GOLD: Congratulations to the people of Pine Ridge, who have a full-service grocery store for the first time in months. Until last week, residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation community — population 3,300 — had been traveling round-trip for up to a 90-minutes to fill their pantries.
Last November, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council awarded a contract for the Sioux Nation Shopping Center to Buche Foods, displacing a company that had run the store for 50 years. Shopping options declined during the transition and the store closed temporarily in February. Now, fresh food is once again just around the corner.
GULLY: The Black Hills Children’s Home could have and should have done better in the minutes and hours after 9-year-old Serenity Dennard ran outside into near-zero temperatures on Feb. 3, never to be seen again.
Staff at the home for troubled youth between Keystone and Rockerville should have called 911 immediately after she ran rather than wait for one hour and 41 minutes. Emergency preparedness for runaways was insufficient because training had grown lax. Policies weren’t followed and the initial search was disorganized.
Reports from the state Department of Health and state Department of Social Services indicate that chaos reigned in the early moments after Dennard’s disappearance because people didn’t know their roles and proper procedures. Drills and training had been neglected. Staff had weathered similar problems before without mishaps and expected — or maybe hoped — they could do so again.
Every organization fights complacency. We get busy trying to do our jobs, and drills seem such an inconvenience. All the paperwork necessary for state and federal funding can feel burdensome enough. Sadly, a tragedy like this reminds us that shortcuts lead ultimately to sloppiness, and that leads who knows where. The consequences can be most severe for organizations that take care of vulnerable people. The children’s home has vowed to do better. They must.
GOLD: Tourists spent nearly $1.6 billion on lodging, food, recreation and transportation in the Black Hills and Badlands region in 2018, up 2 percent from the previous year, according to the latest report from the state Department of Tourism.
Nearly 20 percent of all statewide tourism dollars were spent in Pennington County. Surprisingly, flat Minnehaha County accounted for 28 percent of all statewide tourism income, and spending grew faster there.
Tourism remains a growing and important industry in the Black Hills, but the latest report reminds us not to take it for granted.
GULLY: New numbers from the latest ag census indicate that a disturbing longtime trend continues. The number of farms in South Dakota declined by 2,021 between 2012 and 2017.
In 2017, South Dakota had 29,968 farms, according to the census, down 6 percent from 31,989 in 2012. Meanwhile, the average size of farms increased.
The numbers can be affected by changes in the number of small hobby farms, but financial aspects of the report suggest there also was something less sanguine.
South Dakota farmers sold $9.7 billion worth of ag products in 2017, down 4 percent from 2012. The average farm, meanwhile, made $81,763, down 20 percent from 2012.
As farming goes, so goes South Dakota.