SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) — When Spearfish was settled in the late 1800s it quickly became the bread basket for the area, with farmers and ranchers providing vegetables, fruits, beef and milk for local settlers and miners of local gold camps.
Robert Evans, one of Spearfish’s earliest settlers, journeyed to the Black Hills in hopes of mining for gold, but he stayed in Spearfish Valley after he saw the agricultural potential.
Evans helped engineer the valley’s irrigation ditch and farmed the land where Running’s property currently sits, property that is currently for sale, the Black Hills Pioneer ( ) reported.
In an effort to preserve that property as agricultural land, or at least maintain it as open space, community members gathered recently to begin the discussion on how to do just that. The meeting was hosted by the Spearfish Valley Ag Land Preservation Group through Hills Horizons.
“We’re here because we care about Running’s field,” said Andy Johnson, who lives on Nellie Lane near the property and one of the facilitators at the meeting. “You’ve seen the for sale signs. We want to keep it in agricultural land. That’s our goal.”
Spearfish was known for its sugar beets, cucumbers and apples. Jeremy Smith, who co-owns Cycle Farm across Evans Lane from the Running’s field and also a facilitator of the meeting, said Spearfish was even known as “the land of the big red apple.”
Ideas discussed for possible use of the land included keeping the field in its current use as leased farm land; starting a farm incubator, a program that helps aspiring farmers learn their trade and to obtain clients; or a food source for local restaurants, schools and more.
But questions left unanswered were how to even obtain the land.
“Assuming best case scenario, Running’s property is kept out of development,” said Kevin O’Dea, of Hills Horizons who moderated the meeting, “Then there’s the big question ‘now what?’ How do we manage it? Who’s responsible for it? The taxman will still cometh as we all know. There are logistical pieces there. If we as a community decide it is important enough to protect the property there is the ‘how?’ And once we have the property preserved then what? What do you do with it?”
The Running’s field is listed at $989,000. It is 15.4 acres along Evans Lane with irrigation, and an artesian well.
According to the listing posted on Remax In the Hills’ website, “the property has endless future potential and could be developed or used for farming.”
“From an ag perspective I think (the asking price is) pretty steep,” O’Dea said. “If you take a neighborhood like (those surrounding the land), $989,000 is probably what the market will bear.”
People at the meeting said grants could possibly be obtained through the U.S. Department of Agriculture or even Outside of Deadwood Grants, given the historic nature of the farm and its ties to Deadwood.
In August, Spearfish Valley Ag Land Preservation Group through Hills Horizons made a purchase offer of $900,000. That offer was rejected possibly due to the lack of clarity of what the group would do with the land, Smith said. Johnson said the group should make another offer and discuss in greater detail with the current owners what the ground would be used for.
“We really need people to be involved,” Johnson said. “The people here have their hearts in it, but we all have day jobs. We hope people here step up to the plate and be part of the solution.”
“It’s a huge hill to climb, but it isn’t impossible,” O’Dea added.
Information from: Black Hills Pioneer,