How Rural South Dakota Eats Without a Supermarket

In a community of about 1000 people, Baltic, SD has only a handful of businesses. I naturally assumed these isolated residents depended fully on a 16 mile trip to our state’s largest town for all food and errands.

That was until stay-at-home mother Faye, explained how self-reliant she and her fellow neighbors were with regard to food. She graciously invited me to her home to see how this family uniquely approaches fresh food needs in her community. Many of those living in healthy, self-reliant, supportive communities may not realize it or take it for granted. But Faye and her neighbors feel fortunate living in their small town.

A shared backyard

Shortly after Faye moved into her home, she met next-door and backyard neighbors Kim and Lisa. The three women had much in common- all proud moms, talkative and eager to eat fresh food from the garden. Furthermore, they realized their gardening talents and interests were varied and could be combined.

Over the course of 3-4 years, they gradually divided up responsibilities for planting, weeding, harvesting, canning and freezing- one leading individual jobs but still  working together, encouraging one another about being a mother and wife (sometimes with copious beer and wine)!


Faye is in charge of the weeding. Even through my wide angle lens, I found not a single weed to capture. (My garden, on the other hand, requires a macro lens and some crop editing).  Weeding is therapeutic and thoroughly enjoyable to her. She offered herself and daughter to come “anytime” and help me with my problem!

You name it. We grow it.

– Faye, Baltic, SD

Corn, melons, cucumbers, purple and green beans, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage… even peanuts! And they love to try new things with each season.

After the garden tour, Faye, Kim and I chatted over cinnamon rolls, canned peaches and coffee. They told stories of their daughters, the values of self-reliance and family-centered life, and laughed about getting carried away at the recent Baltic Street Dance. These gals are so fun and genuinely love one another. If only we all had a shared backyard and an opportunity to know our neighbors like this!


Coffee cups drained, we headed out to the Baltic Community Garden. But before leaving, she offered various canned sauces and vegetables for me to try at home. Glad to have a meal planned, we had spaghetti for dinner thanks to my recent gift. And what gardener doesn’t have extra zucchini in July?  Yes, I got two of them as well!!

A Community Garden

When the Baltic ladies need a few extra beans or herbs, they walk to their community garden for the last of the ingredients.

“We are a collaboration between the school and community. Working together, we help to maintain, grow and harvest the garden produce to provide fresh and healthy food for the whole of the Baltic community (with special consideration for those unable to have or maintain their own garden)”.

-The Baltic School & Community Garden

The vision for the garden started with Laura Garness, a teacher’s aide, envisioning a way to help feed the people in the Baltic area as well as to create an open space where people could gather together. Teacher Danielle Eszlinger, Baltic School students, donors and volunteers have made this vision a reality. At the end of the school year, students and community members prepare the summer garden. At the beginning of the school year, students tear down the garden and begin planning for the following season.

Using converted cable reels, the garden sports comfortable seating and a bridge reminiscent of The Hungry Caterpillar. Brick pavers and up cycled wood has also been created into games, again encouraging you to gather and play in this public space.

The park has several raised beds with thriving vegetables and herbs. No worries if you don’t have a green thumb. Signs are posted throughout the garden to guide whether plants are ready to pick, need watering or need more time to grow.

Before we said good-bye, Faye again offered to come to my house (and volunteered her daughter) for weeding and a canning lesson. She lives about 30 miles from my home, but already I see how our interests bring us together. Who says community needs to be defined by location?



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