Two acres of garden now grace the hilltop and floodplain, at this site near the heart of the Pine Ridge reservation. Work has included everything from construction of a greenhouse; installation of a drip irrigation system; providing natural fertilizers, plants, soil amendments and pest controls, and sharing information on traditional agricultural practices.
The 2008 harvest turned out to be quite good. There was not only excess to give to elders and individuals in the community, but also enough to take to an elders gathering in Montana, and several community members come to the site to get produce now. Wilmer Mesteth, our project manger, doesn't care to sell produce and would rather give it away. He'd like to get recipients to garden themselves and help teach them how to successfully garden
This good year is in the face of the fact that nearly all other gardens were eaten by grasshoppers. This garden is one of the few that survived. We speculate that it survived either because a zone was mowed around the garden, and/or possibly because marigolds and other flowers were intercropped into the garden to attract beneficial insects.
We even entered a harvest contest at Oglala Lakota College, and a very large squash received first place! As an educational tool, we have a Lakota agricultural display of dried roasted corn, chokecherries, squash, and beans.
There have been several lessons from this year:
• The greater garden size puts a strain on the available compost. Since the site is essentially a sustainable organic farm, quality compost is critical. We will be exploring ways to increase the supply without purchasing fertilizers or store compost
• The amount of water required is creating excess load on the one well that serves both gardens and the extended family home on the site. The plan is to excavate an additional well.