The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has partnered with the Cheyenne River Youth Project with a $20,000 grant to advance the growth and sustainability of the organization’s Winyan Toka Win (“Leading Lady”) Garden and the economic development enterprises it supports on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, which is classified as a “food desert” community by the government. The grant initiatives include assisting in the development of food preservation, as well as providing the foundation for the Farmers’ Market and assisting with its small businesses, namely the CRYP gift shop and Keya (Turtle) Cafe.
Each year, Winyan Toka Win – a two-acre, non-GMO garden that is planted and managed by local youth and teens – produces over 10,000 pounds of fresh produce, including several varieties of beans, corn, squash, peppers, zucchini, carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, eggplant, lettuce, rhubarb, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, all of which are naturally grown. The garden provides fresh produce for CRYP youth facilities and serves as a site for educating youth and community members about Native food systems.
The grant will go toward purchasing equipment essential to the goals and objectives of CRYP and the Winyan Toka Win Garden, including an upright freezer, a commercial mixer, a point of sale cash register system, a kitchen grill and furniture for the Farmers’ Market and cafe.
“At first glance this project may appear as a grant for food processing. But it is so much more,” said Elsie Meeks, South Dakota State Director of Rural Development for the USDA. “It is about teaching teens about gardening and processing the food they grow themselves. The teens learn important skills and work ethic and while they are learning these skills they also are being taught lessons around financial literacy. We are so pleased to lend support to CRYP.”
To share their knowledge, CRYP also collaborates with local and regional resources to provide workshops to community members on topics including; Starting/Expanding Your Garden, Heirloom Seeds, Water Conservation, Drying and Canning 101, etc. Additionally, CRYP offers courses on entrepreneurship and financial management to youth and community members providing them with the skills that will allow them to transform their product (produce, craft, art, baked goods) into a business opportunity, while gaining knowledge on budgeting and investing their income.
“One of the most important things tribes can do for themselves is to invest in growing and maintaining their own Native food sovereignty,” says Julie Garreau, executive director of CRYP. “Our kids are invested in this process from the beginning of the growing season, by weeding, seeding, watering and caring for the Winyan Toka Win Garden so that they see where food comes from and that this is a life skill that they can use to feed themselves and their community. We are proud of Winyan Toka Win and the support from the USDA and we appreciate all of the kids who work so hard to make this garden happen every single year.”
For more information on the Winyan Toka Win Garden and its programs please contact Ryan Devlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tammy Eagle Hunter at email@example.com. You can also follow us on Facebook at https://facebook.com/lakotayouth; www.twitter.com/lakotayouth or at www.lakotayouth.org.
Founded in 1988, the Cheyenne River Youth Project is dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities, ensuring strong, self-sufficient families and communities. Today, CRYP provides a wide variety of programs and services to the community, covering nearly 3 million acres in South Dakota.