The evening’s festivities will include a large-scale community feed, games, fun and fellowship. Recipes will be available, and as always, CRYP staff and volunteers will incorporate fresh, nutritious, organically grown produce from Winyan Toka Win into the various menu items.
“It’s no small amount of produce,” noted Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “As of this month, we’ve harvested more than 2,300 pounds of naturally grown food from the garden. In addition to the Harvest Festival dinner, this produce also is incorporated into youth meals and snacks. And, it plays a major role in our social enterprises. We use our fresh produce in menu items at our Keya (Turtle) Cafe, and we showcase preserved food items in our Keya Gift Shop.”
CRYP originally created the Harvest Festival to kick off its 25th anniversary celebration in 2013, and it’s become a popular addition to Cheyenne River’s annual events calendar. It’s also become an annual celebration of Winyan Toka Win that demonstrates gratitude for a bountiful harvest, dedication to reconnecting with the earth and Lakota traditions and values, and commitment to practicing sustainable agriculture in Eagle Butte, which benefits the entire Cheyenne River community.
“Through our sustainable agriculture initiatives, we hope to show how a community can take meaningful strides toward food sovereignty and security, and toward reversing the tide of diabetes and other health issues among native people,” Garreau said. “A commitment to lifelong wellness in a community can have lasting economic and educational benefits as well.”
In the last two years, that commitment also has included the youth project’s innovative teen internship program. This season, the program graduated 57 sustainable agriculture interns. According to Garreau, one intern completed three internships as a way to build skills for gardening at home—and to build skills that would be useful in commercial gardening, landscaping and customer care.
“All our sustainable agriculture interns receive life skills training in First Aid and CPR, financial literacy, college financial planning and customer service,” Garreau said. “They also learn the gardening history of the Lakota Nation in general and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in particular; and they learn about soils, water, and some basic plant biology and pathology as well.”
Although CRYP is celebrating the harvest season with its upcoming Harvest Festival dinner, work is not complete in the Winyan Toka Win garden. Garreau said that staff members will continue to grow cool-season plants until the first frost. Then, they will conduct end-of-season weeding, and both weed prevention and soil retention work.
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi)