Photo by Cody Littau -- Communications Coordinator, SD Grassland Coalition
Dr. Barry Dunn, president of South Dakota State University, shares his congratulations with the SD Grassland Coalition during his welcome at the group’s 20th anniversary celebration in Chamberlain. Dunn first worked with the coalition in 1998 helping produce the newsletter in his former role with SDSU Extension.
Photo by Cody Littau -- Communications Coordinator, SD Grassland Coalition Dr. Barry Dunn, president of South Dakota State University, shares his congratulations with the SD Grassland Coalition during his welcome at the group’s 20th anniversary celebration in Chamberlain. Dunn first worked with the coalition in 1998 helping produce the newsletter in his former role with SDSU Extension.


By Amy Blum

Members and supporters of the South Dakota Grassland Coalition (SDGC) gathered in Chamberlain, S.D. on December 12 to commemorate the group’s 20th anniversary. The event also served as the coalition’s annual meeting and aimed to educate attendees about the many partnerships SDGC utilizes to reach a maximum number of urban and rural groups.

Dr. Barry Dunn, president of South Dakota State University, welcomed the large crowd and shared his pride in what the coalition has accomplished in two decades.

“I watched this organization start in its infancy, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch it grow,” Dunn said. “You are making an enormous difference in the conversation about land use and agriculture in South Dakota and in the nation. In the beginning, we were tagging these meetings on to other meetings and hoping for 10 people. Now, the room is full, and we’re setting up more tables!”

Dunn focused his comments on the impact the South Dakota Grassland Coalition has on regenerative agriculture, and he likened the group’s core values to those also held by innovators like Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, and Scotty Philips.

“This group has a conservation ethic at its core, and while there are challenges, there are also great possibilities,” Dunn told the group.

The event was wrapped in nostalgia and gratitude, especially for the coalition’s founding members, and that gratitude was expressed, in part, when the coalition presented Friend of the Prairie honors to past partners and continued advocates Dwayne Breyer of Hot Springs, S.D. and Carl Madsen of Brookings, S.D.

To cap the event and showcase some of the many possibilities in agriculture, Jerry Doan of the Black Leg Ranch near Bismarck, North Dakota shared stories and examples of conservation and innovation from his family’s six-generation ranch.

“Nothing in agriculture is black and white, and I’m not here to tell you we have it all figured out,” Doan said. “But, 20 years ago, I was tired and worn out. My dad and our trusted hired man both died. Something had to give, and I knew it started with the way I managed and operated. Planned grazing and the common-sense approach of Allen Savory had an immense impact on our success.”

Today, the Doan’s four children have returned to the ranch, each bringing unique perspective and value. In addition to their own cattle and buffalo ranch, the family provides custom grazing, offers elite hunting packages, hosts weddings, and will soon boast an on-site brewery. In the past year, they have welcomed more than 10,000 visitors to their ranch.

“If you had told me 20 years ago we’d be doing all the stuff we’re doing now, I’d have laughed,” Doan shared. “But, our kids came back for the beauty of North Dakota, and they are committed to continuing our family’s long-standing passion for our grasslands.” 

For more information on the coalition’s upcoming events and opportunities, visit www.sdgrass.org

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