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Spearfish Meeting Tonight to Discuss Agriculture in the Valley

Last updated on 2015.02.03

Our Spearfish neighbors are holding an important meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at Hudson Hall downtown. The Spearfish Ag Land Committee will discuss the preservation of agricultural land in the Spearfish Valley.

The discussion will likely revolve around the Runnings' property, a 15.4-acre tract near Evans Lane. The land is among the turf in Spearfish Valley, on the north side of Spearfish, that has long been used for farming but now is on the market. A local correspondent tells me that one development deal has fallen through; the property is listed online for $989,000. Developers see an opportunity to build housing to meet demand in a tight market. Advocates for agriculture and sustainability contend that the community is served at least as well by maintaining the Valley's agricultural traditions as well as some local economic diversity.

Ray Running bought his 15 acres* after serving in the Army Air Corps in Italy in World War II. According to Running's 2011 obituary, he claimed his Valley corn was the best corn in South Dakota. Running used his SDSU education and his experience to teach agriculture to veterans in Meade County.

A local Spearfish correspondent sends me information from old-timer Linfred Schuttler, who farmed the Valley for strawberries, raspberries, and other produce. He says the Valley's orchards once supported exports across the Black Hills and to Wyoming and Nebraska. "There were thousands and thousands of apple trees," says Schuttler, "all the way down to the Redwater before there were stands. People would come in the fall with their wagons for miles.” Schuttler is worried that housing development in the Valley will cause more of the irrigation ditches that have boosted the Valley's productivity will be filled in. "Once they're lost," says Schuttler, "they can't be regained."

Can Spearfish have more housing and healthy local food? Tonight's meeting at Hudson Hall will give Spearfish residents the chance to wrestle with that question. Having rented in Spearfish, I recognize the need for affordable housing for workers and families in the Queen City. But I also recognize the unique value of the fertile Spearfish Valley as an economic resource for small, independent farmers. Spearfish needs to figure out the proper balance between these competing aspects of quality of life.

Update 2015.02.03 15:08 CST: An earlier version of this article erroneously attributed additional information about Ray Running's land purchase to a Spearfish resident who, in turns out, has no knowledge about Running's history. I have edited out that information and apologize for the error.


  1. larry kurtz 2015.02.02

    Hahahaha! Funny post, Cory.

  2. Les 2015.02.02

    Silly old men, don't they know those canals can run water uphill to say, Spearfish Mountain, where the soil is better anyway!

  3. mike from iowa 2015.02.02

    Immense relief to see one enemy has a sense of humor. Didn't imagine there was enough Ex-lax for all anal retentive wingers.

  4. lesliengland 2015.02.02

    important land use questions in urban/rural setting. remember rapid city twice, sorta, preserved Skyline drive land from non-development. ft. Collins is a leader in this green space idea, regionally.

    former legislator mike diedrich was instrumental too, with the lien/martin bike trail on m-hill, which although may still be open to mineral use. I may have details incorrect.

    these are as good as the flood way bike path, 22 miles there and back, I think, before hemrroids!! fabulous additions to the city. there are also laws that prevent stan a. from ringing his g*dd&%n bike bell at pedestrians

  5. Jaka 2015.02.02

    Spearfish and other towns/cities-even Rapid need to put house up on higher ground. Valleys are better suited for ag,not houses.

  6. Les 2015.02.02

    I grieve every time I drive past the Josef Meier Valley irrigated hay ground, now a post office, school and living quarters of some type. To the west lies land that drains, has a view, wouldn't have cost taxpayers two arms and a leg to purchase. All that great garden land forever destroyed.

  7. larry kurtz 2015.02.02

    When my dad visited us in Spearditch he was able to see how most of the fertile land in LawCo was incrementally being covered with concrete and housing for white people. He wept as shelter belts were cleared and water pumped from fragile aquifers for the industrial agriculture now killing his once-beloved Brookings County.

  8. leslie 2015.02.02

    guess we need some well heeled indians to help us protect "Our beloved Black Hills"(c)

  9. Darrell Reifenrath 2015.02.02

    HELP CORY. I'm subbing for the French teacher.

  10. Trish Jenkins 2015.02.03

    Thanks for covering the meeting. I just want to make a quick edit to the article here- Jeremy Smith is referenced regarding Ray Running's purchase of the 15 acre property. Jeremy did not say this, he actually didn't provide any information for this article. He doesn't know anything about Mr. Running's military career or how/when he bought property.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.03

    Whoops! Sorry about that, Trish! I'll edit above. Information I received from others and from my online reading must have run together.

    How did the meeting go? Any new information?

  12. Bill Dithmer 2015.02.04

    Spearfish has progressed from the town I loved fifty yeas ago. I first met Ray Runnings in 1966. His stand was just south of where me sister lives on Garhart Lane. He would always send more veggies home to the ranch with us then we bought. At that time there was corn all the way to the south side of Garhart.

    Forty years ago it was still a nice town, and they allowed me to go to college there.

    Thirty years ago things were starting to change. Developers were building housing everywhere and the shopping was getting better, but the people were comming faster then the town was able to grow. It was beginning to loose its friendly personality and the conflict between truck farming and urbanization had started.

    By twenty years ago the battle was lost. Any perception Spearfish was still a quiet little town was shattered by the sound of building. In response to the growing population annexation happened, except for the Valley, where people wanted city services but not the city. I dont blame em I liked it that way to.

    Ten years ago the town had finally sold its soul to the financial oppertunist and settled into the high tax rates that are a part of that county south of Butte. I dont like Spearfish much anymore.

    All those years Ray did his thing. The apple and pear trees have been gone for a long time. The land was just worth to much to leave idol, and several recessions forced owners to sell to survive. It aint pretty, but it is the natural porgression of urban sprawl.

    One final word for the ag people that farm the Valley. If your neighbors dont get you, the tax man will.

    Kurtz is right, its Speardump.

    The Blindman

  13. Les 2015.02.04

    Thoughts of what now only exists in memories of Speartown. Dog and Suds on Canyon. Passion Play we could get a week old pastry and koolaid without sugar for acting in. Apple trees every where you turned. Truck gardens that made even an eight year olds mouth water. And those cool nights like in the canyon, replaced by asphalt and concrete cooking until early morning. Yes, Blindman, they will take the gardens and turn them into homes as they've been ordered by their handlers. I have no love lost on her anymore.

  14. larry kurtz 2015.02.04

    Spearfish could still be something beyond a mausoleum for white people if it wanted to be. BHSU continually boasts the highest percentage of American Indian students of the regental colleges. The idea of urban gardens could still happen and the annexation of Lower Valley could make taxes too high for that to happen.

    Young people flee after they graduate because there's little to do especially during frequent, endless, brutal winters. i dunno: maybe if there were degrees in meth labs, mortuary science or longterm care for blue hairs, vocational training in hearse manufacture and gardens where flowers are grown for funerals the town could find its niche.

  15. Bill Dithmer 2015.02.04

    Les, couldnt a great book be written from the perspective of the two women that set at the gate to the lower Passion Plays entrance.

    Those two women saw people from every church in town and made marks to reflect the number of church goers that helped out on those three nights. Can you just imagine all the back stage drama that took place all those years?

    Sex, drugs in the form of vodka and Everclear, and Jesus, twelve decipoles that were all business men, and a hundred hormonally challenged teenagers that bulked up the cast. Joseph Meier was god but couldnt be everywhere at once. I can still remember the extras yelling "crucify him crucify him string him up." Those were the days.

    At that time you could find out who was doing who, who had a baby, and who got caught doing whatever, all on the hill.

    The Blindman

  16. Les 2015.02.04

    How funny, Bill.

    One particular night I'd had enough of not being allowed the walk to the top because I was too short at 7 or 8 years of age. I ducked and dived to stay hidden as we moved to the crosses on Golgotha. Not knowing where to go once on top I wandered looking for what I thought was my place in this glorious scene. That glory was short lived however as a priest saw me out of place and spat to another, "what's that little son of a beotch doing up here as another pinned my ear between his thumb and forefinger getting me out of sight behind them.

    Josef put the fear of God in us and I don't remember why as did many of those business men. Probably didn't appreciate us peaking around corners trying to figure out what they were up to in the big folk dressing rooms.

    Yes if our memory was intact we could probably do quite well with our own pen on Speartown.

    I had to run the gauntlet of the bleach boys every summer I'd come back and until I showed no retreat and kicked someone's butt they were after me.

    The bleach boys? Well, I fished with a branch, line, hook and precious grasshoppers from the ranch and they took a gallon of bleach dumping a line across the creek. Downstream with bleached out leggings on brothers and buddys from past efforts, they picked out the floaters.

    There was also the group that fished over the top of the one pond at the hatchery that backed into the hill. These kids out fished everyone.

  17. Bill Dithmer 2015.02.04

    Les, there used to be an irrigation ditch that ran along the hill between Bells Market, and Kamp Kool. When the Collins kids were small we played there all the time. Probably filled in now to save the town kids from the foot deep water.

    The Blindman

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