Gardens, High Tunnel and Geothermal Greenhouse Tour at REDCO

Tour of REDCO’s 1-acre Community Garden- SDSPA Tour Sept. 7, 2019.

On Sept. 7, guests toured the Rosebud Economic Development community garden plot, situated behind the Turtle Creek grocery store in Mission, SD, to learn about the gardens and the geothermal greenhouse being utilized to grow food for community members.

All production areas are situated on one acre of land. A number of different types of production methods are being utilized as an effort to understand what growing techniques will provide the largest yield. Ed Her Many Horses is in his first year as manager and understands all the production areas are viewed as experimental learning. Last year the acre produced 6,000 pounds of produce. This year the goal is 10,000 pounds with 2,500 already harvested.

Ed Her Many Horses, REDCO’s Garden manager, leading garden tour- SDSPA Tour Sept. 7, 2019.

Matt Wilson (Rosebud Economic Development Food Sovereignty Director), Ed Her Many Horses (Garden Manager) and Rachel Kent, (REDCO Outreach Coordinator) all welcomed participants. The tour started by walking along the edge of the Indigenous Garden which includes plantings of the three sisters (squash, beans, and corn), which is used to help educate community members on traditional growing methods. All produce from this section is donated to community members.

The acre also houses a small fenced in area for chickens with a coop. At the end of the season it is hoped the chickens will be harvested for a community meal where butchering techniques are also taught.

Tour of REDCO’s 1-acre Community Garden- SDSPA Tour Sept. 7, 2019.

The one-acre also includes several incubator plots provided to community members who show a desire to grow food. Those interested are provided a 20’ x 20’ area along with seeds and instruction. All the incubator plots were growing well. Along the incubator plots, a large asparagus plot teemed with plants. Clearly, asparagus enjoyed the large amount of rain from the 2019 season.

The high tunnel is new to the one-acre. It was put up in the fall of 2018. The learning curve has included building know how, the harsh weather of 2019 including winter storms, high winds, hail, and record rainfall. The high tunnel is called Rolling Thunder, a 48’ x 20’ tunnel that rolls an additional 48 feet so that each year it can be placed on new land. In theory it rolls, but more work needs to be done to stabilize the structure. Despite the challenges, tomatoes and cucumbers are successfully being grown within the structure. Ed Her Many Horses noted that if the structure can be utilized successfully, it will be a game changer for small scale farmers as it will extend the season by several months.

The Farmers Market Garden plot is the largest in production and provides produce for the Mission Farmer’s Market. The rows are 90 feet in length and a variety of vegetables are grown here – peppers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, kale, peas, swiss chard, etc. Most of the seed are from heirloom varieties. This year it was also decided to give hybrids a try. There are 67 tomato plants in each row.

Geothermal Greenhouse at REDCO’s 1-acre Community Garden- SDSPA Tour Sept. 7, 2019.

The final production area was the Geothermal Greenhouse, which was built in November 2017.

The gardens function with the help of interns. In 2019, 16 different interns helped do the work required in the garden. Most of the interns come from the community of Mission and Antelope, but REDCO has also benefited from the VISTA program where college graduates get work experience through a year-long internship with REDCO. Some of the VISTA interns have decided to stay on with REDCO because they can directly see the impact of their work. Both types of internships have greatly benefited both the students and the program and provided needed on-the-ground help in the garden.

Although the gardens and production methods are in large part experimentations in growing food, it is clear that this program is providing food for the community of Kyle and at the same time training young people to be a part of community-based solutions. We appreciate the effort to solve issues of food sovereignty and food access. This program is a success because the young people involved are passionate about solving these problems. Keep up the good work!