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Throughout its 25-year history, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® has worked hard to provide new, innovative programming to meet the needs of its youth and their families. In July 2013, the not-for-profit youth organization launched an exciting addition to its lineup of garden-centric programs: canning classes, which were open to community members ages 13 and up. Adults paid an enrollment fee of $15 per person, while youth ages 13 to 18 were free. CRYP hosted these classes in conjunction with South Dakota State University’s Cheyenne River Extension Office and its representative, Marcella Gilbert. Funding from the Northwest Area Foundation also supported the program.

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CRYP held the first-ever classes on July 2 and July 9 at The Main youth center, incorporating fresh, healthy produce from the 2-acre Winyan Toka Win garden. Participants gathered in The Main’s activity room and kitchen to prepare and can chokecherry jelly during the first session, and mild salsa from the “Ball Blue Book” for canning in the second session. CRYP sent Craig Martin, the summer garden coordinator, to Rapid City for special training so he could lead the evening canning classes and teach additional workshops in the future.

Not only did each participant take home several jars of jelly or salsa, CRYP staff members made enough of both products to sell at the Leading Lady Farmers Market each Friday throughout the summer. We’re thrilled to finally be offering garden-related workshops and classes at our facility that are open to the public — our relatives had these skills just two generations ago, but they’ve been overshadowed and even lost in recent years. So we’re committed to sharing those skills and this knowledge with as many people as we can. It’s another important step toward food security, sovereignty and sustainability in our reservation communities.