On Tuesday, October 22, and Thursday, October 24, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® and the Intertribal Agriculture Council joined forces to offer two free classes for the Cheyenne River community: Modern Gardening Basics, and Advanced Gardening / Farming. Steven Bond, an ethnobotanist and technical assistance specialist for the Intertribal Agriculture Council, was on hand to teach both classes.

Bond taught Gardening Basics to six community members on October 22. Topics included permanent garden bed design, cold-season cultivation, local agricultural extension resources, poultry keeping, local microclimate conditions, and much more. On Thursday, he gave his Advanced Gardening lecture to four community members, covering such subject matter as tillage implements for the backyard gardener, backyard hoop house design and creation, heirloom vegetable varieties, advanced bed design, permaculture in the home garden and soil block production.

Staff reported that Bond’s visit was a big success, noting that attendees loved the lectures and were hoping for “a refresher course in spring.”

Bond agreed that community members were indeed very excited to hear about new ways to expand their home gardens and farm operations, and new ways to extend the growing season.
During the lectures, Bond and his students discussed traditional values and practices, and how they can be enhanced with some modern materials and methods.

“Another interesting discovery was the support offered by the USDA in programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Microloan Program, which allows even new farmers and ranchers to obtain up to $35,000 in loans to help get their businesses off the ground,” Bond noted. “Also, it was interesting to learn that other USDA departments, like the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, can assist farmers and ranchers through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQUIP), which provides cost-share assistance on projects such as greenhouses to extend the growing season”

In addition, the Intertribal Agriculture Council’s Technical Assistance Great Plains Office is located right in downtown Eagle Butte, at the building formerly known as the Four Bands Healing Center. The office is dedicated to helping interested farmers and ranchers in developing their operations and increasing access to important USDA programs.

In addition to teaching the community gardening classes, Bond also assisted CRYP staff with planning its 2014 garden.

“On Wednesday, he surveyed our Winyan Toka Win garden and began working with me on designing a new irrigation system and permanent garden layout,” said Ryan Devlin, CRYP’s sustainable agriculture manager. “He also joined a staff conversation about the nutritional needs of this community so we can design a cooking class for local youth.

“Steven has a wealth of knowledge about sustainable stewardship of the land, and his input was immensely helpful in starting to design and implement an even more sustainable and productive garden at CRYP,” he added.

Bond said providing this assistance to the youth project staff was important to him, and he hopes to see increasing community involvement in the 2-acre, naturally grown, pesticide-free garden.

“Children and community members who will have a hand in the CRYP garden not only will learn how to grow food for their tables and that of their neighbors, but also will learn valuable agricultural practices and lessons in conservation that will influence them as adults in their farming and ranching ventures,” he explained.

“CRYP is a valuable resource for this community and should be considered an excellent example for other tribes and nontribal communities,” he continued. “The Intertribal Agricultre Council was honored to be included by the youth project in its mission to increase the quality of life of children and the Cheyenne River community by not only providing resources but also sharing with folks how to develop sustainable agriculture practices to generate weath and ensure sovereignty.”

Ethnobotanist Steven Bond has a strong technical background and diverse experiences working with agriculture and rural development. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and environmental chemistry from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 2003, then he went on to Oklahoma State University, where he received a Master of Science degree in the Watershed Resources Management Program in 2011. While at OSU, he also was a research assistant in the Biosystems Agriculture Engineering Deparment, working closely with the USU Agriculture Extension Program.

Throughout his college years, Bond received multiple honors and fellowships, including the Alfred P. Sloan Fellow award, the NABS Graduate Fellowship and undergraduate and graduate fellowships from the Louis Strokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

In 2005, Bond began working as the ethnobotanist for the Chickasaw Nation, where he developed the Ecological Resources and Sustainability Program that served as an “extension” approach to share technical information about traditional agriculture and environmental sustainability. Bond currently works for the Intertribal Agriculture Council as its technical assistance specialist in the Eastern Oklahoma Region and Western Region. His office is located in Stratford, Oklahoma, where he also owns and manages a small pecan orchard and organic farm.

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, LinkedIn and Twitter.