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Tribe to plant community orchard

Shown here at the Crow Creek Community Orchard location are, from left: Marsha Whiting, senior program officer of First Nations Development Institute; Krystal Langholz, executive director of Hunkpati Investments; Billy Joe Sazue, youth and garden coordinator of Hunkpati Investments; and Terry Marks, garden manager of Hunkpati Investments. (Photo courtesy of Hunkpati Investments)

FORT THOMPSON -- A community orchard will be planted today on the Crow Creek Reservation, thanks in part to a large grant.

The Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative has been awarded $37,500 from the Native American Food Systems Initiative by First Nations Development Institute.

This is the third award Hunkpati Investments has received on behalf of the community, with funds helping Crow Creek start a community garden and youth workforce program.

Hunkpati Investments is an agency that promotes self-sufficiency, self-determination and an enhanced quality of life for the Crow Creek community.

The Crow Creek Community Orchard will be planted today with more than 300 local wild fruit plants.

There will be several varieties of fruit, including those used in traditional Dakota recipes, such as chokecherry bushes, as well as other favorites, such as apple, pear, plum and apricot trees. Berry plants should be edible in the next few years, while larger trees should mature in the next four to five years.

The several-acre orchard is located on land donated by the Christ Episcopal Church in Fort Thompson.

"It was just idle land that we seldom used, so we wanted to put it to better use," said Red Olson, eucharistic minister for the Episcopal Church. "This fruit orchard is something that the whole community can benefit from."

Many other agencies and organizations have contributed or will contribute to make the orchard possible.

The Crow Creek Community Orchard will celebrate its spring planting with a community feast and volunteer day starting at 9 a.m. today.

Community members are invited to purchase trees in memory of loved ones and to come and plant them today.

First Nations Development Institute surveyed the orchard site as part of a site visit and technical assistance trip in mid-March, providing help planning for the future of the Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative.

"It was so wonderful to get to share this incredible project with First Nations in person and we are so grateful for their continued support," said Krystal Langholz, executive director of Hunkpati Investments.

"It has been truly amazing to see so many diverse organizations come together to accomplish something so wonderful for the Crow Creek community."