Growing Healthy Habits
After a year of hard work and preparation, the Crow Creek Community Orchard was planted in April 2012. This fruit orchard will have over 300 local wild fruit plants. There will be several varieties of fruit, including those used in traditional Dakota recipes, such as chokecherry bushes, as well as other favorites, such as apple, pear, plum, and apricot trees.
The orchard project has grown out of the partnership of several amazing organizations and governmental agencies. This several acre orchard is located on land donated by the Christ Episcopal Church in Fort Thompson. Red Olson, Eucharistic Minister for the Episcopal Church says, “It was just idle land that we seldom used, so we wanted to put it to better use. This fruit orchard is something that the whole community can benefit from.” Diamond Willow Ministries, a Christian non-profit relief agency on Crow Creek, has donated countless hours helping research local fruit varieties and help coordinate the project. The Crow Creek Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs has donated manpower helping construct the fence, which will help protect the growing fruit trees. Lower Brule Wildlife Department has provided help designing irrigation, while Ashworth Road Baptist Church and Resurrection Lutheran Church have provided volunteer labor and financial support for purchasing trees. The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe has gladly donated a water source, which will help the trees survive the tough South Dakota summers. The whole project was made possible by First Nations Development Institute, the foundational partner in the Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative. In addition, many other agencies and organizations have contributed or will contribute make the orchard possible.
The Crow Creek Community Orchard will celebrate its spring planting in mid-April with a community feast and volunteer day. Berry plants should be edible in the next few years, while larger trees should mature in the next four to five years. While everyone remains excited for first crops, all the many partners who have worked on the project believe that it will be worth the wait.