From farm to fork: The Sioux Falls Beef Crawl will connect consumers to producers through a progressive dinner experience Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– Restaurants in downtown Sioux Falls will be participating in the Sioux Falls Beef Crawl on April 12. The beef crawl is a progressive dinner consisting of beef dishes and the chance to dine with the producers who made the meal possible.

“The beef crawl is designed to give folks a unique food experience,” Heidi Zwinger, Outreach Director for Ag United for South Dakota said. “They have the opportunity for guests to visit with local area beef farmers.”

The event will include four different beef producing couples, with a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. The producers featured are Tate and Calli Williams, Jared and Nicole Questad, Cory and Leanna Eich, Brandon and Laurie Johnson and Richard and Joyce Vasgaard.

Zwinger said the event is really designed to welcome people who do not know much or anything at all about the agricultural industry and allow them to ask questions about anything. Guests will be seated at a table with a farmer and able to talk with them, then they will switch tables at the next restaurant and be able to converse with another producer.

The event starts at 6 p.m. at Bread & Circus for an appetizer, then will move to Chef Lance’s on Phillips for the Entrée, then to the 421 Jones building for dessert from Intoxibake and then conclude with some coffee from The Source.

Ag United has done events like this in the past and hopes to continue doing them if people remain interested, Zwinger said.

This event has tickets for 40 people Zwinger said. Tickets must be purchased by April 9, she said, although there are only a few left.

They want to keep the event small enough so that everyone gets a chance to interact with the different producers, Zwinger said.

“Anytime we can connect a consumer and a farmer, we’re doing a great thing for the state of South Dakota,” Zwinger said. “Our number one industry is agriculture.”

Suzy Geppert, Executive Director of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council, said she thinks it is really important for consumers to know about the industry.

“There’s so much misinformation that floats around about the industry and a lot of it is just consumers have questions, you know, they want to know about how their food is raised, they want to know about the practices that we use, they want to be able to have that dialog with a farmer or rancher that’s raising that product,” Geppert said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for them to be able to ask their questions and have it come directly from the source that is bringing our food to our table.”

The impact of beef on the state of South Dakota

South Dakota is home to approximately 14,000 beef farms and ranches, said Geppert, with a majority of those operations being family owned.

Geppert said the size of these operations varies.

“When you look at a national herd size, it’s about 40 head,” Geppert said. “If you were to come to South Dakota, obviously, a lot of them are a lot larger; we have some very small operations that might have 50 head all the way up to thousands of head.”

When you look at the agricultural industry, Geppert said you are looking at about a $32 billion economic impact on the state, when you look at livestock, it’s about a $5.8 billion.

The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development reported that beef produced in 2018 was valued at $2.27 billion.

“Approximately 75,000 jobs are within this industry,” Geppert said. “So it plays a huge role.”

Even beyond jobs, Geppert said our communities and everything revolves around our agricultural industry and the beef industry in South Dakota.

“I think that our beef industry impacts a lot of different things,” Geppert said. “You look at the byproducts of the beef animal, I mean it’s impacting our retail businesses, it’s impacting, you know, our healthcare, you know a lot of medicines and things like that come from our beef animal as well. So I mean there’s just a lot of different areas that this animal impacts, you know, even right down to the environment and sustainability.”

South Dakota ships out approximately 1.2 million head of animals into feedlots outside of South Dakota, Geppert said.

“When we look at our local lockers and our local community distribution, I mean I would hate to even guess on the amount of beef that’s being produced here in South Dakota,” Geppert said. “And so much of it even goes beyond our state, you know we are feeding people throughout the Midwest and throughout the whole food system across the United States as well as other countries.”

South Dakota is ranked about seventh in the nation, as far as cattle and calves, Geppert said. The national number of beef animals is about 93.4 million head, and South Dakota produces about 4 million head.

Beef outnumber consumers in South Dakota by about four and a half to one, Geppert said.

“It’s always ironic because we always talk about our state-to-state partnerships and if you were to go to New York for instance, you know, it reverses and the consumer outnumbers a beef animal 13 to one,” Geppert said. “We do a lot of work within our industry to work with our larger populated regions and supply that high-quality protein for them to consume.”

When it comes to grass-fed or grain-fed beef, Geppert said the nice thing about South Dakota is there are options for everyone.

“Whether you are looking grass-fed product or you’re looking for a grain-product, you know, our industry can provide that product for you,” Geppert said. “And we really deal with consumer choice. It is pretty important for us to provide everything our consumer needs.”

When asked if beef production throughout the years has increased or decreased in the state, Geppert said she thinks it varies.

“I think it varies on the region that you’re in,” Geppert said. “You’re always going to have some fluctuation within an industry, you know some years you’ll see growth and some years you’ll see a decline.”

Geppert says a lot of it has to do with current conditions, such as it being a wet or dry year, because it all plays a role in influencing the beef industry.

How does this compare to surrounding states?

In Minnesota, there are more than 16,000 beef operations with 2.42 million head of cattle statewide, according to the Minnesota Beef Council.

Minnesota sees 47,300 jobs contributed to the beef industry and beef contributes to $4.9 billion in their economy. They rank number 10 in beef export and production in the United States.

Iowa Beef Industry Council reported that, as of January 2020, there were 905,000 beef cattle in the state, ranking 12 in the nation for number of beef cattle.

The beef industry accounted for 33,147 jobs, directly and indirectly, throughout the state in 2017.

In 2016, Iowa’s cattle industry contributed in excess of $6.8 billion in business activity to Iowa’s economy.

In Nebraska, there is 1.94 million head of cattle, meaning there are four cows for every one person, according to the Nebraska Beef Council, ranking them number 4 in beef cows in 2021.

Nebraska ranked number 1 in commercial cattle slaughter and number 2 in beef exported in 2020.

UNL Beef reported there was a $12.1 billion impact to Nebraska’s economy from cattle. They also reported 20,000 beef cow operations and 4,570 cattle feeding operations statewide, with the average herd size being 94.

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