Q&A with local leader Dennis Harstad

04 December 2017

Q&A with local leader Dennis Harstad


Dennis Harstad, VP of Operations/GM, Prairie Aquatech, a research based company manufacturing a high protein feed ingredient for aquaculture diets.

A native of Revillo,, SD, Dennis completed a BS degree in General Agriculture from SDSU and an Ag Processing degree from Minnesota West Community and Technical College.  He and his wife Connie (also an SDSU grad in Nursing) raised three children (all SDSU grads) on a livestock and grain farm.  Dennis became interested in Value Added Agriculture and left the farm to pursue work in the ethanol industry.  He loved opening new plants and training operators how to efficiently operate them.


What is your favorite thing about Brookings? 

The best thing about Brookings is the location.  It is located fairly close to 4 generations of my family.  It offers the small town agricultural feel (I am a farm boy at heart) yet diversity through South Dakota State University which is unique.  Brookings has a strong business and industrial climate without feeling (or looking) like an industrial town.  I think it’s all about balance.  Brookings has great balance.


What opportunities excite you about Brookings?

The research and business climate found in Brookings is diversified and growing! The plans to open a commercial entity while collaborating with well established businesses and continuing research is not something I take for granted. We are learning from strong partners while creating a new product all the while not losing sight of what might come next.  Wow! That is balance!


What are the benefits of being a Chamber member?

Being a chamber member helps us to learn from each other.  We are like minded in promoting Brookings, but certainly have diverse ideas.  The chamber is a place to share ideas, opinions, and basic knowledge of the community and workforce.  You can take advantage of the synergy that is created when given opportunity to meet with business people from all areas.


What leaders do you look up to?

I was fortunate to have my dad lead by example my young adult life.  After he died my father-in-law took up the slack. Both were men of few words, which I will talk about in the next question.



What advice can you give about leadership?

My Dad and Father-in-law were people of few words.  I thought they led by example.  Now, as I have had time to work with people I realize the few words had as much to do with listening, as it did to do with action. As a leader, it is hard to know where you are going, why you are going, and who you are going with, if you haven’t first listened. That is sometimes a hard concept to practice when there is so much to say and get done. It is a challenge that will truly affect your workplace.  Listening to your employees is essential in keeping them happy.  Employees are a company’s greatest asset.