Hometown of Laura Ingalls Wilder set for a growth spurt

De SMET, S.D. (South Dakota News Watch)

Kingsbury County in east-central South Dakota could see new commercial, retail, housing and tax-base growth if two major agricultural projects move forward as planned.

As proposed in state documents, Kingsbury County could become the home of a $1 billion Gevo biofuels plant that would turn corn into jet fuel, and to a dairy that could be the state’s largest with up to 25,000 cows. The Gevo plant has faced some uncertainty but remains viable, company officials have said.

De Smet, the county seat of Kingsbury County, has long been known for being the childhood home of beloved author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote “Little House on the Prairie” and other books. The two projects would be located more than 10 miles from the town on either side, so officials say impacts on tourism would be negligible in De Smet. The dairy would be located about 12 miles southwest of De Smet, and Gevo has bought land north of US 14 about two miles east of Lake Preston.

If built, both projects would be aided by multi-million dollar funding packages from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to help pay for management of animal wastes and other byproducts from the plants.

Local officials say the two projects, if they are completed, could be a “shot in the arm” in the economies of Kingsbury County towns, including De Smet, Lake Preston and Arlington, but they remain confident the growth will not remove the quaint, pastoral vibe of the area.