The Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative was awarded $37,500 in grant funds through the Native American Food Systems Initiative by First Nations Development Institute. This is the third award Hunkpati Investments has received from First Nations in support of a community garden and youth workforce program on the Crow Creek Reservation. Due to the continued support of the First Nations Development Institute, the Crow Creek Community Orchard will be planted on April 13th with 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. Berry plants should be start producing edible fruit 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.
With the initial support of the First Nations Development Institute, the orchard project has grown to be a larger and strong project due to the partnership of several amazing organizations and governmental agencies. This several acre orchard is located on land provided by the Christ Episcopal Church in Fort Thompson for the benefit of the community. 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.”
In addition, many other agencies and organizations have contributed or will contribute to make the orchard possible. Diamond Willow Ministries, a Christian non-profit relief agency on Crow Creek, has donated countless hours researching local fruit varieties and helping coordinate the project. The Crow Creek Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs has donated manpower to construct the fence, which will help protect the growing fruit trees. Lower Brule Wildlife Department has helped design the irrigation system, while Ashworth Road Baptist Church of West Des Moines, Iowa and Resurrection Lutheran Church of Pierre, South Dakota 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. Indian Health Service’s Heart Healthy program plans on providing many volunteers and supplies for the orchard and garden project.
The Crow Creek Community Orchard will celebrate its spring planting on April 13th with a community feast and volunteer day starting at 9:00 AM. Community members are invited to purchase trees in memorial of loved ones and to come and are invited to plant them on this day. The Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Council will plant the first memorial tree. The Bureau of Indian Affairs will be providing inflatables for kids to play on, ensuring that the day is fun event for all ages.
First Nations Development Institute surveyed the orchard site as part of a site visit and technical assistance trip in mid-March, providing help planning for the future of the Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative. “It was so wonderful to get to share this incredible project with First Nations in person and we are so grateful for their continued support. It has been truly amazing to see so many diverse organizations come together to accomplish something so wonderful for the Crow Creek Community. We are so blessed to have so many great partners who understand the importance of fresh fruit access for both the health and vitality of the community,” says Krystal Langholz, Executive Director of Hunkpati Investments.