After the last rush of fall harvest and saving seeds it is time to start turning inward and sharing stories around the circle once again. And, it is definitely time to start planning for next season! This fall, Solar Warrior Farm (SWF) hosted two workshops on food preparation, nutrition and preserving the harvest in the local community. In 2015, our goal is to host a more involved mid-season, 4-day workshop on food sovereignty and indigenous foodways. We have changed our wishlist to reflect this new opportunity. If you want to sponsor a student, tuition includes instruction, materials, lodging at the Sacred Earth Lodge, and food for the duration of the workshop.
Why did we change our focus for the training? In many Native communities, including Pine Ridge, almost all food produced on the reservation is sent elsewhere, while nearly all food consumed locally is brought in from outside the community. This sets up a cycle of poor diet and a lack of access to fresh produce - commonly known as a "food desert". By reclaiming both indigenous knowledge of foods and control over how, when, and what food is available for families, Native people can break that historical cycle and have more choices. It is an exciting move forward as we will be calling upon the expertise of some great Native leaders in the food sovereignty movement to inform our work in this area. More on that in the next update!
Meanwhile, we are making plans to diversify the activities at the Farm by laying the groundwork for covered, raised beds, and networking with other Native programs that collect and share seeds. We will be looking at our successes and failures to improve selection and harvest.
Having a full-time intern at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center will help us keep continuity across the seasons. Dan Hartman-Strawn has already proven that he is both a great planner and doer! Thanks to him, the greenhouse will soon have a new roof, which will be an important asset to extend growing season and protect equipment. He will also be working with us to create more opportunities to volunteer on local projects and visit the Black Hills area at the Sacred Earth Lodge. Let us know if you are interested. We will have at least two SWF related projects in 2015.
As we set a new course for the next year, we are very grateful for your continued support! With your contributions, we can go even further. Yakoke - many thanks!!
As much as we like to believe, even automated watering systems and a good amount of sunshine will not make a garden grow. Solar Warrior Farm is lucky to have wonderful people who come to weed, harvest, cook and share the vegetables with local families. Volunteers make the difference between a good year and a great year. This has been a great year so far. This summer we had the privilege of having Anna Dunlap on board as garden coordinator-in-residence. Anna is an education major from Berea College in Kentucky and an experienced farmer. As many of you know, visiting the RCREC often means getting your hands dirty with mudding walls, gathering firewood, feeding the compost bins, washing dishes, pulling weeds and bringing in armfuls of produce. Anna never hesitated to jump in and give the RCREC some TLC along with the SWF. She made friends in the community and was always ready to serve others. She has now returned to her studies for the year, and many people in the Pine Ridge community miss her kind and generous presence. Many weeks over the summer, SWF has also been the delighted host for volunteer groups who stayed at the Sacred Earth Lodge – our first year having guests – as well as volunteers who came once a week from RE-MEMBER, another local non-profit doing good things in Pine Ridge. In the past, Lakota Solar Enterprises and Trees, Water & People have helped bring supplemental solar heating to RE-MEMBER’s office building, and in turn, have been the guest at their cultural sharing nights for dinner on several occasions. The volunteers from RE-MEMBER not only worked hard to keep the garden going, but also enjoyed the pleasures of a swim in the creek to celebrate. As harvest time continues, we welcome a new intern – Dan Hartman-Strawn – who has been a regular volunteer with RE-MEMBER. He will be staying at the RCREC for the fall, watching over the garden and helping where he can. We are incredibly lucky to have such good people making good things possible both on location and through their continued generosity of time, talents and money. Coupled with technology and good weather means a good year turned into a great year. Yakoke, many thanks, friends and supporters from GlobalGiving!
Not even a Mother’s Day snow storm could hold back the early plantings at the Solar Warrior Farm (SWF) and Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. Hardy cabbages survived and are ready to greet the next sets as they arrive. May is a funny month in Zone 4, but many of the gardeners on the Pine Ridge Reservation are happy to see the last frost behind them and they are ready to start more of those early crops of spinach, cabbage, carrots, radishes and raspberries.
We were lucky enough to have a visit from Lakota elder and seasoned garden expert Caroline Cuny. She helped us welcome our new Solar Warrior Farm Coordinator for the season – Anna Dunlap, a student from Berea College in Kentucky. A lifetime organic gardener, Anna still had many questions about what works best in the particular microclimates on Pine Ridge. It really takes knowledge and experience to sense what the season might be like this year, and we are very thankful that Ms. Cuny could spend a day, have some lunch and share her time and talents with our crew.
And about those other tasks… The SWF needed some TLC. The beds are tilled, the plantings mapped out and visions of big, juicy tomatoes danced in our heads, as we mucked out the solar powered water tank, weeded the cabbages and cleaned out a space for work tables and starters in the greenhouse. Thanks to Uma Black Hawk-Wilkinson from the Cheyenne River community for helping with those efforts.
It just seems when help is needed, people show up. Trees, Water & People likes to be able to show up for others as well. We are very grateful for you showing up with your ongoing support, and look forward to another bumper crop season to share with the community in this year. In 2014, we plan on sharing more veggies and sharing knowledge through more workshops on gardening - focusing on traditional Lakota recipes and healthy eating. Gardening is a perfect time to bring young people and elders together, and helps keep Native communities strong. You make that possible through GlobalGiving.
We hope you will continue donating to this important project and consider visiting RCREC and Solar Warrior Farm in 2014. Keep in touch and watch us grow!
As all the gardeners out there know, it is time to start thinking about this year’s harvest! At Trees, Water & People, we are gearing-up for another great season at Solar Warrior Farm. In 2014, with your support, our Food Security Program will distribute free veggies, offer educational workshops, and help Lakota families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation start their own backyard gardens. In 2014, we will plant a wide variety of organic produce including, potato, cucumber, squash, tomato, corn, melon, peppers, carrots, and a variety of berries.
Next month, ten Colorado State University students will join us for a week-long alternative spring break service trip, helping us to prepare Solar Warrior Farm for the new growing season. In addition, we are looking forward to hosting an intern at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) for the summer. Anna Dunlap from Berea College will oversee the Farm as well as providing help with general operations at RCREC.
The RCREC campus is growing too! Home to Solar Warrior Farm, RCREC recently added a new building: Sacred Earth Lodge. This one-of-a-kind training center is an eco-friendly and affordable space available for rent to conferences, workshops, and by visitors to the area. This new building sleeps 23, greatly expanding our housing options for students and guests who visit RCREC. In October 2013, we hosted the grand opening if the Lodge, which included a tour of Solar Warrior Farm!
Many thanks for the ongoing support from all you GlobalGivers to help us raise funds for tools, equipment, and seeds this year. We hope you will continue donating to this important project and consider visiting RCREC and Solar Warrior Farm in 2014. Stay tuned for updates as winter fades, spring blooms, and planting begins!
At the end of October, we said farewell to our 2013 summer Intern, Teague, who was an indispensable part of our team as we completed our new training facility, the Sacred Earth Lodge, and produced our second year of crops at Solar Warrior Farm. Teague worked incredibly hard, tirelessly, and with few breaks!
I met Teague at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center this summer. He was in from Wisconsin and met me to begin his internship with Trees, Water & People, spending three months as our on-site intern for our Tribal Renewable Energy Program, assisting with renewable energy trainings, the construction of Sacred Earth Lodge, and management of Solar Warrior Farm.
Teague has successfully grown the impact of our Food Security Program through Solar Warrior Farm, this year distributing more healthy, sustainably grown, and locally available produce than ever. He also co-hosted our first canning workshop, and is teaching a composting workshop this Fall. Twice each week, Teague goes into the community and distributes produce to the Oglala Lakota residents of Pine Ridge. Here is a little bit about his experience in his own words:
Last week I set up a free give away in front of the Tribal Office in downtown Pine Ridge. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of different people about growing food. People were excited about fresh tomatoes, and of course I always get a few strange looks when people hear that I'm giving away the food for free. After a few hours of the give away…I was invited to eat lunch with the employees at the tribal office. They were grilling out back so I sliced up some cucumbers and joined the potluck!
Teague’s weekly distribution average this season was between 150-200 lbs of fresh produce. I love to hear his stories about the interactions he has while distributing food. He likes to offer lemon cucumber samples, and he told me that the kids eat them like candy. What a treat indeed to have truly fresh, juicy produce in the middle of the hot summer in one of the Nation's largest food deserts! One woman was very excited to receive tomatoes so that she could make salsa. She plans to bring Teague a jar next time he’s in front of the Tribal Offices.
We are already planning for the 2014 season at Solar Warrior Farm, and we appreciate all your support for the next growing season. Have a wonderful holiday season and thank you so much for your support of this important project!
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