222 rural developers enjoyed the RuralX Summit here in Aberdeen a couple weeks ago. Tea-based grant writer Joshua Hofer did not enjoy it, not as fully as he might have if the chickenization of Parker hadn’t been weighing on his mind. For some odd reason that weakens his writing, Hofer doesn’t say the name of the town, the county, or the company building the 2.5-million-bird egg factory. But Hofer says Sonstegard Foods’ successful effort to impose its corporate-profit will on Turner County has divided the community, driven away residents, and set back Parker’s economic development:
Following a process stretching nearly two years beginning in January of 2015, multiple families have opted to move rather than raise their families in the environment, and hundreds have publicly spoken out against the development in emotionally-trying testimony before their community at public court appearances.
…Can we truly expect such an alienating experience for the community not to discourage and hamper community member’s enthusiasm to engage? Who would open a pop-up restaurant on Main Street corner knowing that they could have their event canceled for smell and flies? Who would organize monthly street events under such auspices? Why put the time into renovating a main street historic building when the smell and flies drives people away and erodes downtown commerce? And, even if those negative outcomes do not come to fruition, has the mere thought and fear of the thing, and the pain of the situation, discouraged that effort? [Joshua Hofer, “When ‘Economic Developers’ Clash with ‘Economic Development’: Dakota Resources, ‘Your Town’, and the Tremors of Indifference,” Hofer Development and Writing Services Blog, 2016.07.25]
Every healthy economy needs a diversity of industries. Rural South Dakota towns can grow with a mix of Big Ag and Small Ag, manufacturing and retail, restaurants and entertainment. Too big a dollop of one ingredient can neutralize or crowd out other ingredients.
2.5 million chickens will bring some jobs to Parker. But Hofer is warning that they will depress other elements of the local economy. The Sonstegard’s profits (and ability to raise money for political candidates) will rise, but Parker may be lucky to zero its sum.