Tatanka Ki Owetu, the Renewal AgrAbility Project on the Pine Ridge Reservation is working with 18 participants on site-assessments and needs assessments. Sub-zero temperatures and wind chills from -20 to -50 below zero have been difficult on participants. Most live far below the poverty line and far off the main roads. Poverty means that most participants lack even the basic winter weather gear that a farmer is going to need to operate. Frostbite and hypothermia are ever-present dangers for secondary injuries. Recently, a man on Pine Ridge working outside without proper gear got frostbite on his fingertips. He now experiences a lot of pain when trying to work outside. When the team learned of this, they went out and met with him and are now happy to say he's a participant in AgrAbility, and the team is helping him to understand what programs and resources are out there to assist him. The team will soon be visiting his site for an assessment.
Another lesson the project has learned is that, when trying to help new farmers living with disabilities who also live in poverty, it really is the built environment, or really the lack thereof, that needs to be addressed first and foremost. This was anticipated in South Dakota's proposal. However, once participants are recruited and the assessments are done, step one is helping them plan their operation, not just with their abilities in mind, but with the current state of their built environment realistically in mind.
The South Dakota team assisted one participant in applying for USDA-NRCS's EQIP cost-share program and in planning and writing a small grant proposal to the North-Central SARE. She recently learned that she was awarded the grant and is now working with tribal and state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) programs. Another participant, who also applied to NRCS EQIP and received a farmer/rancher NCR-SARE grant and a South Dakota Specialty Crop Block Grant, recently installed high tunnels on her site and is applying to state and tribal VR programs. A third participant is applying to VR and also to the Oglala Sioux Tribe for land of her own.
Lastly, staff have presented to tribal members with disabilities a series of high tunnel building and high tunnel production workshops together with non-AgrAbility South Dakota State University faculty and Extension specialists. A project partner, Black Hills Works, used to operate a greenhouse in Rapid City and is guiding the team in this effort, as the Oglala Sioux Tribe and NRCS have funds obligated through EQIP to help tribal farmers in acquiring high tunnels.
Submitted by Tatanka Ki Owetu, the Renewal AgrAbility Project