For nearly 15 years, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® has tended a 2-acre, naturally grown garden at its campus in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. What started as a labor of love for Executive Director Julie Garreau has turned into so much more; today, the Winyan Toka Win garden (“Leading Lady” in Lakota) lies at the beating heart of the 25-year-old youth organization’s robust sustainable agriculture initiatives.
Not only is fresh produce from the non-GMO, pesticide-free garden incorporated into youth meals and snacks, youth programming, and community events such as canning classes and the weekly Leading Lady Farmers Market, it furnishes nutritious, homegrown foods for CRYP’s Keya Café and Keya Gift Shop. And, it provides the foundation for a new internship program that welcomed 33 teens to the youth project staff during the summer months.
Garreau said CRYP’s sustainable agriculture initiatives are designed to serve as classrooms for young people. They’re also intended to make the Cokata Wiconi teen center a true community gathering place for the Cheyenne River community, as it always was meant to be.
The Keya Coffee Shop and Café LLC (“Turtle” in Lakota), opened its doors in January with support from a grant from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation. It provides specialty coffee drinks, smoothies, juices, baked goods, and full breakfast and lunch service.
“We’re proud to offer healthy menu items and fresh produce straight from the Winyan Toka Win garden, and all of our menu items are made fresh on site each day,” said Jerri LaPlante, cafe manager. “We currently employ a cook and a barista, as well as one Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) worker. We also were thrilled to have 17 teen interns work in the cafe this summer. They learned so much, and they were valuable part of our team.”
The café is open Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cafe is closed on Sundays. In addition to its meal and beverage service, the cafe also provides in-house catering services for groups and special events. For more information, call (605) 964-8200 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For updates and special offers, join the Facebook community at www.facebook.com/keyacafecoffee.
“The Keya Café is a critical element in our long-term vision for operating a variety of sustainable enterprises at our campus,” Garreau noted. “That vision began with Winyan Toka Win in 1999, and it has grown to encompass the Leading Lady Farmers Market, our new café, and the Keya Gift Shop as well.”
Located across from the Keya Café in the Cokata Wiconi teen center (“Center of Life” in Lakota), the Keya Gift Shop is brimming with homemade food items, each created with fresh, naturally grown produce from Winyan Toka Win.
Canned goods include sliced dill pickles, canned tomatoes, pickled green tomatoes, apple chutney, mild and spicy salsa, dill pickle spears, zucchini jelly, strawberry rhubarb jelly, cranberry jalapeño jelly, jalapeño jelly, spicy jalapeño jelly, pickled jalapeño peppers, pickled radishes, bread-and-butter jalapeño peppers, onion relish, sweet pepper jelly, strawberry jam, tomato jam, zucchini pasta sauce and spicy white pickles.
Making use of traditional Lakota foods, the gift shop also features wild plum jelly, wild plum syrup, wild grape jelly, chokecherry jelly, chokecherry syrup, dried turnips and dried turnip braids. Other dried goods include dried corn and chili peppers. As an extra bonus to customers and the environment, Garreau said CRYP is offering a 5-cent refund on all canning jars returned to the youth project without any chips or cracks.
In addition, the youth project sells Keya Café coffee beans and coffee mugs, CRYP T-shirts and sweatshirts, as well as shirts screen-printed on site; Cokata Wiconi History Wall posters; jewelry made by local artists; jewelry made by BLine Jewelry’s Barbara Finkelstein, a CRYP supporter who donates the items to the gift shop; and prints of “Four Horsemen of the Lakota,” a painting by renowned artist and Rosebud Sioux tribal member Lynn Burnette Sr. The prints are available in three sizes.
Every dollar goes to benefit CRYP’s youth programs and services. To obtain a price list and place an order, call (605) 964-8200. For online orders, call the youth project’s offices so staff can determine shipping costs; then, make a payment via the “Help CRYP” link at www.lakotayouth.org. The youth project can ship anywhere in the country.
“We’re investing a lot of time and energy into our Keya Gift Shop so it can be a fun, interesting shopping experience for those who visit our campus in Eagle Butte,” Garreau said. “We want people to enjoy delicious, homemade foods while knowing that every cent of their contribution supports CRYP. And not just financially — again, we want our garden and gift shop to teach Cheyenne River’s young people valuable, lasting lessons about health, wellness, sustainability, and the precious interconnectedness of life on this planet.”
She noted that the 17 cafe interns assisted in the Keya Gift Shop during the summer months, which further enhanced their learning experience.
“We also had 16 interns in our Winyan Toka Win garden,” she added. “The garden, the cafe and the gift shop are all critical venues for teaching these young people about planting, caring for and harvesting the garden, as well as about preparing and processing fresh, whole foods right here in their home community. What’s more, they’re developing a solid work ethic, they’re taking on valuable leadership roles, and they’re learning so much about business skills, life skills, diabetes prevention and holistic wellness.
“But that’s not all,” she continued. “One of our goals has always been to reconnect young people with the earth, and whether they’re working in the garden or staffing the farmer’s market, gift shop or cafe, they’ll learn so much about respecting the land, the water and the fruits of the earth. They’ll develop a deeper understanding what food sovereignty and security means, and they’ll learn to incorporate Lakota principles into everything they do.”
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.