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Sanford donation paves the way for Woster Plaza
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Sanford donation paves the way for Woster Plaza

Outdoor educational destination to be built in 2023 at Stockyards Ag Experience

One and a half million dollars.

That’s the amount T. Denny Sanford and First Premier Bank are pledging to the Stockyards Ag Experience in Sioux Falls.

First Premier CEO Dana Dykhouse made the announcement at Harvest Night, the Stockyard Ag Experience’s first annual fundraiser held Sept. 30 in Harrisburg.

Dykhouse’s announcement was followed by another by Abby Bischoff, Stockyard Ag Experience executive director: the funds would be used to build Woster Plaza, an outdoor education and activity center named after Tri-State Neighbor’s own Jim Woster.

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Dana Dykhouse speaks at Harvest Night, a fundraiser for the Stockyards Ag Experience, Sept. 30. 

“How do I follow something like that?” Woster said as he got up to speak.

He was scheduled to speak after Dykhouse, but wasn’t made aware of the donation or the naming project before the event. “I’ve got tears in my eyes.”

“Jim would never ask for something to be named after himself,” Bischoff said. “So Paige Pearson Meyer, our board chair, and I talked to some other people in the community about changing the outdoor plaza to honor Jim. Then the magic happened and it all came together and we were able to make the announcement at the event, which was really, really special to be able to do.”

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Jim Woster speaks at the Harvest Night fundraiser following the announcement of a major donation to make the Stockyards Ag Experience Woster Plaza a reality. 

Woster Plaza will offer a variety of features that will be both fun and educational. Kids will be able to “harvest” items, take them to town and sell them at market which in turn will lead to information about transportation and biofuels being an important part of agriculture.

There will also be general playground equipment such as slides and swings, “but they will all be situated in an ag environment. We’ll even be able to bring in livestock from time to time,” Bischoff said.

She added that there may even be opportunities for future workforce development.

“If we're showing kids the cool tech focus and the opportunities that are out there at a young age, it could spark the imagination of kids and show that really cool things are possible with technology and precision ag, and that you can still be connected to your family farm,” she said.

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Groundbreaking for Woster Plaza is set for early 2023. 

As South Dakota urban populations continue to grow, residents continue to get more and more removed from agriculture, Bischoff said.

She hopes the plaza will be a place where diverse groups can come together and learn from one another, from addressing consumers’ concerns to giving farmers an outlet to demonstrate how and why they do things, including how they tackle things like sustainability and climate change.

Bridging that gap, Bischoff said, “It’s what we’re all about.”

The Sioux Falls Stockyards operated for nearly 100 years, closing in 2009. Since about 2012, Woster has been instrumental in creating a project to honor its history.

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Plans for the Woster Plaza at the Stockyards Ag Experience call for a picnic shelter, playground and agricultural exhibits. 

The Stockyards Ag Experience Barn opened in 2017 in an old horse barn at Falls Park. The upper level has a museum detailing the history of the Sioux Falls Stockyards, where Woster worked, and the lower area has interactive displays and a play area aimed at teaching kids where their food comes from.

Groundbreaking for the Woster Plaza on former stockyards land near Falls Park is tentatively scheduled for early 2023.

Melisa Goss, Associate Editor for the Tri-State Neighbor, is a South Dakota farm girl whose love of travel has allowed her to see ag’s vital impact around the world, from America’s heartland to the rice paddies of Southeast Asia and many places in between. She makes her home in Sioux Falls with her husband, daughter and miniature schnauzer. You can reach her at mgoss@lee.net.

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