On the Rosebud Reservation in south central South Dakota, during this two-year project, residents responded to education encouragement, and demonstration by Program Assistants and their Youth Interns in their own neighborhoods. Residents/participants began their own family food gardens and beekeeping, and became less dependent on government assistance by producing some of their own food. Their greater self-confidence and belief in possible self-employment was evident as they planted more and larger gardens, produced surplus beyond the needs of the neighborhood, and brought that surplus to the self-operated Gardeners’ Market they established at the Reservation/Mission crossroads.
The project is located on the Rosebud Lakota Reservation, in the sparsely populated Plains of south central South Dakota. Residents of the reservation communities, isolated HUD housing clusters, are the target audience of the project. Households, most labeled as dysfunctional by social service agencies, consist of some 8-20 people of several generations. Alcoholism and diabetes are pervasive. Each of the 21 housing clusters is some 15 miles from the other; only two have small grocery stores. The closest large grocery store is some 40-50 miles away in Valentine, Nebraska. There is no public transportation and no money for gas to run existing cars. The few employers on the reservation are the various government agencies; these jobs require a level of education few residents have accomplished. There is no other employment; at the same time neither self-sufficiency nor self-employment has evolved in the housing clusters.
In planning and implementing this project, the following literature has been especially valuable in the areas of:
Bunn, Debra (1996)
“Developing a Sense of Community through Gardening” In P. Williams and J. Zajicek (eds) People-Plant Interactions in Urban Areas: Proceedings of a Research and Educational Symposium. San Antonio: A&M Press
Carusi, Cris (1997, 1998)
“Increasing Rural Women’s Participation in Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development” In North Central Region SARE Annual Reports, 1997, 1998. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press.
Kirschenmann, Fred (1999)
“Feeding the Village First” Fullerton, ND: Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society.
Payne, Karen (1998)
“From the Roots Up: Mentoring Successfully” IN Community Greening Review. Philadelphia: America Community Gardening Association.
Horticulture/Vegetable Gardening (sustainable methods)
Bubel, Nancy (1998)
The New Seed-Starters Handbook. Emmaus PA: Rodale Press.
National Gardening Association (1985)
Gardening: the Complete Guide. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. Inc.
Neff, Beth (1998)
“Great Circle Farm CSA/Permaculture Demonstration Site” In North Central Region SARE 1998 Annual Report. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press.
Reader, Tristan (1998)
“Singing Like We Mean It: Native Food Systems, Health and Culture” In Community Food Security News. Hartford CT: Community Food Security Coalition.
Community Development/Marketing at Farmers Markets
Fisher, Andy (1999)
Hot Peppers and Parking Lot Peaches: Evaluating Farmers’ Markets in Low-Income Communities. Los Angeles: Community Food Security Coalition.
Henderson, Peter (1867, 1997)
Gardening for Profit. Chillicothe IL: The American Botanist, Booksellers.
Ishee, Jeff (1997)
Dynamic Farmers’ Marketing. Middebrook VA: Bittersweet Farmstead.
Note: each objective is sought through lessons and practice, participants demonstrating to others, thus disseminating information and encouragement to other potential producers.
Strengthen adult and youth self-confidence and leadership skills in their own community.
In order to create profitable self-employment and strengthen rural communities, residents must be self-confident and able to take initiative and responsibility.
Convince reservation residents that gardens and thickets are sources of wholesome food and that gardening and gathering are acceptable activities that a person can do by him/herself.
Gardening and gathering are self-employments appropriate to the reservation and can lead to improved economics, nutrition and self-esteem.
Develop community farmers markets to provide local producers a local market and to afford access to wholesome food to local residents; to serve as generators of income and as business models for other possible micro-enterprises.
These farmers markets will begin to overcome the decades of dependence on the government. This marketing will provide entrepreneurial experience and be incentive to foster locally-owned business or employment.
Please note: Our program of education and doing, providing encouragement and support for poor rural families to grow and eat their own wholesome food, has been supported by a SARE Producer’s Grant (learning to garden) a SARE Professional Development grant (that Program Assistant extensionists learn and put into practice the encouraging of their neighbors.) These SARE projects prepared participants for this project, R&D “Small Market Systems.”
The funded 2-year project period of this project was July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2002. Year one of the project officially began in the middle of the growing season. We, however, considered this project to begin after the closure of the 2000 gardening/marketing season. Two years later we “extended” the project period through the closure of the 2002 gardening/marketing season.
Description of Project Design (method of project implementation)
Note: Program Assistants are gardeners who demonstrate and encourage in their own neighborhoods.
A) In the Fall of 2000, after closure of the marketing season, shelter-belt lessons attract new participants. Needed seedling numbers are compiled from participant maps and the order is placed for early spring delivery. (Little participant involvement is expected during the cold dark days of Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years.
B) After the Holidays, organizational meetings prepare Program Assistants in gardening, nutrition and leadership skills. Dedicated gardeners focus on garden plans and wholesome foods. Plans and implementation blend into actual neighborhood organizing of gardeners and the early Spring planting of the fruit-bearing shelterbelt seedlings that were ordered in the Fall, and plot preparation.
C) Supper meetings are attended by experienced and new gardeners who exchange questions and experience, and are presented with ideas about marketing. Lessons for new beekeepers are held; the new beekeepers assemble their hives, receive and hive their bees.
D) Program Assistants liaison between their neighborhoods and the Permaculture office for guidance, and support. Through this the number of new gardeners in increased, and existing gardeners maintain their efforts, and augment their production and take initiative in the development of a local market.
What the project works with, are identified as participants, community members and agricultural factors.
The objectives of this project are:
*that PARTICIPANTS strengthen their self confidence and leadership skills
*that COMMUNITY MEMBERS become convinced that gardens and thickets are sources of wholesome food, and that gardening and gathering are respected activities, that they develop a community farmers market(s).
We consider as “materials” the participants/producers themselves, the communities’ distinctive atmosphere of social and economic poverty, as well as EXISTING AGRICULTURAL GARDEN PRODUCTION FACTORS of soil types, soil condition, climate and weather, and existing food preferences.
PARTICIPANTS/PRODUCERS are self-selected residents of the reservation, therefore already headed in the desired direction.
COMMUNITIES are HUD housing clusters isolated on the Plains of the reservation. In them there is no economic activity, most households are dysfunctional. Usual social values such as responsibility and respect have been overwhelmed and replaced by those of alcoholism, drug selling and use, jealousy, dependence.
AGRICULTURAL FACTORS include a great variety of soil types (from prairie sod to distinct deposits of sand or clay or lime). Abuse near houses has caused compaction, pollution and (wind) erosion. Climate is extreme: very cold winters; very hot summers; about 12” precipitation: ninety days frost free. (Weather and even climate seem to be4 in flux at this time).
Site Information – Garden Plots
Garden plots are beginner or family size (25’ x 25’ or less) each located near the participant’s house within the housing cluster community. Soil condition of the new garden plots is quite “raw,” windblown and compacted. Organic material for mulch or soil improvement is scarce. Many social difficulties include children and dogs running through, bigger kids vandalizing, range cattle or deer grazing.
For year tow of the project (beginning marketing), some now-experienced gardeners enlarged their plots, added irrigation (solar-powered pumps from old wells to soaker hoses). Some found confidence to acquire cattlemen’s waste for soil amendment and mulch.
Site Information – Market(s)
The little WIC “markets” within each housing cluster (as planned) became established, but as gardeners sharing (not selling) with neighbor WIC or Elder-headed households, thus more informal delivery than market, more giving than selling.
One “central” market developed on Saturdays at the reservation’s one traffic light (Mission) on the convergence of two highway/truck routes, Highway 83 (N/S) and Highway 18 (E/W). The streets are wide; there’s plenty of space for venders; anyone in south central South Dakota who is going anywhere passes this spot. There is no other “farmers market” for hundreds of miles in all directions.
This education/demonstration project could be considered multi-disciplinary and included implementation. The project design inter-related the elements realistically, e.g., in the way that they exist in the reality of the reservation. This holistic process/implementation by participants shows continuous changes in the discrete elements (e.g., nutrition/health, sociology, horticulture, community development) as well as, in the interactions among the elements. Results include:
1 – nutrition/health: acceptance of fresh vegetables over convenience-store junk food
2 – sociology: movement away from the debilitating perspective of “crabs in a bucket”/zero-sum toward the strengthening perspective of helping one another
3 – horticulture: implementation and increase of food gardening and thickets
4 – community: development/success at home gardens lead to helping one another and establishing farmers market
Impact of Result #1: acceptance of fresh vegetables over convenience store junk food
As kids preferred radishes and carrots form the garden, wild fruits form the Prairie, adults also became more nutrition-aware. Household members actually felt better with less fat, salt and sugar of chips and pop. With this preference, and the resulting better health, adults had the self-confidence to ask the schools to replace snack and pop vending machines with those of fruit and bottled water. The schools made this change, leading to another step in the health and self-confidence of community members.
Impact of Result #2: movement away from the debilitating perspective of “crabs in a bucket”/zero-sum toward the strengthening perspective of helping one another
Jealousies of alcoholics constantly discourage and tear down any psychological or material progress being made by those (few) who are sober or recovering and who are making an effort for a responsible life for themselves and their families.
One by one, as new gardeners become Program Assistants and encouraged neighbors to garden, they improved their health and experienced success and self-confidence. They reacted less to the difficulties and criticisms put on them by the dysfunctional ones. At the same time, they turned to others who are trying, in an attitude of mutual assistance. This progress is noticeable in every community where families are gardening; it is spreading geometrically.
Impact of Result #3: implementation and increase of food gardening and thickets
Implementation of food gardens, increased neighbor by neighbor, has established the acceptance of producing and/or gathering one’s own food as beneficial activities a person can do by him/herself. This is at last overcoming the breaking of traditional self-sufficiency caused by the invasion and government rations, and by the teachings of government and church that such natural activities are for “lowly” people. With the opening made by prideful success in providing wholesome food for one’s self and one’s family, self-confidence and action toward goals of less dependence are evident.
Impact of Result #4: success of home gardens led to the establishment of the farmers’ market
The success of home gardens has given the gardeners positive experiences, has increased their self-confidence, has improved their eating habits and health – and furnished the strength to begin a farmers’ market. This self-operated market is providing the community with access to wholesome food and the gardeners, young and old, are gaining some small income and an introduction to micro-entrepreneurship.
The major costs of this project match the essential elements of the approach, that is, stipend Program Assistants (and their Youth Interns) active in their own neighborhoods. Each PA receives $50/week, year round, during which she/he “keeps things going.” Each PA can have tow Youth Interns who learn and help (and attract their friends) during the 16 weeks of the summer and earn $50/week. The stipend amounts are based on approximately ten hours a week at $5/hour, a very informal expectation.
Promotion and demonstration by these participants are what makes the project work and is invaluable.
The secondary costs are for supplies that are needed but for which willing new participants do not have resources, such as a mechanical tiller (for a PA to use to prepare new garden plots), bee hives and first colonies, fruit seedlings. With time, the supplies pay for themselves monetarily in garden produce, honey and fruit. Fully as important are the “costs” they meet in providing actual opportunity, well taken.
The production addressed in this project is family food gardening leading to the establishment of a farmers market. The first step was that residents of the reservation begin to produce (or gather) some of their own food. The project then started the new gardeners with simple sustainable methods (after original tilling, fork turning, manure, straw mulch, heritage seeds).
The number of gardeners reached by the project is impossible to count as one demonstrates to others who in turn serve as demonstration, and are not accountable to the project. The numbers are for sure in the high tens, probably in the low hundreds.
Specific day-to-day recommendations for new gardeners for home or possible market include:
1 – start small; gain experience with a plot that one person can tend easily by hand
2 – plant items that grow easily in your area and that your family likes to eat
3 – be prepared to mulch heavily for moisture conservation
4 – maintain a mowed area around the well-cared for garden plot of strong plants (to ward off grasshoppers)
Educational & Outreach Activities
Many information “handouts” and small pamphlets were created and distributed during this project. They are very specific-appropriate to our situation and include topics in simple sustainable garden methods, traditional sun-drying, nutrition relevant to gardeners and diabetic families, assembling a beehive/hiving package bees, planting tree seedlings/windbreaks. None are suitable for publication but we could send samples if wanted.
This project is one of education and outreach which are integrated into practice as experiential learning. As each participant learns by doing, his/her learning process serves at the same time as demonstration to neighbors.
practical nutrition, methods of community organizing, techniques of non-formal adult education
announced in the county newspaper, promoted by Program Assistants in their communities, open to everyone
planning, planting, care of windbreaks, shelterbelts, thickets (3 lessons)
Honeybees, pollination, beekeeping (5 lessons)
Gardening- an exchange between beginners and experienced (3 get-togethers)
Marketing – information and ideas (2 get-togethers)
Arrival and planting of tree seedlings
Arrival and hiving of honeybees
Neighborhood garden plot preparation
Every Saturday market (mid-July through September)
Areas needing additional study
Cause of rural poor not being self-sufficient
Should SARE be interested in a continued relationship with the rural poor, encouraging families to grow their own food and then to increase production for local sales – there needs to be study looking to identify the cause of these poor rural families not being self-sufficient at this time, and how to address that cause. For example, a) if a family is not growing its own food because knowledge has been lost with the generations, information/education can be included in the project, and b) if a family is not growing its own food because physical and/or spiritual health is broken, or they have experienced oppression of their initiatives in the past, then a long-term more personalized approach of encouragement and guidance would be needed. This needs more study. There are many poor rural families ready to respond, but the wrong approach is futile.
Exemption from State Tax for Farmers’ Markets
To encourage the development of Local Food Security, Community Supported Agriculture, Farmers Markets, Farm Stands, etc., there needs to be readily available information on the policy of each state regarding licensing, sales tax, etc. –- and/or information on how a group of small producers approaches the state (and wins!) with such issues as exemption from sales tax. (Some hands-on instructions to go with the SARE publication of Neil Hamilton “The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing” would be great!)
Ways Our Project Could Expand in a Slightly Different Direction
Our project encourages family food gardening for improved health, leading to small local farmers market for community access to wholesome food. While continuing to increase the number of participating family gardeners, the project is ready to “expand in a slightly different direction,” that of augmenting production as a form of mini-economic development, micro-self-employment and income, and experience in entrepreneurship.