This season, we had the privilege of hosting the Youth Food Sovereignty Summit, during which students from over 7 reservations throughout the state were able to tour the garden, work some of the beds, and better understand how small scale agriculture could serve to empower their home communities. We have also turned our gardening focus this year towards the indigenous section of the garden, which consists of the “Three Sisters,” corn, beans, and squash, the three main traditional crops of Native American farmers. After much hard work and preparation, we have begun planting the corn and squash components of this part of the garden, and once the corn grows up we will be able to plant the beans, which will use the corn stalks as a support. The addition of summer youth workers and summer interns to our crew has allowed us to get big growing projects such as this one underway, while providing meaningful work and valuable experiences for these youth and young folks. Bringing these summer workers in also has allowed us to connect with more of the local community. Another way we have connected with the community this season was through forming a Food Sovereignty Coalition, which allows community members to get engaged with projects and information regarding the local food systems. We received funding for field trips to other communities doing food sovereignty work, buffalo harvests, hosting speakers, monthly meetings, and outreach materials such as calendars, posters, and t-shirts.
What challenges did or does your project face?
One challenge we are facing this season, which just comes with the territory of gardening, was the weather fluctuations moving from winter into spring that made it difficult to get cold-season crops planted early enough for them to thrive before the heat of the summer arrived. Other challenges include making our garden and related food sovereignty projects accessible to community members, since time and transportation are always barriers for folks. We are still working to strengthen our partnerships with youth programs to get more youth in the garden and exposing them to healthy foods. Figuring out the best way to market our programs such as community planting days is also a challenge, for example if facebook groups are being seen or if simple flyers in public spaces would be more effective.
How are you working to overcome them?
One way that we are trying to better include the community and extend our community involvement beyond the closest town is by attending a community meeting in a different part of the reservation every week. In this way we can find out what people want and need in terms of food sovereignty in each of the communities and try to plan future projects around community requests. We are strengthening our partnerships with youth programming by holding cooking classes with kids at the Boys and Girls club weekly this summer. This class has gotten positive feedback and the club has asked us to work with them in order to make it a program that lasts past the summer. The coalition meetings have also helped bring in more of the community, and we are constantly re-evaluating our methods of involving people and asking how we can best show up for them. We also have a college student intern who is a local member of the community working on marketing this summer, which will help continue our increased outreach efforts.
What did you or your project learn this season that might be useful to others as well?
We learned that it is important to choose projects that community members are able to take more leadership roles in organizing and executing rather our group always taking the lead, so that the food sovereignty movement of this community comes from the community members themselves. Being flexible with the availability and presence of community members is also important.