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Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference

Categorized: Community Development, Communities

BROOKINGS, S.D. - More than 100 rural community leaders from across South Dakota came together to participate in Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference in downtown De Smet. This event was hosted by the SDSU Extension Community Vitality Team and the Community of De Smet in May.

The event was held in downtown De Smet businesses. Shop owners and managers shared their entrepreneurial journeys, while speakers and presenters shared their experiences & knowledge on a variety of topics: Funding for Community Projects, Entrepreneurial Experiences, Agritourism and Value Added Agriculture, and Engaging Community Members.

The idea for creating and hosting the Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference came when members of the SDSU Community Vitality Team spent two days in April of 2017 attending a "Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities" Conference in McCook, Nebraska. That conference, hosted by University of Nebraska Extension, offered an interesting venue twist: conference sessions were held in main street businesses. First tried by Michigan State University with success, the University of Nebraska Extension duplicated the innovative idea in McCook. Now SDSU Extension has reproduced the idea in De Smet.

There were also resource providers who were available to discuss tools to assist communities and entrepreneurs alike. The following were represented: South Dakota Community Foundation, Lake Area Tech, SD Department of tourism, Dakota Resources, SD Small Business Development, SD Rural Life and Census Data Center, SD Planning Districts, East River Electric and SDSU Extension Community Vitality.

"The combination was powerful, with all groups learning from each other," said Paul Thares, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist and one of the event coordinators.

To learn more about how the SDSU Extension Community Vitality works to strengthen South Dakotans and their communities, contact Kenny SherinSDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Director by email. The team plans to host a similar event in 2019.

Courtesy of iGrow. More than 100 rural community leaders from across South Dakota came together to participate in Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference in downtown De Smet. This event was hosted by the SDSU Extension Community Vitality Team and the Community of De Smet in May.

Courtesy of iGrow. Keynote Speaker was Sarah Calhoun, owner of Red Ants Pants shares her story during the Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference in downtown De Smet.

Calhoun is the Executive Director of the Red Ants Pants Foundation and Producer of the Red Ants Pants Music Festival. Along with the keynote, Calhoun also presented two sessions the first: coming under the topic Funding Community Projects; How to Throw a Party in a Cow Pasture on a Zero Dollar Budget: the second: was under the topic Entrepreneurial Experiences; Start a Brand with No Experience? For more information on Sarah Calhoun Red Ants Pants, the Foundation or Music Festival click here: https://redantspants.com/.

Courtesy of iGrow. Dave Anderson (standing), President, Mt Vernon Economic Development Group, presenting to conference participants on "Affordable Housing for Rural Communities - Our Story." Host location in De Smet was Ward's Store.

Courtesy of iGrow. During the Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference in downtown De Smet a panel of young entrepreneurs shared their experiences of choosing to live in or near a rural communities where they have started and continued their businesses.

Panelists include (left to right): Justin Fruechte, Ward, owner of Sturdy Post Ranch; David Anderson, Wilmot, owner of Route 15 Body Works; Michelle Weber, Lake Benton, owner of Michelle Weber Studio and Darcie Lee, De Smet, owner Darci Lee Yoga.

Courtesy of iGrow. An Agritourism Round Table discussion focused on Agritourism Opportunities in South Dakota, during the Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference in downtown De Smet.This discussion took place at the Wilder Welcome Center in downtown De Smet.

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