After driving across country in a big red bus, my feet are firmly planted in La Plant, South Dakota, a small town on the Cheyenne River Reservation, for almost a week now. It's where I'll be calling home for the next five months. The town is located just west of Missouri River, among rolling hills of prairie grasses, wide open skies and the occasional buffalo that dots the landscape. It's also an area of extreme poverty, staggering unemployment and immense food insecurity.
I had the opportunity to visit the area in August and will now be working on food and garden projects as part of my role with Simply Smiles. The trip subsequently changed the course of my academic and professional careers. I'm excited to confront the myriad of ethical and logistical challenges ahead (i.e. how does a white, vegetarian, non-Lakota chick from the East Coast know anything about growing in "gumbo" soils and in an area that is not historically known for domesticated crops?). I'm also looking forward to immersing myself in issues of food sovereignty, justice, politics and indigenous rights, and the chance to learn from community members.
If you're interested in this journey, stay tuned here (and on the Simply Smiles blog) to read posts on and view photos of the latest on the food project in La Plant and the beginning of what, I hope, will be a food REZolution.
(1) Clay, "gumbo" soils of the region during the rainy season. (2) The wind-whipped remnants of the raised bed garden and temporary high tunnel structures. (3) A South Dakota sunset. (4) Almost shovel-ready. (5) A view of the Missouri River.