Food sovereignty possible in Cheyenne River, says ranchers

Michal Kravcik, award-winning Slovakian hydrologist, addresses participants of food summit last week. Photo courtesy of Marcella Gilbert.

Michal Kravcik, award-winning Slovakian hydrologist, addresses participants of food summit last week. Photo courtesy of Marcella Gilbert.

by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

After the onslaught of severe storms across the United States in the last month, Slovakian hydrologist Michal Kravcik shared with attendees of the Water+Land=Food Summit how weather severity increases with poor land management.

Kravcik, along with many other presenters, gave participants a multi-faceted picture of what food sovereignty, the ability of a community to create their own localized food economy, could look like and how that would affect land management practices.

“Land+Water=Food Summit was very successful in bringing together experts and like minds focused on sustainable methods of food production that every tribal land owner could realistically benefit from by utilizing their lands for local food production,” said event organizer and SDSU CR Extension Specialist Marcella Gilbert. “It was a preview of all the local experts we have here on our reservation who are working to create opportunity and economic stability for our communities in areas of local food production.”

A couple West River ranchers, Todd Mortenson and Pat Guptill, spoke to a captivated audience about rotational grazing methods and how grazing methods can be used to bring productivity back to the land.

Mortenson, a third generation rancher from Hayes, SD, has seen overgrazed land brought back to abundance by creating small dams to slow water runoff and not allowing cattle to overgraze. Each generation of his family has added a new piece to the sustainable management of the ranch, while still creating economic opportunities.

Guptill, a rotational grazing rancher near Quinn, SD, also spoke on the benefits of rotational grazing.

That repairing of the land is what will quell the uptick in severe weather, according to Kravcik. He has seen some of this work done first-hand in Slovakia using his Blue Alternative Method of water and land use that catches, slows and cleans water before releasing it into the hydrological cycle.

Other presenters spoke about sustainable community development projects and opportunities, permaculture, USDA organic guidelines, mulching, high tunners, weather data analysis and much more.

The conference was a joint effort SARE (sustainable agriculture, research and education), Intertribal agriculture council, CRST 4-H, The 4-H Foundation, SDSU/Cheyenne River Extension, CRST, Tribal Ventures, CRST Adult Diabetes Program and the CRST Fitness Center.

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