Tatanka Ki Owetu AgrAbility Project on Pine Ridge has started to develop a wheelchair-accessible high-tunnel demonstration site at its Pine Ridge office headquarters. The team hopes to have the phase one build-out completed by spring of this year. The 20'x96' Quonset high-tunnel will showcase several different wheelchair-accessible raised growing bed styles along with some in-ground and vertical growing beds, a drip irrigation system, and a trellising system. The team designed this system to be able to be resourced locally at little to no cost for tribal farmers living in persistent poverty. The team is exploring the use of thick rubber stall mats, sourced at a local ACE Hardware store, as the hard surface inside the high-tunnel. The team initially tested these mats with three clients last year and, after making some adjustments, received positive feedback from clients about the mats improving their ability to navigate around their sites. It will also showcase an internal trellising system that will help support the high-tunnel structure in the strong Northern Great Plains winds.
In addition, a second high-tunnel on site will be utilized by the program's first full-time AgrAbility incubator farmer client for in-ground production. The Tatanka Ki Owetu Project is exploring the use of incubators as a way to address land-access and equipment-access challenges that disabled tribal new farmers face in becoming involved in agriculture. The two incubator hubs, in concert with the partnering organizations that own the land and high-tunnels, provide land and high-tunnel access for free to landless disabled tribal farmers, including new farmers on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Persistent poverty, lack of access to capital, land, equipment, and hands-on training are major barriers that tribal producers face. To assist these producers, Tatanka Ki Owetu and their partners are making innovative solutions realistic by finding the solutions in the problems. Where land access is the problem, land access is also the solution, etc.
Submitted by Jason Schoch