Hyatt Family Farm
Sean Hyatt is a sustainable and organic hog producer in Milbank, South Dakota, two hours north of Sioux Falls.
“In my mind there wasn’t any other way I wanted to farm, other than sustainably,” said Sean. Sean’s production methods of pork are in stark contrast to the Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) production method storming South Dakota and the West as companies outgrow Iowa, which has more hog CAFOs than any other state. Unlike Iowa, however, South Dakota still has a state local control policy. That local control gives counties the power to decide what kind of development they allow and where it can be placed. This local power is the main force standing between community prosperity and corporate control.
“I’ve never been compared to, nor have I ever compared myself to, a CAFO in anyway because we’re just completely on the other side of the hog production spectrum,” said Sean. “I feel like we’re focused on building soil and a hearty animal whereas CAFOs are looking at controlling conditions and efficiency.”
Sean and his wife Denise moved to the farm in January 2013. The land was Sean’s grandfather's and he grew up visiting the farm on summer vacations. A year after moving to the farm they started transitioning the 140 acres of crop ground.
“We took over the tillable acres just three years ago,” said Sean, “now we have transitioned that using pasture and rotational grazing.” Sean says rotational grazing benefits the pastures immeasurably. “Rotational grazing ensures that the land is never depleted.”
The Hyatts have several acres that are certified organic. Pasture grazing is still profitable in the period before the land is certified organic. “We’re trying to build our soil in the transition period so that when we are certified organic we won’t be playing catch up trying to better the soil,” said Sean.
Hyatt Family Farm is driven by knowledge and sustainability.
“The mission of this farm is all about education, and trying to promote what we’re doing—we’re trying to just set an example and inspire others. We live with a lot of passion on the farm and we feel like we can pass that on to other people,” said Sean.
Sean is hopeful that South Dakota may promote sustainable agriculture one day.
There are not many people raising pastured organic pork. Sean has found himself a niche market of customers and chefs hungry for sustainably raised pork. Hyatt Family Farm has had a lot of success in direct marketing in the Sioux Falls community in which they are heavily involved. Sean is a world class water skier and performs with Catfish Bay water ski team in Sioux Falls. He also volunteers his time on the Board of Directors for the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society. “We do almost all of our business in Sioux Falls. I grew up there and graduated Washington High School and we currently sell to quite a few places in the area, including Pomegranate and the food co-op -- both well known health food stores. We are supplying several downtown restaurants including The Market, Parker’s bistro and m.b Haskett’s. It is rewarding for me to have such a presence in my hometown where I grew up!”
Sean is thankful for Dakota Rural Action in supporting him in his endeavors as a farmer. “I am a proud member of Dakota Rural Action and thankful for their support. I’m happy to have them speak on behalf of farmers like myself on the national, state and local level,” said Sean.