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Rosebud Reservation to Promote Local Food with Mobile Farmer’s Market

Also nowhere to be seen at Governor Kristi Noem’s ag-industrial summit in Sioux Falls this week: the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) and its Food Sovereignty Initiative, which is helping 34,000 tribal members get access to healthy local food. With a simple $39,600 grant from the First Nations Institute (smaller than the checks Governor Noem writes to big corporations who send a good chunk of their profits beyond our borders), the Food Sovereignty Initiative is helping more South Dakotans sell food they grow themselves to fellow South Dakotans in places underserved by grocery stores:

REDCO’s Food Sovereignty Director Mike Prate explains holding a regular farmer’s market in Mission—where two of the reservation’s three grocery stores already exist—isn’t enough to improve fresh food access in the area.

“So we decided we wanted to take the market mobile to some of these more isolated communities that don’t have food resources and are relying on corner stores that usually aren’t carrying fresh produce, that we were gonna go there and set up a weekly market.”

Starting in August, REDCO will bring produce and other goods to St. Francis, Rosebud and Parmalee. That same month, Prate says they’ll launch a community supported agriculture program—or CSA. By sharing some cost with the garden, residents can receive a weekly box of in-season produce with recipe ideas.  Prate says that kind of program builds a sense of community around food [Jackie Hendry, “REDCO Expands Food Sovereignty Initiative with Mobile Farmer’s Markets, CSA Boxes,” SDPB Radio, 2019.07.08].

If Dennis Daugaard were Governor, I’d say something here about self-reliance. Self-reliance in food production was one of the first things we invaders took away from the previous tenants of this land:

A destructive series of policy initiatives like the Dawes Act also known as the General Allotment Act (an act intended to break up reservations into individual property ownership in an effort to destroy tribal governments and Native culture through forced individualism, Christianity, property ownership, and European-style agricultural systems and methods upon Native persons), combined with forced relocation onto reservations left Native communities struggling to secure access to wholesome food systems. For those who resisted forced relocation, this struggle was amplified by the mass killing of the buffalo, yet another tool for subjugating tribes through food access restraints.

“Access to food was the first thing attacked in an attempt to remove Native people from the land … if you think about the history of food systems on Reservations throughout the US, you can get a sense of how important food really is,” said REDCO Food Sovereignty Director REDCO Mike Prate [“Homegrown Stories: Rosebud Reservation Creates Economic Opportunity Through Food Sovereignty,” Farm Aid, 2019.04.09].

Maybe Governor Noem should consider bringing in some Rosebud garden produce for her next big party in Sioux Falls.


  1. mike from iowa 2019-07-09 16:06

    What can be grown for people to eat, West River? I have no clew as I have never seen the land. I gotta have my spuds and onions.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2019-07-09 16:28

    When my dad retired and moved to some acreage outside of Pine Ridge that bordered the Nebraska sandhills and started gardening as a hobby.
    I was skeptical of how well gardening would do in the very sandy soil, but was soon proven wrong.
    Almost all produce did very well and flourished, melons and squash did really well as did most root vegetables.
    The only real drawbacks were cockleburs and goat heads.
    The sandhills have a hidden secret in that there were some very successful apple and pear orchards started by Ole’ Jules (Marie Sandoz) planted even deeper in the sandhills.

  3. mike from iowa 2019-07-09 16:36

    Thanks, Roger. Keep your health up. Your voice is needed and much appreciated here. Ms Debbo has my email address if you would like it, Sir.

  4. Debbo 2019-07-09 18:10

    Food Sovereignty sounds like an excellent program meeting critical needs.

    I’ve had some of my best gardening success in sandy soil, but it usually requires a lot of moisture.

    The Diné people (Navajo) in northeastern Arizona on the checkerboard rez grow a lot of corn, beans and squash. If you’ve ever been there, it makes West River look tropical by comparison. 😁 It’s beautiful though, and every inch of arable land along washes and creek beds, at the bottom of canyons and ravines, anywhere there is access to water–they plant. They haul a lot of water too. They’re good farmers and have been for centuries.

  5. grudznick 2019-07-09 20:42

    Mari Sandoz, (c) 1935 and as published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1962, said:

    Jules, hunched down on the wagon seat, a rifle between his knees, followed up the north fringe of the river bluffs from the little town of Verdigre near the Missouri. For three weeks he whipped his tired team onward, always with impatience, as though to-morrow would be too late. But there was really no hurry. His Swiss-made map showed the sandhills as a wilderness with many small lakes and streams, remote, uninhabited — wild fruit, game and free land far from law and convention. There a man could build a home, hunt and trap in peace, and live as he liked.

    Old Jules, who at that time was young, was a dark-bearded young man in ragged clothing and had completed 4 years of medical school by the age of 22. He did not eat melons.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2019-07-09 20:52

    Where can I find a reference that Old Jules didn’t eat melons? Wikipedia?

  7. Debbo 2019-07-10 14:50

    There are mobile food trucks that make regular rounds in St. Paul and Minneapolis. They’re great for people who can’t get around well. They’re also using empty lots to grow community gardens.

  8. Bob Klein 2019-07-10 17:07

    I was raised on the Rosebud, on the northern fringe of the Sandhills. If water is available to accompany hand labor, I could grow anything that I can grow in Brookings.

  9. grudznick 2019-07-10 17:20

    Mr. C, I think it’s in the chapter entitled “Hail in the panhandle” where there are numerous references to Old Jules sitting under trees in the orchard eating plums and smoking.

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