ENERGIZE! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference

Categorized: Agronomy, Community Development, Communities

: May 8th

SDSU Extension will host a conference about rural communities held in a rural community starting on May 8 at 12:00 PM CDT around the DeSmet community.


Sarah Calhoun"Modern Day Pioneering" by Sarah Calhoun, Owner, Red Ants Pants; Executive Director, Red Ants Pants Foundation; Producer, Red Ants Pants Music Festival. This is an unlikely story. It is a story about pants and small town Montana. It is a story about music, chainsaws, and possibilities. It is about entrepreneurship, working hard, and establishing a rural Foundation. It is about people, the land, and how we need each other. It is a reminder that we can do big things in small towns.

Sarah Calhoun has nearly two decades of leadership experience in both the non-profit and small business sectors, working in the outdoor education industry before founding Red Ants Pants in 2006. Raised on a farm in rural Connecticut, Calhoun was inspired to move to Montana by Ivan Doig's This House of Sky. From her home in the small town of White Sulphur Springs (population 908), she has become an inspiration to entrepreneurs nationwide and is known for her dedication to supporting rural communities.

Community and Business Success Stories

  • Funding Community Projects: Explore how DeSmet funded a new event center and how to throw a party in a cow pasture on a zero-dollar budget.
  • Entrepreneurial Experiences: Hear how successful businesses operate in rural South Dakota through the use of technology, freelancing and more!  
  • Agritourism & Value-Added Agriculture: Discover how South Dakotans are growing businesses through agritourism and value-added agriculture.
  • Engaging Community Members: Find out how you can engage community members of all ages to make your community thrive.
  • AND MORE!  Many sessions to choose from, an evening of entertainment, lots of great food, information from resource providers and plenty of time for networking and exploring DeSmet.  

“Voices of the Next Generation” Entrepreneur Panel

Engage with young entrepreneurs currently operating successful businesses in South Dakota. Learn how you can support and encourage young entrepreneurs in your community.

The conference begins with a light lunch and registration (noon – 1pm) on Tuesday, May 8, and concludes early Wednesday afternoon with lunch in DeSmet before you head home energized to lead your community to success!

Stop back later for a complete schedule of sessions, activities and locations!  


If you are looking for a place to stay while you are attending the conference, here are some lodging options.

  • DeSmet Super Deluxe Inn, Highway 14 East, DeSmet, SD. 1.877.687.7523 or 605.854.9388
    *Conference room block available until April 6th (tell them you are attending the Energize! conference when you make your reservation.
  • Cottage Inn Motel, Hwy 14 East, DeSmet, SD. 605.854.3396
  • Heritage House B&B, 126 Calumet Ave SE, DeSmet, SD 605.854.9370
  • Prairie House Manor, 209 Poinsett Ave - 209 Hwy 25 S, DeSmet, SD 605.854.9131
  • Prairie Retreat, 43008 195th St, Bryant, SD 1.605.625.5085


Thank you to our sponsors who support innovative rural communities and help make this conference possible.

  • Platinum: NCRCRD - North Central Regional Center for Rural Devleopment, Bush Foundation
  • Gold: Legend Seeds, DeSmet Farm Mutual Insurance Company of South Dakota, Kingsbury Electric
  • Silver: DeSmet Chamber of Commerce, DeSmet Developement Corporation
  • Bronze: Dakotaland Federal Credit Union

Online RegistrationENERGIZE! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities, May 8-9, 2018, DeSmet, SD

Register online using the form below. Contact Kenneth Sherin, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Director for more information.


  • Use promotional code EARLY to register for $59.00 by April 6.
  • Youth under age 21, register for $40 using YOUTHEARLY before April 6. If you register after April 6, enter promotional code YOUTH.
  • DeSmet residents call Call Rita Anderson 605.854.9011 for a $10 discount code.