I am a beginning farmer exploring markets for traditional wild gathered teas grown in a high tunnel vs harvesting outdoors. The high tunnel space is approximately 3000 square feet. There will also be growing space outside the high tunnel for comparison at approximately 1/3 acre in which a portion will be used for growing teas using permaculture practices.
The Lakota people of the Northern Great Plains once used a variety of native plants in their traditional diets. Today, these plants are disappearing from many Lakota diets and from the landscape of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Over/improper harvesting, pesticide use, invasive species, over grazing and development all threaten these native plants in the wild. This project will use a high-tunnel system to cultivate the following traditional Lakota foods (herbal teas: primarily, Mentha arvensis, Agastache foeniculum; wild strawberries and wild raspberry). In addition to increasing the yield of these crops (through season extension) in a high-tunnel, these plants will also be processed into value-added products (teas both bagged and loose leaf). The project will also set aside a percentage of seeds each growing season to create a source of seeds and plant starts for other Native American prospective and beginning farmers and to help restore these culturally important plant foods to wild areas. Less than 1% of tribal members in South Dakota are agricultural producers and they have little access to large acreages. This project creates Native American agricultural products, a market and a system of production that is culturally appropriate.
- Identify 4 plants, traditionally wild gathered by Lakota, that have potential to become both raw crops and value-added Native American agricultural crops
- Identify potential markets, local/regional, national and international for these products as well as processing facilities and/or equipment needed to produce the final product
- Evaluate the usefulness of a high-tunnel to extend the growing season of these crops and increase the yield while reducing loss due to weather, pests, and other factors that are threatening them in the wild
- Share the findings through 1 workshop, through a final report as well as social media
I was able to apply for NRCS EQIP but due to delays with the application I was not able start growing as planned in 2018. I will update and evaluate crop performance and report findings in 2019-2020 here and in social media.
Educational & Outreach Activities
In this reporting period, Rebel Earth Farms joined SDSU Extension in conducting two high tunnel production workshops on Pine Ridge covering the following: Best types of high tunnel structures and cover for the great plains area, range of high tunnel crops, including potential traditional Lakota foods, planting start and stop dates, and drip irrigation.
Due to the delay with the NRCS EQIP application, the high tunnels were constructed in fall/winter 2018. I will be able to begin planting the 4 identified plants this March 2019. I am currently identifying potential markets for the traditional herbal teas. I will share the findings through one workshop, final report and social media.