PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KELO) –One garden on the Pine Ridge Reservation is making a difference by offering fresh vegetables to its community. But that’s not the only benefit.
From planting, to pruning, to harvesting, these gardeners do it all.
Doug Pourier is the gardening manager out here at the Medicine Root Garden in Kyle, South Dakota.
“Went through the gardening program here and just kept working. I started gardening here then became the gardening manager. It’s a lot of fun. Especially knowing what goes into your food, to grow you own food and not worry about chemicals or anything like that, so a lot of delicious food comes out of here,” Pourier said.
The nearest grocery store selling fresh vegetables, like these, is nearly 80 miles away in Rapid City. Which is almost a 2 hour drive.
“And you don’t want to be hauling your vegetables in your car home because of the heat, it really stresses them out,” Pourier said.
The Oyate Teca Project holds classes for kids and families at the garden. And not only is this garden convenient for residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation, but it’s also teaching financial independence.
“We are teaching them how to be more self-sufficient,” Pourier said.
“We are hoping the everybody picks up on it. The tools we provide are what we call tools for success because we want them to continue on with the gardening,” Frasier said.
Rose Frasier is the Executive Director for the Oyate Teca Project. She says this tomato hoop house can produce more than 9-thousand pounds of produce.
Here at the Medicine Root Garden Project, the gardeners grow a variety of 20 different vegetables.
The garden project started in 2016. Frasier says she’s already seen positive outcomes in the community.
“It’s twice a week, we do a fresh vegetable distribution. Those go to the community. The other day we handed out 225 fresh vegetable bags to everybody,” Frasier said.
Frasier says more and more people are taking interest in the project and gardening classes. She’s noticing a lot of people who want to run their own gardens at home.
“It was just like, everyone was excited about the whole program. Everybody wanted the fresh vegetables, everybody was asking more and more questions about it and stuff. So in 2018 we opened up the gardening program, at first we only limited it to 25 people but we opened it up and we got 65 participants,” Frasier said.
“The majority of the time is spent caring for the plants so that they can produce the best crops that we can get out of them,” Zimiga said.
Phillip Zimiga spends part of his week gardening here at the Medicine Root Garden, but only eats what he grows from his own garden.
“I don’t take away from somebody else that may need the produce for their own use,” Zimiga said.
Zimiga says being able to see the vegetables grow and then sharing them with the community is a great feeling.
“It’s the same with any fresh vegetable coming out of the garden, there’s a lot more nutrition, it’s a lot tastier so if a person has the ambition to start gardening, I totally say go for it,” Zimiga said.
The gardening crews have high expectations for the project’s future.
“We want to have a garden in every household,” Frasier said.
The Oyate Teca Project is expanding. The director says there will be two more hoophouses added and it will run year-round.