News Photo
Jason Yates and Dustin Miller with Barry and Michele Griswell.

Drake law grads work to bring economic development to nation’s poorest county

Instead of joining a law firm after graduation, two agricultural law graduates are moving to South Dakota to spur economic development on the Crow Creek Reservation in the nation’s poorest county.

Dustin Miller and Jason Yates have teamed with Principal Financial Group Chairman and CEO J. Barry Griswell to create The Harvest Initiative nonprofit organization. Griswell and his wife, Michele, have made a significant gift to support the project in Buffalo County, S.D.

“The work Dustin and Jason are undertaking, to provide economic development opportunities, represents a long-term commitment on all our parts to lessen the affects of poverty there,” Griswell said.

The Griswells, Miller and Yates began their involvement with the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe through their church in West Des Moines, Iowa. 

“Our mission,” Miller said, “is to create and facilitate economic activity on the reservation by assisting tribal members, individually or cooperatively, through access to capital and enhanced financial literacy.”

Yates said the initiative also will include teaching financial literacy and job skills to high school students and, possibly, the development of a cooperatively owned grocery store.  

On their last trip to Crow Creek, Griswell, Miller and Yates were followed by a news crew and featured in “Hope on the reservation” on Des Moines’ WHO-TV. 

Later this summer, Miller, 29, with his wife Sara, and Yates, 30, with his wife, Betsy, and their two children, Hallie, 3, and Conrad, 1, will move to Pierre, S.D. 

Miller has experience working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, an economic development think tank, International Food Poverty Research Institute, in Washington, D.C. and a microfinance institution with Opportunity International in Kisumu, Kenya.
Yates has worked with the USDA Rural Development, the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and the County Attorney’s Office in Dallas County, Iowa. He also conducted a Drake research project on cooperatively owned grocery stores in rural Iowa.