The hard work is paying off! Despite some challenges wreaked by Mother Nature, garden goodness is plentiful at the community and family gardening programs supported by Running Strong on reservations in South Dakota.
Despite setbacks, namely two severe hail storms which caused substantial damage to the Oyate Teca Project’s Medicine Root Garden on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s (CRYP) Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, thanks in large part to the supporters of Running Strong they were literally able to “weather the storm” and recover in time for a bountiful fall harvest.
At the Medicine Root garden, the grand total for this year’s harvest is a whopping 25 tons of locally grown produce. Among the list of organically-grown vegetables harvested were more than 14,500 pounds of zucchini, 1,000 pounds of beets, 800 pounds of potatoes, 800 pounds of green beans, 460 pounds of sugar snap peas, as well as thousands of cucumbers, green and jalapeno peppers, onions, heads of cabbage, cloves of garlic, radishes, turnips, lettuce, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and more.
All this for the families of Pine Ridge where fresh produce is scarce on the reservation (known as a “food desert”) and expensive when available.
At the Winyan Toka Win garden, CRYP will host its annual Harvest Festival Dinner on Oct. 17 to celebrate its “abundant harvest” from its 2-acre organic garden.
The Harvest Festival will incorporate homemade menu items such as sautéed spaghetti squash, stew, wojapi (a traditional Native American berry dish), fresh bread, salads, casseroles, carrot cake, zucchini bread and more. Many of the dishes will incorporate fresh, nutritious, locally grown produce from Winyan Toka Win.
CRYP youth programs director Jerica Widow said the entire community comes to enjoy the bounty from the garden and an evening of fellowship and great, healthy food.
“Along with the harvest, we’ll be celebrating the many ways our garden helps strengthen our connections to Lakota values and life ways,” said Jerica.
This event, and all the vegetables from the garden, might not have been possible without all the Running Strong supporters who gave so generously to the garden program at the start of the growing season, and then stepped up again when the hail storm destroyed nearly all of the just-planted seedlings resulting in an urgent and immediate need for $3,000 for replanting.
In addition, a grateful thank you goes out to all those who supported our Slim Buttes Agriculture Project on Slim Buttes which for more than two decades has been bringing tractors to families and tilling the soil in their backyards enabling them to also be reaping harvests of their own right now.