Sharing a Redefined Rural Narrative of South Dakota


Dakota Resources is dedicated to reshaping and redefining the concept of rural, and the voices that shape our message come from the people living and working in the rural communities that we serve. Last year, one of our own, Director of Integrated Marketing Tyrelle Brakke, who grew up in the small rural town of Timber Lake, South Dakota, was selected to participate in Leadership South Dakota, a program with eight years’ of legacy in leadership development, of which Dakota Resources is an in-kind sponsor. After recently graduating from the program, we are excited to see the impact of Tyrelle’s own rural voice on her fellow cohort members and on the rural landscape in South Dakota as a whole.

Photo credit: Leadership South Dakota - Rick Melmer, founder of the program and Tyrelle at graduation.

Photo credit: Leadership South Dakota – Rick Melmer, founder of the program and Tyrelle at graduation.

After graduating from South Dakota State University in 2015, Tyrelle moved to Minneapolis, where her sisters lived and worked in marketing in a variety of agency settings, including a few years in experiential marketing, which sent her traveling across the United States, even in a food truck! But after a few years in the Twin Cities, Tyrelle knew that her then-boyfriend Levi, a rancher near Presho, South Dakota, was ready to set down roots at home, and so she began planning for a move back to her home state. Soon after, she was hired first as a Marketing Strategist for Dakota Resources, a remote position that allowed her to move home and to reside with her now-husband on the ranch in Presho. It’s been a quick two years for Tyrelle at Dakota Resources, where she now serves as the Director of Integrated Marketing.

Coming home, Tyrelle says, was more than a move for love; it was a commitment to rural life, and to the communities that shape it.

“I have such a deeper appreciation for rural life since I’ve moved back to South Dakota from the Cities,” Brakke said. “There are things about a small town that are like a phenomenon that you just can’t explain. You can go to a community that’s nowhere near where you grew up and run into a handful of people that you feel connected to just because they know someone else you know. When Levi and I were doing the long-distance thing, I would drive from the Twin Cities on Friday nights, and when I arrived in Presho late at night, there’d be a burger and a Coors Light waiting for me at Jet Lanes. And you just don’t get that in the Cities.”

When the opportunity to participate in Leadership South Dakota came up, Tyrelle was one of the first in our office to raise her hand.

“Now that I’m back here, I remember thinking, what can I do to make a positive change in my state? I remember aggressively raising my hand to pursue this opportunity with Leadership South Dakota. I was excited to build a network of people after being away for a few years.”

Through the Leadership South Dakota program, Tyrelle and her cohort members were able to travel across the state to learn about different aspects of South Dakota, from entrepreneurship and government to community building and, yes, rural life. But while the travel and exposure to different communities in the state was a facet of the program that Tyrelle enjoyed, she names another benefit of her time in Leadership South Dakota as the most transformational for her.

Photo credit: Leadership SD - Class of 2020 - 2021

Photo credit: Leadership SD – Class of 2020 – 2021

“Leadership South Dakota is great for leadership building and experiences and traveling across the state, but I gained the most from connecting with and learning from other people,” Brakke said. “There’s something so unique that happens when you put people in a room together – the relationships that are formed. I’ve met people that I will stay in contact with for the rest of my life, people I will lean into as I grow and expand in my career. I’m excited to move South Dakota forward with these people.”

As a result of her participation in Leadership South Dakota, Tyrelle has a greater understanding of what is, or should be, considered as ‘rural,’ and how to best share the narratives of the communities that use this word to describe their sense of place, their work, and their lives.

“Even though I grew up in Timber Lake, South Dakota, a town of 500, my work at Dakota Resources and my time in Leadership South Dakota has colored my perspective on rural communities and helped me to think about redefining ‘rural,’” Brakke said. “It’s such a spectrum! There are towns that are 100-500 people in size, and there are towns like Yankton, which was our rural-specific session through Leadership South Dakota, which are larger. I also learned that the rural narrative isn’t loud enough. There are communities doing great work out there, and rural is often overlooked, and I’m excited to share that narrative.”

While her time in Leadership South Dakota has come to a close, Tyrelle is eager to continue shaping the future of rural communities in South Dakota for years to come.

“In a lot of cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Denver, the work has already been done, and it is a little more difficult for your voice to stand out,” Brakke said. “In South Dakota, we’re at such an interesting time that we can be a part of the change and direction moving forward. We all get to shape the future of rural and the future of South Dakota and how it will look for generations to come. We can have a hand in creating and shaping it, and I think that’s really exciting.”


Published On: May 12, 2021Categories: News & Notes

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