Keeping agriculture within Sioux Falls city limits

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Although Sioux Falls is South Dakota’s largest city, you do not have to leave city limits to be able to see wide open spaces and farming ground.

Matthew Tobias, Planning and Development Services Manager for the City of Sioux Falls, said there are a little over 50 properties in the Rural Service District within the corporate city limits of Sioux Falls. On these properties, farmers are raising mostly row crops. Livestock operations are not allowed within the city limits of Sioux Falls.

“Agriculture is still our base,” Tobias said. “One of our largest employers in the city is still Smithfield Foods. That’s what we were founded on, and we still have a very strong presence in our city.”

Most farms within city limits are small, except for some located on the northeast end of Sioux Falls, Tobias said. There are several larger farms on the edge of city limits who have not annexed with the city yet.

There are some developers that will buy land without developing that land right away, and that is the case for a lot of the Sioux Falls area, Tobias said.

“As we grow out to the west and east, people are selling their properties off to us and they were farmed for years before that,” Tobias said. “Developers will sometimes buy the little farmstead from the people who own them, with the intention that you can live there for as long as you have until development gets out here. But once development comes in, you are probably going to have to go at some point.”

Farmers can get defensive when developers begin moving in closer to their operations, Rick Dunlap of Key Real Estate said. Most of the time the farmers are worried about water drainage, and that is something that the city has always made sure that the developer controls the water coming off of their development. They have to use holding pods so that they do not flood farmers who are downstream.

Although the city is growing, Tobias said the city is being smart about its growth. They are not expanding to areas that do not have roads or sanitary and water services.

“We are not saying ‘if you’re a farmer within five miles of Sioux Falls, watch out, we’re coming for you’, that’s not really our intention,” Tobias said.

For some farmers, selling the family operation becomes very sentimental because the farm has been in the family forever and they want to keep it that way, Tobias said.

“If there is somebody that is a true farmer, and have had generations of owning the ground, they just want to keep farming,” Dunlap said.

However, just because the family is no longer farming the land, it doesn’t mean they can’t be actively involved in the running of it.

“We have some very successful developments that have happened on the outskirts of our city that were very predominate ag and some of those families are still involved to this day, working with developers and they still are retaining some of the ownership of that land,” Tobias said.

Another way the city of Sioux Falls is embracing its agricultural roots is by allowing residents to have their own backyard chickens, Tobias said. The city of Sioux Falls allows residents to have up to six hens without a special permit. This allows families to raise their own eggs and give them a taste of the agricultural industry from their own backyard.

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