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Urban Agriculture Coalition wants to bring small-scale farming to the big city

IronFox Farms started a program teaching kids how to grow vegetables last year, hoping to gather more interest in urban agriculture.
IronFox Farms
IronFox Farms started a program teaching kids how to grow vegetables last year, hoping to motivate more interest in urban agriculture.

Dan and Megan Eisenvos started a garden last year called IronFox Farms near Eugene Field Elementary in Sioux Falls, to teach kids how to grow vegetables.

"We want to connect people who are involved in agriculture around Sioux Falls and connect people that not only need food but want it," Dan said.

Sioux Falls leaders hope to generate more interest in that kind of urban agriculture as part of a new set of sustainability goals for the city.

Urban agriculture is the growing, processing and distribution of agriculture products in urban settings.

The city has been rewriting its sustainability plan, a process that has been in the works with a committee of farmers and community members since last year.

Holly Meier, sustainability coordinator with the city of Sioux Falls, said urban agriculture is an increasing need in the city.

"The driving factors around this are not only to improve sustainability but also to be improving the availability and access to affordable, healthy food," Meier said.

Stephanie Peterson is an egg producer near Brandon who sells to restaurants in Sioux Falls. She was on the task force that helped draft the new sustainability plan.

"One of our goals within that process was to create some sort of organization in partnership with the city of Sioux Falls, with diverse backgrounds and thought on how we should look at urban agriculture," Peterson said.

The sustainability plan is still in draft form, waiting for approval from other stakeholders. But Peterson said there was enough momentum surrounding urban agriculture to get started.

"Everybody wins on that topic. We didn't receive any negative feedback when we put that out, so we just decided to run with urban agriculture," she said.

The Urban Agriculture Coalition has been holding public meetings, working on visions and ideas for the group.

"We're trying to take real action steps, highlighting the different ways that community members of Sioux Falls can produce food within a city," Peterson said.

Some of the ideas include looking at different public and private land to possibly be used for agriculture. Sioux Falls already has a handful of community gardens, a popular way to practice urban agriculture.

Some barriers exist. Dan Eisenvos said it can be tough to get the word out about locally grown food, and some people think it's more expensive.

"It's not outside most people's price ranges," he said.

Dan said many people don't know about local producers in the area, like Dakota Fresh Food Hub, which is a farmer partnership that distributes locally grown food in Sioux Falls.

Dan and Megan Eisenvos both hope people learn that they can participate in urban agriculture as a consumer.

"Whether that's composting your food scraps, or growing tomatoes, purchasing local food or volunteering at an event, there's a lot of potential for many hands to be involved," Megan said.

The Urban Agriculture Coalition will hold its third public meeting Aug. 16 at the downtown Sioux Falls library.

Marissa Brunkhorst is a junior at the University of South Dakota. She is from Hutchinson, Minnesota and is based out of the Vermillion studio.