, SD)

Resources & Technical Assistance (Thursday)

Cheri Rath serves as Executive Director of the Value Added Agriculture Development Center (VAADC) where she manages the nonprofit entity and delivers technical assistance to create and expand agribusinesses throughout South Dakota. Through her extensive network, Rath cohesively integrates VAADC’s professional business services with diverse local, state, regional and national incentive programs to build successful rural enterprise opportunities. Her agribusiness background stems from the family’s grain farm and ag equipment corporation near Aberdeen where she remains active. She holds a General Agriculture Bachelor of Science degree from South Dakota State University and her career path includes the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Rath is South Dakota Agricultural & Rural Leadership and Leadership South Dakota alumnus; and participates on a variety of state, regional and national agricultural and economic development boards.

Tom Silbernagel, Lost Cabin Beer Company (Rapid City, SD)

Brewers Panel (Saturday)  

Tom is a husband and dad of two who grew up in Rapid City. He is the co-founder of Lost Cabin Beer Company and the head brewer. He grew up in the hills, hiking, fishing, and crafting all things homemade!! He got into the craft beer industry through a traveling job with a geospatial engineering company. As he discovered beer outside of SD, he realized he was going to have to brew the stuff himself. He was fascinated by the endless combinations of flavor profiles that were possible from 4 simple ingredients: water, malt, hops, and yeast. Lost Cabin came to be when Steph and Adrienne (wives, better halves, old bar gals) introduced he and his partner, Jesse. Together, they turned his garage into a weekend brewery with 15 beers on tap at one point. With a lot of help and encouragement from everyone, they made the leap and quit their jobs of 15 years with full benefits to go full time Lost Cabin! They haven't looked back since and are very humbled and thankful for their community support.

Jason Schoch, SDSU Community Development Extension Associate (Pine Ridge, SD)                                    

Tribal Local Food Initiatives Round Table (Saturday)

Jason Schoch is the Community Development Extension Associate on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Before working for Extension these last two years, he worked for Dr. Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots program on Pine Ridge as the Project Director in Community and Youth Development, Gardening, and Sustainable Agriculture. He also spent several years as a small acreage market producer focusing on high-tunnels, specialty crops and traditional foods and plants. He can be reached at: (605)-455-1299 or His office is in Kyle, SD next to the Pine Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

Chef Jeff Slathar, Colonial House (Rapid City, SD)  

Social Event Participating Chef (Friday)

Chef Jeff Slathar has an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts from Denver CO. He is a certified working Pastry Chef with the American Culinary Federation and an Artisanal Pastry Chef at the Colonial House Restaurant for the past 17 years making some 60 different pastry items. He is also a member of the Kansas City BBQ society, judging competition style BBQ. He teaches culinary classes through Community Education and local kitchen supply store and supports numerous local charity groups through different cooking experiences.

Brian Stambaugh, Belle Valley Ancient Grains (Newell, SD)                                                

Getting Into Ancient Grains (Saturday)

South Dakota native Brian Stambaugh grew up on a dairy farm near Nisland SD, moved to Rapid City at age 11, and completed high school there, then received a degree in mechanical engineering from SDSMT and married Huron native Linda in 1981.  He has worked for 37 years in the oil and gas industry in Colorado and Houston, and as a consultant since 1997, having taught 55 short courses in 13 countries.  In 2002, wanting to get back to farming, Brian and his family, which now included three daughters, was able to purchase 200 acres on the Belle Fourche River near Newell, SD, not far from the old home place.  In a quest for added value from relatively small acreage, Brian began to grow ancient wheat varieties in 2015.  These included Emmer, Einkorn, Spelt and Red Fife, with the retail business of sale these as whole grain and flour beginning in 2017 as Belle Valley Ancient Grains.

Suzanne Stluka, MS, RDN, LN, Food & Families Program Director (Brookings, SD)        

Farm to School Training: Learning the Basics of Local Food Procurement (Thursday)

Suzanne provides leadership to the SDSU Extension Food & Families Capstone, which includes the areas of Aging, Family Resource Management, Food Safety, Physical Activity, and Nutrition. Suzanne also provides leadership to the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed); these programs provide health and wellness education to limited resource audiences across SD.
She is currently the Project Director of the SD Team Nutrition grant, which is focusing on Farm to School efforts.

Bob Thaden, Owner, Tongue River Vineyard & Winery LLC (Miles City, MT)

Fruit Growing in the Upper Midwest (Thursday)

Fruit Growers & Wine (Friday)  

Bob Thaden has been an amateur botanist for 50 years, has written many columns on wild foods and began making wine at age 18, 50 years ago.  He and his wife, Marilyn and son, Josh own and run Tongue River Vineyard & Winery LLC in Miles City, MT, the only commercial Montana vineyard/winery combination east of Missoula. They produced the first Haskap wine in the US in 2011 and probably the first Carmine Jewel cherry wine in the US.  They’ve released over 40 different wines since opening in 2010 and their motto is, “We’ll ferment anything that looks and acts like a fruit!”  Bob serves on the boards of both the ND Grape and Wine Association and the Montana Grape and Winery Association.  

Holly Tilton Byrne, Dakota Rural Action (Brookings, SD)

Farm to School Training: Learning the Basics of Local Food Procurement (Thursday)

Farm to School Networking: Connecting Producers & Schools (Friday)

Holly Tilton Byrne is an organizer at Dakota Rural Action where she serves as state lead for the National Farm to School Network and works on local food issues. Holly is a graduate of South Dakota State University and currently lives in Brookings with her husband Tim and daughter Lily. Not only has Holly experienced farming in the United States, but also Poland and Brazil. She spent two weeks on farms in Poland during the summer of 2008. In the summer of 2009 she returned to Poland for a month where she completed an internship for the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside in Stryszów. Following her internship, Holly traveled to Brazil where she was certified in permaculture at the Ecocentro IPEC in Pirenópolis.  

Lori Tonak, Instructor, Mitchell Technical Institute, SD Center for Farm & Ranch Mgmt

How to Survive Farm Record Keeping (Saturday)

Lori Tonak has been involved in the agriculture industry and agriculture education for the better part of the past three decades.  She currently acts as a Farm Business Management Instructor at Mitchell Technical Institute where she works individually with farmers and ranchers to assist them with the financial management of their operation.  Prior to that she was an agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor in Kimball, Tulare, Woonsocket and Artesian.  Lori has also worked as a state dairy inspector for the SD Department of Ag and with the Dairy Herd Improvement Association.  She grew up on a dairy farm in Clark County and holds an agriculture education degree from South Dakota State University. 

Taffy Tucker, Bay Leafe Café (Spearfish, SD)                                                                              

Local Foods Community Panel (Saturday)

Taffy Tucker represents the Bay Leaf Café on the administration and business side of the Taffy and French partnership.  They have been in the restaurant/hospitality business for 43 years.  Twenty-five of those years have been in Spearfish.  They work to make good food with good ingredients, style and passion.  Shopping locally is also a passion, not only for the food products they use. They also have the goal of supporting EVERY local business and business owner.  Taffy was born in Deadwood and her father was a well-known meat market manager. His last meat department was right in Spearfish at Bell's Market.  French Bryan was born in Spearfish to a family of dairy farmers.  Good, nutritious, chemical/preservative free, well prepared foods are a high priority to both Taffy, French Bryan and the Bay Leaf Café.

Neil Wagner, SD Department of Tourism (Pierre, SD)

Opportunities in Agri-Tourism (Saturday)

Neil Wagner is the new Industry Outreach and Development Representative for the South Dakota Department of Tourism. Neil is a native of Yankton and holds a degree in Finance from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Prior to joining the Department of Tourism, Neil worked on film sets in Los Angeles and on political campaigns in the Upper Midwest.  

Ernest Weston Jr., Program Manager, Thunder Valley CDC (Porcupine, SD)

Food Sovereignty (Friday)

Ernest Weston, Jr. is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Ernest works with the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation’s (TVCDC) Food Sovereignty Initiative where he maintains TVCDC’s demonstration farm and poultry house, as well as create gardening programing and Lakota Food Knowledge activities for community members. Ernest recognizes the importance for community driven projects and movements that strengthen tribal sovereignty, especially when it comes to re-establishing, re-define, and re-connecting food systems in tribal communities. Ernest found his passion for helping creating a local food system in his tribal community after studying abroad in China in 2015 where he learned about China’s agricultural industry and local food systems. With research and experience in gardening and community building, Ernest looks forward to the exciting opportunities with Thunder Valley’s Food Sovereignty Initiative to make tribal communities healthier.  

Bob Weyrich, Western SD Ag Development Representative, SDDA (Rapid City)

Resources & Technical Assistance (Thursday)

Bob continues his 43 year involvement in the commercial food and agriculture sector. His diverse interaction has always included traditional crop and livestock production, and also significant activity in restaurants, wine and beer production, organics, and the specialty crop sector. He has worked on initiatives that have been challenged to build and fill the local foods pipelines. He extends his marketing acumen and production knowledge to international marketing as well. Now in his eleventh year as an ag development representative, he is charged with developing and sustaining the ag and ag product industry in western South Dakota. Contact at Or call (605) 431 8002.

Jeff Zimprich, NRCS State Conservationist (Huron, SD)

Healthy Soil/Healthy Food (Saturday)

State Conservationist Jeff Zimprich has served the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) South Dakota since 2012. In his tenure, Jeff has emphasized improving the health of natural resources as the building blocks of a strong agricultural industry and for South Dakota’s overall economy. Jeff’s leadership prioritizes helping people understand the health of soil and related natural resources, and assisting ag producers with conservation planning.   A native of South Dakota, Jeff Zimprich realized his interest in agriculture as he was raised on a grain/livestock farm in near Brandon, SD. He began his 33 year conservation career in Montana as a student trainee for the Soil Conservation Service in 1983 while attending the University of Montana.  After graduating with a degree in Rangeland Management, he worked in three Montana field offices as a soil conservationist and district conservationist.  He transferred to Iowa in 1988 and worked in two area offices and the Des Moines State Office.  He served as an Assistant State Conservationist for Field Office Operations in southwest Iowa.  He has served several details with other states and in NRCS National Headquarters.