by Victoria Marrazzo, Solar Warrior Farm Manager
The Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is located in South Dakota, a short five hour drive from the bustling city of Fort Collins, Colorado. However, Fort Collins and Pine Ridge Reservation, while geographically close, couldn’t be farther apart in terms of food sovereignty issues.
Food sovereignty is the right of all people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems. Trees, Water & People’s Food Sovereignty Program aims to provide a functional and educational example of sustainable food production for tribal communities. The issue of food sovereignty is important, especially in tribal communities, because of the high rates of nutritionally-related illnesses and development continuing to threaten tribal resources. The need to rebuild a self-sufficient food system that will directly improve nutrition and health in tribal communities is apparent, even more so with federal budget cuts to food assistance programs. Food is a tool which can create positive change – it is the most fundamental element of life. Food provides a way to strengthen connections within communities and maintain values, principles, and language – to build resilience for generations to come.
The food sovereignty movement is taking shape on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the form of the Solar Warrior Farm, located at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. The farm grows a variety of native and heirloom fruits and vegetables, with the help of the farm’s solar water pump and gravity fed irrigation system.
Late May frost set back our planting efforts, but tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, radishes, parsnips, cucumbers, squash, and more are now in the ground and thriving. Weeding on a non-conventional farm is a tedious job, which volunteers have been happily undertaking. While the rain this season has been the sole setback for other projects on Pine Ridge, the fruits and veggies have been happily soaking it up. Hail has already made its debut this season, but so far without any severe damage to the crops. While the hail did not do any damage, the tomatoes are experiencing a different type of problem in the form of the Colorado Potato Beetle. This pest defoliates the plants when they are young and can at times be fatal to crops. The beetle will have no luck on Solar Warrior Farm! Volunteers have been actively removing these pests from the tomato plants by hand (we use no pesticides).
The farm also has fresh straw placed in all the rows between the beds. The straw has multiple purposes: it keeps moisture in the soil, it protects the soil from water erosion, it protects the soil from wind erosion, and it will help to keep weeds suppressed. The greenhouse is cleaned and looking ready to start some new transplants. Overall, things on Solar Warrior Farm are going well. We thank you for your support of this important community resource.
Food sovereignty is the right of all people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems. To better combat the systemic issues that have shaped the current food system on Pine Ridge Reservation, it is important to promote self-sufficient food systems. At Solar Warrior Farm, we are working towards this goal of rebuilding food sovereignty. Please come and join us, to work towards this goal together.