SDSU Extension Community Vitality team works with all communities | TSLN.com

SDSU Extension Community Vitality team works with all communities

SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialists Peggy Schlechter (left) and Kari O'Neill, lead a workshop on action planning during a recent South Dakota Specialty Producers Association meeting. Photo courtesy SDSU Extension

BROOKINGS, S.D. – SDSU Extension's Community Vitality team works with any community to help plan, set actionable goals and achieve success.

"Community can be defined many ways," explained Kari O'Neill, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist. "Some communities are set by geography, increasingly, however, the word community also defines a group of people with similar interests."

O'Neill explained that SDSU Extension Community Vitality team works to fulfill the Land Grant mission of outreach by helping people improve their lives.

"Literally," she said. "If a group wants to improve themselves or the lives of the people in the group, it's our job to help."

“If a group wants to improve themselves or the lives of the people in the group, it’s our job to help.” Kari O’Neill, SDSU Extension Community Vitatlity field specialist

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Since 2012, O'Neill has worked with the South Dakota Specialty Producers Association (SDSPA) to help them organize, market and distribute their products locally.

South Dakota Specialty Producers Association is a nonprofit membership organization of growers, processors, and others interested in producing specialty crops such as; fruits and vegetables, specialty meats, wine and honey. As the organization's treasurer, Kim Brannen explained, "things that can be grown in South Dakota, sold locally to benefit local economies, and produce good food for all of our citizens."

Like all volunteer members of the organization's leadership, Brennen is a specialty food producer. Brennen owns Gavin's Point Vineyards.

"The members have a passion," O'Neill said. "They are a community of individuals with a shared mission. This is a group that is on the move."

In the beginning, O'Neill worked closely with the South Dakota Specialty Producers Association, meeting with them frequently and providing evidence-based guidance on everything from hiring a director and building an efficient distribution model.

Today, they only rely on her for advice and periodic leadership training. She recently led a workshop during a South Dakota Specialty Producers Association meeting that focused on action planning for the future.

"The event was set up to figure out how we could work together with other interest communities and organizations to work out solutions and build communication and collaboration," Brannen said. "They (SDSU Extension Community Vitality team) have a background in agriculture and understand the issues."

To learn more about SDSU Extension Community Vitality and how the team can work with your community, contact Kenneth Sherin, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Director, 605.995.7378 or kenneth.sherin@sdstate.edu.

–SDSU Extension