Last month an introduction to the subject of self-sufficiency through the sustainable farming method known as “aquaponics” was delivered to the Pine Ridge community. The Free Lakota Bank sponsored the event which was free of charge to all attendees and was delivered by Colorado Aquaponics at Billy Mills Hall. Attendees learned the basics of creating a self-supporting system of raising fresh produce and fish and the best practices for any individual to create such a system for themselves almost anywhere.
Students of the class learned about the best types of fish that can be raised in such system, received guidance on their care and feeding and how to use the by-products of their growth to support the cultivation of healthy edible plants. Along with this was information on how the plants and the medium in which they grow filters the water in order that it can continue to support the growing fish. The introduction delivered by Tawnya Sawyer, Director of Education and Business Development for Colorado Aquaponics, was thorough and easy to understand and gave students a chance to ask a multitude of questions about the logistics involved in the process and how to best plan and execute a successful growing system of almost any size. The focus however was primarily on how to set up a manageable home-based system that anyone could use to grow the freshest fruits and vegetables and healthy fish.
In addition to the extensive classroom-style studying that students enjoyed, those who attended were invited to join in a visit of a local solar-powered farm, home to Lakota Solar Powered Enterprises and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, where they witnessed a progressive group of growers caring for an extensive field of organically-grown produce and renovating several greenhouses. Attendees also learned of the enterprise’s extensive expansion plans already in progress. The farm featured a massive solar array and several smaller power units supplying the acreage all the power they needed to do their work and provide training to the visiting members of what they call “Green Teams” studying to share their newly acquired skills for the benefit of their own tribes.
The day wrapped up with a visit to home gardens of attendees where the hands-on training included some helpful tips and tricks for making the most of available space, proper support structures for larger plants and natural treatments for area pests that might threaten a garden’s vitality and output. After a morning filled with informative technical training, staff members of Colorado Aquaponics and students alike were able to get their hands dirty working with local gardens seeing the ideas they had learned about implemented by experts with years of experience.
Another benefit of the involvement of Colorado Aquaponics was the opportunity to consult with them on the plan to create a sizable aquaponics facility to benefit the entire Pine Ridge Reservation. Their survey of the potential social and economic benefits of constructing a commercial facility that would adequately provide for local demand of fresh produce and fish resulted in a report that shows the promise that such a facility could provide in the very near future.
The event and subsequent study are the critical first steps in developing a comprehensive strategy to realize the larger goals of this project. Free Lakota Bank looks forward to providing more opportunities to those who want to enhance their self-reliance and the autonomy of the entire tribe and we look forward to doing even more with the help of experts in their field such as Colorado Aquaponics and Lakota Solar Enterprises.