Oyate Teca Project in Kyle, SD

Guests arrived in Kyle, SD on Aug. 17 to learn about the Oyate Teca Project led by Executive Director, Rose Fraser. Despite being a small building, the program provides a number of initiatives that address food sovereignty issues.

Rose Fraser, Executive Director, Oyate Teca Project- SDSPA Tour Aug. 17, 2019.

Since 2010, the Oyate Teca Project has been providing a gardening program. Through the program, people can learn how to garden and become a small local producer through an 18-week course. The course doesn’t only provide the hands-on skills to create and grow food, but also offers classes in entrepreneurship, financial management, food preservation and food safety. Materials for students to create a 40’ x 60’ garden with a fence are provided.

High Tunnel at Oyate Teca Project (Young People’s Project)- SDSPA Tour Aug. 17, 2019.

Students participating in the training receive incentives to create their own gardens, “Tools For Growth” to ensure continued success including: seeds, soil, fertilizer for starter plants, access to our machinery tiller, small hay-baler, heated greenhouse, etc., and materials for fencing and drip irrigation for a standard 40x 60 garden.

The program runs January-October. This year, 2019, had a total of 63 students enroll in January; by April we still had 37 students remaining in the program.

Besides the course, the Oyate Teca Project is home to several food production areas, including two high tunnels (one 30’ x 96’ and one 30’ x 72’), a 16’ x 12’ seed starter greenhouse, a ¾-acre vegetable garden, and a number of raised beds with vegetables, fresh herbs and strawberries.

SDSPA Vice President, Tom Barnes, at Oyate Teca Project (Young People’s Project)- SDSPA Tour Aug. 17, 2019.

Doug Pourier manages the production areas and produce.  In 2018, 9000 pounds of tomatoes were harvested from the 30’ x 96’ high tunnel and a total of 50,000 pounds produce came from the center’s garden and student’s gardens.

In 2018 the program partnered with a non-profit organization to provide fresh veggies for the months of July, August, September. Produce delivery was held the third week of the month and 500 fresh food boxes were made and distributed to the nine communities on the Pine Ridge reservation. In total 1,500 fresh food boxes were distributed.

In 2019 they have partnered with Running Strong for American Indian Youth to provide the same services. “This time we will have the distributions twice a month, because of lessons learned from last year, production doesn’t stop for the growing season,” said Fraser. All the food went out into the community either through sales or through donation.

High Tunnel at Oyate Teca Project (Young People’s Project)- SDSPA Tour Aug. 17, 2019.

Doug Pourier was in the high tunnel pruning down the tomato plants to improve production during the tour, the effort obviously successful with plants full of beautiful tomatoes of different varieties as well as cucumbers and peppers.  The high tunnel has been in production for three years and is less subject to adverse weather.

Medicine Root Farmers Market also operates in the back of the office building. It was very well stocked with fresh ingredients. Bins of summer and winter squash, onions, tomatoes and other vegetables were available for sale. Participants were able to buy a large Hubbard squash and cucumbers that day. Value-added products such as canned pickles, salsa, and beets processed in the kitchen were also available in the market. The building has a kitchen facility for teaching food processing.

Medicine Root Farmers Market at Oyate Teca Project (Young People’s Project)- SDSPA Tour Aug. 17, 2019.

During the tour, it was clear that good things were happening at the Oyate Teca Project.  Good people doing good things to find solutions for food access for community members. Through this small program, people can learn to grow food while learning entrepreneurial skills. We appreciate the efforts of Rose and Doug. The effort behind the program inspires all of us to learn more about growing food and what it takes to solve issues of food access. Thank you and keep up the good work!