Master Gardener Training in South Dakota for 2015

By David Graper – South Dakota Master Gardener Program Interim Coordinator

Do you like to garden?  Do you like fresh, home-grown, nutritious vegetables and fruits?  Do you want to learn more about how to take better care of your lawn, trees or shrubs?  Are you curious about how plants grow and what they need to grow and be healthier?  Do you want to make new friends that are also interested in these things?  Do you like to teach and help people?  If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then perhaps becoming a South Dakota Master Gardener is the right thing for you to do to satisfy those desires.

Master Gardener training classes are now being formed for 2015.  The registration deadline has been extended to April 24.  Classes will be offered in the Watertown, Mitchell and Hot Springs/Custer areas this year.  You do not have to live right in those cities to participate however, since the majority of the training is offered online so you can get the training in the comfort of your own home in a very open schedule with the first sections available online starting May 4, 2015.  But there are four days of required, hands-on training, to finish out the complete training course.  The four, day-long, hands-on sessions give trainees the opportunity to learn skills such as planting, pruning, plant propagation, along with plant and pest identification by seeing and doing. These will be held in each of the training sites.  Participants will be able to choose from the three locations for their hands-on training.

Master Gardeners work in their community to promote and teach gardening. Opportunities include writing articles, giving talks, working at fair booths, helping in community and school gardens, teaching and answering garden questions.  The training gives a well-rounded education preparing them to help their communities.  Currently there are about 850 active Master Gardeners across the state, many of which are also active in one or more of the 19 area groups of Master Gardeners.  In 2014 Master Gardeners contributed more than 12,700 hours of volunteer service, worth over $240,000 to South Dakota individuals, families and communities.

The South Dakota Master Gardener program began back in 1985 when Dean Martin organized the first classes.  When Dean retired in 1988, training was put on hold until 1993 when training resumed.  Each year training is scheduled to occur in different locations across the state so that individuals from all over the state will have an opportunity to take the training at a site relatively close to home.  The majority of the training is offered online, making it convenient for more people to participate in the training and only have to make arrangements to be away from home or work for four days to participate in the hands-on training sessions.

Governor Announces Members of Native American Student Achievement Advisory Council

Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced members of the Native American Student Achievement Advisory Council.

The Governor issued an executive order establishing the council in February. The council will work to identify strategies for improving achievement and graduation rates among South Dakota’s Native American students and report its findings to the Legislature and the Governor by Dec. 1, 2015.

The appointees to the council from Mission are: Dr. Roger Bordeaux, Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, Sen. Troy Heinert; Richard “Tuffy” Lunderman,

“Native American students in South Dakota attend public, non-public, tribally operated and Bureau of Indian Education schools,” said Gov. Daugaard. “Thus, the responsibility for providing them educational opportunities is shared among individuals and local, state, tribal and federal governments. I am confident this group will help us move forward with a common vision for ensuring their success.”

The Bush Foundation will be funding the council’s work. The Bush Foundation is based in St. Paul, Minnesota, and serves the 23 Native nations and the states of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“Improving educational achievement among Native American youth will drive growth and prosperity in both South Dakota and the Native nations that share the same geography. We are proud to support this important collaboration between state and tribal leaders. Together, they can lay the foundation for innovative and exciting efforts to increase educational opportunities for Native youth,” said Bush Foundation President Jen Ford Reedy.

The council’s first meeting is slated for April 28-29 at the Capitol Lake Visitor Center in Pierre.

Patrolman Likes 80-mph, but It’s Not for Everyone

By Dan Merritt, Advocate reporter

Driving 80-mph, South Dakota Highway Patrol captain Alan Welsh of the Sioux Falls area was glad he could be moving a bit faster toward the city where his office is located.

In mainly rural South Dakota with its wide open country, it’s a speed limit that makes sense, he said. For him, anyway, because he’s comfortable moving at that speed.

But some people aren’t, he acknowledged. In fact, it seems many aren’t.

“A lot of people are just driving 75-mph,” he stated while he was traveling I-90 on April 10 headed to Sioux Falls.

“Most of the traffic I clock (check) is between 75- and 80-mph. I’m out here on the interstate running radar right now.”

He continued: “I encourage (people) to stay in their comfort area (speed wise). I don’t want anybody to go faster than what they’re comfortable with.”

He disputed claims that if the state officially moved up to 80 mph on the interstate highways (which took effect April 1), motorists would be going 85- to 90-mph.

“When it was 75-mph, we’d get a few going 85 or 90. And we still get a few going 85, 90. But I don’t see more.

I’m not seeing more that think they can push it.

“In fact, I’ve seen a lot of people that are compliant with the speed limit. And that’s because I think they think it’s fast enough.”

It is plenty fast agreed local law enforcement at Winner.

Police chief Paul Schueth cautioned that drivers moving along at 80 mph need to be aware of the big rigs on the road around them, especially in front of them.

Most semis won’t be going any faster than 65- to 75-mph, like they have been. Drivers in other vehicles going faster now than they have been, need to take that into account, he advised.

“The closing rate is going to be a lot faster now at 80-mph coming up behind a semi on the interstate than what it was before.

“Hopefully nobody runs into them.”

Semis generally are restricted by their owner companies as to how fast they can rumble down a roadway, Schueth pointed-out. That’s between 65 and 70 for the most part.

And semi truck tires in general aren’t rated to go beyond 75-mph, he noted.

Both city police chief Schueth and Tripp County sheriff Shawn Pettit didn’t think local drivers on county or city roads were going to take license to driver faster just because the state has upped the legal speed on the interstates.

Pettit said he’ll be looking at reports about interstate accidents about six months down the line. ‘I’m waiting to see how that comes out,” he stated.

Particularly, he’s wondering if there may possibly be more mishaps or more severe ones.

That’s because vehicles will be traveling farther at such a high rate of speed in the time it takes for drivers to react to road/traffic circumstances around them.

That is, motorists will need more length of roadway in which to react and that length may not be enough to avoid a crash going 80 as opposed to 75 or 70, he indicated.

But patrolman captain Welsh said he doesn’t expect to see crash data jump with the new legal 80-mph speed limit.

“When we went from 65 to 75, everybody thought there was going to be a lot of crashes. But it hasn’t.

“Technology with vehicles being safer, handling better, airbags. We haven’t had issues, we haven’t had more crashes, we haven’t had more injuries.

“So, raising the speed limit did not result in more crashes. Certainly that’s our hope and expectation for this increase.”

Welsh said 80-mph is plenty fast enough to be motoring along and that those who plan to go faster had better be prepared to get pulled-over by SD highway patrolmen.

“We are enforcing it strictly. The speed limit’s 80 and we enforce the speed limit.”

Sure there will be discretion used by individual troopers. “Are we going to pull over every single person going 82 or 83, probably not. There’s enough to keep us busy stopping people at higher speeds.

“But could you get pulled-over at 83 and get a citation? Absolutely.”

Every South Dakota Town Needs a Big Idea

by Katie Hunhoff

Every South Dakota town we visit is looking for ways to attract new families. Well, there was that one mayor in the town of Cottonwood (pop. 12) on Highway 14 that didn’t necessarily want people poking around, thinking it was a ghost town. But generally every other town is trying something — from painting storefronts to offering free lots or building event centers — to rejuvenate their communities.

My hometown of Yankton is trying something different. We are holding a 100-day search for a big idea that has the potential to change Yankton for generations. The person with the winning idea will receive $10,000. But the hope is that everyone in Yankton will be a winner if we can have a conversation about Yankton’s future, and also find a project the whole community can rally behind. The search is dubbed Onward Yankton and you can follow along or submit ideas on their website, The Onward Yankton group hopes they get submissions from not just Yankton but also across the state and country.

Larry Ness, a local banker and a founder of Onward Yankton, says the old river city is just one of many places struggling in today’s fast-changing world. “We think a community-wide exercise to decide Yankton’s next step will have a lot of value in itself. But once we select an idea, a bunch of us are committed to seeing if we can’t make it happen.”

Carmen Schramm, the executive director of the Yankton Chamber, says Yankton has always been a town of big ideas — starting with its designation as the territorial capitol in 1861. “As a city, we’ve started colleges, built one of the first bridges across the Missouri and our residents even built a dam and a lake in the 1950s — not to mention schools, hospitals and serving as an agricultural center.”

“We’re proud of all we’ve accomplished,” she said. “But cities our size can’t rest on their laurels. We have to keep adapting and looking for the next challenge that will keep us as an exciting place where young people want to live and work.”

The May/June issue of South Dakota Magazine includes a feature article that talks directly to young South Dakotans, specifically to May graduates. Yes, they already receive advice from parents, teachers and mentors. But we found 18 interesting (and wise) South Dakotans to provide a unique and heartfelt perspective. One of my favorite submissions came from our poet laureate, retired SDSU Professor David Allan Evans. He begins with an anecdote from about 20 years ago when he was very earnestly and carefully teaching a writing class at SDSU. He finished the class feeling pleased with himself. But then a student came up to him and told him he had a leaf on his head. The young professor became embarrassed and agitated, and he felt it had ruined his entire lecture. Now, the story has become a lesson for him on humility and how not to take himself too seriously — “Something that all of us need to learn as we mature with time,” he writes.

I’d like to think the citizens of Yankton are following his advice by with our Big Idea contest. We’re not saying we know all the answers — that’s why we are asking for your ideas. And we’re not taking ourselves too seriously. We look forward to a lot of silly and fun discussion over which idea to pick. But we are serious about the future of our town and the futures of our youth. I encourage you visit the Onward Yankton website to learn more, and also to read our letters to youth in the May/June issue. Who knows, the letters might spark an idea worth $10,000. Even better, the project might provide Yankton and other rural communities some ideas on how to grow and prosper.

Katie Hunhoff is the editor of South Dakota Magazine, a bi-monthly print publication that discusses the people and places of our great state. Visit for more information.

Some Advice For New Parents

A column by First Lady Linda Daugaard

Much has changed for Dennis and me in the last five years. Moving from Dell Rapids to Pierre to serve as governor and first lady has been quite the adventure. But there are other titles we’ve recently acquired that we value even more: grandpa and grandma.

Becoming a grandma has reminded me how much new parents have to decide in nine short months. What color to paint baby’s bedroom, which stroller to buy, whether to know the gender ahead of time – the list of questions can be endless for first-time parents.

Though it can all be overwhelming, the decisions that really matter are those that affect a baby’s health. When Dennis was first elected, he was shocked to learn how many infants were not reaching their first birthday, and that South Dakota’s infant mortality rate was higher than the rates in surrounding states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.

This unsettling truth led him to ask me to lead a task force on infant mortality in South Dakota. I worked with a group of doctors, nurses, tribal health care workers, midwives, social workers and Department of Health officials to understand the causes of the problem. In our research, we found that deciding against early elective deliveries (EEDs), abstaining from tobacco, learning safe sleep practices and receiving prenatal care are critical to an infant’s wellbeing.

Inducing early for non-medical reasons can be dangerous. There are no known health benefits for EEDs, and there are significant health risks for baby – low birthweight, respiratory syndrome, pneumonia and even death. I’m very pleased that 20 of South Dakota’s birthing hospitals have signed pledges to work with us to reduce EEDs.

The infant mortality rate for infants of mothers who smoke is almost twice as high as it is for infants born of non-smokers. Last year, about 15 percent of pregnant women smoked. Though that is an improvement from 2011 when the task force began its work, South Dakota still has one of the highest rates of mothers smoking during pregnancy.

Along with abstaining from tobacco products, it’s critically important for expectant mothers to seek the care they need during the first trimester. In South Dakota, 72 percent of women received prenatal care in the first trimester last year. I’ve heard stories from women who have been told to wait until they are 12 weeks along to schedule prenatal care visits. That’s not good advice. Those who seek that care early on are less likely to lose their child within the first year.

Also before baby is born, expectant parents should learn about safe sleep practices. Infants need to sleep on a firm surface covered by a fitted sheet. Pillows, blankets, toys and crib bumpers should not be in the crib. Babies need to be placed on their back and it’s best for them to sleep in light clothing. Family members and other caregivers also need to know about these important practices.

The good news is that the infant mortality rate is declining in South Dakota. According to the Department of Health, the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births is down from 2013’s rate of 6.5 to 5.9 in 2014. Last year’s rate is also below 2011’s 20-year low of 6.3. It’s important we keep working to increase prenatal care, promote safe sleep practices, and decrease tobacco use and EEDs to make sure that decline continues.

I know from experience there’s no way to fully prepare yourself for parenthood. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No parent is perfect. Know that by concerning yourself primarily with your baby’s health and safety, you’ll be just what your little one needs.

Fewer South Dakota Babies Die In 2014

PIERRE, S.D. – For the second year, South Dakota saw a decline in the number of babies dying before their first birthdays. New data released by the Department of Health today shows 73 infant deaths in 2014 for a rate of 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. That’s down from 2013’s rate of 6.5 and below the previous 20-year lows of 6.3 in 2011 and 6.4 in 2007. o ignored

“It’s so encouraging to see the number of infant deaths down for the second straight year,” said First Lady Linda Daugaard. “All the work to promote safe sleep practices, encourage early prenatal care and help pregnant women stop smoking is having an impact.” o ignored

Early prenatal care, decreased tobacco use in pregnancy and safe sleep practices were some of the strategies recommended by the 2011 Governor’s Task Force on Infant Mortality. That group was chaired by First Lady Linda Daugaard and its members have worked since then to implement the recommendations to reduce infant mortality and improve birth outcomes for South Dakota babies. o ignored

The 2014 data also showed 72.2 percent of pregnant women in South Dakota received prenatal care in the first trimester as recommended. The percentage of women who smoked during pregnancy was 14.8 percent, essentially unchanged from 15 percent the year before. There were five deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 2014, compared to nine in 2013. o ignored

“While we’re pleased with this progress, there is still more work to be done,” said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health. “We recognize the commitment of health care providers to assuring healthy birth outcomes for more South Dakota families and we’re pleased to be part of that effort as well.” o ignored

South Dakotans can learn more about healthy pregnancies at the department’s website.

Acid Food Processing Authority Program

According to the South Dakota Home Processed Foods Law, jams and jellies must be verified by a processing authority before they can be sold at a Farmers Market.  SDSU Extension is hosting a DDN program to train processing authorities or to update those who are already a processing authority.  The class will be held on Tuesday, April 28 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Sites include the SDSU Regional Extension Centers is Sioux Falls, Pierre, Mitchell, Winner, Lemmon, Aberdeen and Watertown. Additional sites include the West River Ag Center in Rapid City, Human Services Center in Yankton and SDSU (Brookings Campus).

If you are interested in attending this class or have questions about this class, contact Lavonne Meyer at the Sioux Falls Regional Center in Sioux Falls.   She can be reached at phone number: 605-782-3290 or email address:

Preparing For A Dry Year

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard

It’s only April and it’s already looking like it will be a dry year. Right now, 99 percent of the state’s ground is abnormally dry. About 13 percent is experiencing moderate drought. The drought area includes northeastern South Dakota and another portion in Meade and Pennington counties, leaving 132,149 South Dakotans who live in an area affected by drought.

Because it’s so dry, we’re at an elevated risk for fires. The fire danger is currently “very high” for the Black Hills and “extreme” in counties surrounding the Black Hills. Grassland areas throughout the state are under a “red flag warning” from the National Weather Service.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Division helps with response to wildfires on forested, state and private lands. Just in the last few days, the Division has reported fires near Fort Pierre, at Custer State Park, in the Palmer Gulch area and in Harding County.

The Sheep Draw Fire in Harding County is the worst we’ve experienced so far this year. With wind gusts up to 70 mph, the fire grew to 6,430 acres in one day. In response, I ordered two National Guard helicopters to assist those on the ground in putting out the fire. As I write this, the size of the Sheep Draw Fire is now estimated at almost 14,000 acres, but thanks to local firefighters, the state Division of Wildland Fire and others who are helping, the fire is 85 percent contained.

This could be just the beginning of a difficult fire season. I know some fires are inevitable – we can’t prevent lightning strikes or control how much moisture we receive – but there are still ways we can prevent fires.

We need to respect county burn bans when they’re in place. Where fires are permitted, never leave a fire unattended, completely extinguish fires before leaving the area and remind others to be cautious. Also, be mindful when operating equipment in dry areas.

Drier Than Average April Expected

The national climate forecast for April 2015, released March 31 by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, indicates drier than average conditions to continue in South Dakota and the Great Plains.

The drought outlook for the month ahead also shows likely expansion of drought across much of the state in the month ahead, said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist.

“This latest outlook projects an increased probability of drier than average conditions in South Dakota, Nebraska, and parts of surrounding states,” Edwards said. “This is not good news for us, given that we are already going into the growing season with a moisture deficit from the last several months.

She did add that one benefit of dry conditions in the early growing season is that planting and field preparation for spring planted crops, such as corn and soybeans, can be completed faster and more efficiently without saturated soils or ponding, as has been seen in many recent years in the eastern part of the state.

“There is some concern already that winter wheat has had some frost damage following the brief thaw in February in the western and central counties,” said Dennis Todey, SDSU Extension Climate Specialist & South Dakota State Climatologist. “For the wheat that did survive the warm period, now the lack of precipitation is a growing concern.”


He added that there was also winter wheat that did not emerge last fall because of the dry conditions.


With the dry outlook for the month ahead, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center also projects further expansion of drought conditions across most of South Dakota by month’s end.

Edwards suggested this may be a conservative estimate, as wildland fire activity continues in the western counties, an area that is not included in the expansion of drought in the drought outlook map.

“Wildland fire is a complicated indicator of drought”, Edwards said.

She explained that it relies on the wet years, such as 2013 and 2014, to grow vegetation to provide fuel for the fires.  “The lack of precipitation since last fall has sufficiently dried out the vegetation to cause the fire hazards that we are seeing now,” Edwards said.

Donation from Tripp/Mellette Farm Bureau Helped Stock Kitchens at Ronald McDonald Houses with Food and Milk

The Tripp/Mellette County Farm Bureau was recently part of an effort to stock the pantry and refrigerators at the Ronald McDonald Houses in Sioux Falls with much-needed groceries and milk.


Thanks in part to a generous $500 donation from the Tripp/Mellette County Farm Bureau, the Ronald McDonald House near Sanford Hospital has a pantry stocked with almost $1,000 worth of groceries. In addition, this donation and others from County Farm Bureaus around the state have made it possible for fresh milk to be delivered weekly all year long to both Ronald McDonald Houses in Sioux Falls: the 21-room House near Sanford, and the 8-room House near Avera.


“In addition to the food, our donation was able to help out with the milk, too, which is one of the more needed things there at the Ronald McDonald House,” said Steve Waters, who farms near Carter and is President of the Tripp/Mellette County Farm Bureau.


According to the staff at the Ronald McDonald House, this amount of groceries will last between one and two months. The milk is also a great gift to them, because it is both nutritious and convenient for the families staying there. When dealing with the illness of a child, the last thing the families should worry about is needing to go out to purchase food or milk.


“I’d like to thank South Dakota Farm Bureau for all that they do for us,” said Kevin Miles, Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Dakota. “In the past year we’ve had over 1,200 families come through our charity, and it’s through gifts like this that we’re able to provide for them.”


“This donation was a pretty good size for our budget, but we were glad to do it,” Waters commented. A portion of the Tripp/Mellette donation will also be directed to a similar food-for-families project South Dakota Farm Bureau will organize at the Rapid City Regional Hospital later this spring.


Waters added that the Tripp/Mellette County Farm Bureau may try to do a food-related project locally as well. “There are needs all over. We’ve been talking to our local food pantry, and we may try to do something there also.” He encourages any farm or ranch families who would like to be involved in Farm Bureau to speak with him or with Rob Koskan, Secretary of the County Farm Bureau board, who lives in Mellette County near Wood.


The grocery donation to the Ronald McDonald House is South Dakota Farm Bureau’s annual way to celebrate “Our Food Link,” a program of the American Farm Bureau Federation that recognizes the safe, abundant and affordable food provided by America’s farmers and ranchers.