South Dakota Farm Culture

Farming in South Dakota

South Dakota is most probably synonymous with vacation itineraries and the magnificent and patriotic wonder that is Mount Rushmore.

However, tourism plays second-fiddle to the state’s agricultural industry.

Farming is the undisputed economic champion, ensuring a sizeable financial contribution to the tune of $32 billion. 

Alternatively, tourism only reels in about $2 billion for the state each year.

That translates to 33% of the revenue pie for agriculture, in addition to the creation of about 140,000 employment opportunities. 

With that in mind, let’s delve into a list of common FAQs about farming in South Dakota. Here goes:

What is the weather like? More importantly, is it suitable for farming?

State temperatures vary anywhere between 10 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yearly rainfall and snowfall average 23 and 39 inches respectively. Thus, the soil is mostly fertile while the seasonal extremes aren’t too worrisome. Therefore, South Dakota is a year-round agricultural haven. 

What are the state’s primary crops? 

South Dakota is a major producer of wheat and perennially features in top ten lists in that regard.

The crop occupies about three million acres of farmland per year with there being three popular varieties grown. Those are namely durum, hard red spring, and hard red winter. The state is also renowned for soybeans, corn, and hog farming. The latter industry contributes close to 7,000 jobs and more than 1.4 million hogs.

Livestock farming is also a prominent agricultural activity with beef farming, in particular, being the most popular.

The latter accounts for 4% of cattle production across the entire US. At the state level, it contributes up to 34% of the agricultural production. It’s truly amazing when a single, valuable economic resource comes from the agricultural trade. Farming is the bread and butter of the US, and here’s some more info to support that claim.

South Dakota also produces a considerable amount of sunflower, which makes the state #1 in the entire nation with the highest sunflower oil and seed production. Other notable state crops include rye, oats, and flaxseed. 

Is farming in South Dakota profitable?

Farms in South Dakota are quite expansive, with 1,443 acres being the average size of a family farm.

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact figure with regards to pricing as costs drastically fluctuate from one end of the state to the other.

However, you’d generally have to cough up about $2,444 for an acre encompassing all-agricultural, non-irrigated land.

In the east-central region, that sum can reach $5,069 per acre, while in the southwestern region, it can dwindle to $827 an acre. 

These prices often correlate with the local demand for farm products, and quality of the soil.

Most of the farmland is family-owned with about 97 out of every 100 farms belonging to one family for over a century.

In South Dakota, farming is a family affair. The average farmer in the state is 57 years old. When you account for the much older and younger farmers, it becomes obvious that this trade runs deep in the families of South Dakota.

Did you know that South Dakota is the exclusive location for a particular type of soil?

The title of official state soil belongs to the Houdek variety.

Governor George Mickelson made this declaration in 1990 after the soil – and close variations of it – were found to take up over 2 million acres. 

Further, South Dakota is home to over 500 different types of soil. Specifically, the houdek stands out in that category because it is exclusive to the “Mount Rushmore” state. In other words, you can’t find this particular type of soil anywhere else on the planet!

Comment below more interesting facts about farming in South Dakota. We’d love to hear your thoughts and insights, as this is a very unique farming region.