This article is part of an America 360 series on Sioux Falls.
SIOUX FALLS--The past and future of Sioux Falls' agriculture industry sit just a mile apart from each other along the east bank of the Big Sioux River that runs through this city. To the north is the John Morrell meat-packing plant, now operated by Smithfield Foods, which was itself purchased earlier this summer by China's largest pork processor. Across the street from the Morrell plant, it's hard to miss the sight and smell of a stockyard that was once was one of the largest in the country. Meanwhile, just downriver from Morrell is the headquarters of Raven Industries, a leader in precision agriculture technology, housed in a former biscuit factory that is all glass windows and exposed brick.
Instead of stockyard and slaughterhouse workers, Raven is populated by engineers, programmers, and marketers in row after row of cubicles. Former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., is the company's general counsel. Far from being up for purchase by overseas buyers, Raven is bringing its approach to more efficient, high-yield farming to customers in China, South America, and other major agriculture markets around the globe.
Agriculture has driven the economy in South Dakota since settlers arrived in the 19th century, with ranches flourishing in West River and crops providing a mostly-solid livelihood across the state. But agriculture played a particularly key role in the growth of Sioux Falls as the state's largest city. At the turn of the 20th century, there were just some 10,000 residents in Sioux Falls; by 1920, after the Morrell plant was built and opened, the population had grown by 150 percent to nearly 25,000 in what would be the city's largest growth spurt.