Nutritionist’s love of land, local food brings her home
by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont
Those in conventional food production don’t always think about farming or ranching the land in a way that will add to it, instead of just taking from it.
For Marcella Gilbert, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s SDSU Community Development Extension Associate, giving back to the land is as important as giving back to the community.
“I want to do something that reflects the integrity and the love that I got from my family up here. And they loved the land and they always said we are not selling,” said Gilbert.
That love for the land is what brought Gilbert home to Cheyenne River. A CRST tribal member, Gilbert previously was working for the Winnebago Tribe with their diabetes prevention program and community garden project.
The community garden project appealed to her, as a way of addressing nutrition at its source.
“I wanted to get more involved in learning and growing food,” said Gilbert of her time with the Winnebago garden, where she took Iowa’s Master Gardener program.
After receiving her Master’s Degree in Nutrition from South Dakota State University, Gilbert worked at the Sisseton tribal college before working for the Winnebago tribe in Iowa.
As more of her professional work moved towards a land-based understanding, Gilbert wanted to return home to her family’s land on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
Developing projects on her own land that was bequeathed to her by her father, Gilbert hopes to put her education and resources to work for herself and her family as well as for others.
It also adds a ‘practice what you preach’ dimension to her work as an extension agent.
Finding work with SDSU Extension Service made that move home possible.
“She’s really well suited to this position because of her background, because she is from this area and her extensive background in health and nutrition,” said Shawn Burke, SDSU Extension Native American Program Director.
Gilbert’s position with Extension is new and is in cooperation with the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program.
“[We’re] really happy to have that focus for her office,” said Burke.
Gilbert’s current work includes helping area resident with developing local food growth and access, creating better community health, entrepeneurship and other resource-building especially regarding community development and youth outreach.
On the job since September 12, 2012, Gilbert has been busy networking with area gardeners, community development professionals, youth program leaders, educators and others. Her office provides educational resources on these subjects, and others, as well as offering soil testing and other Extension or Extension-related services.
Gilbert’s current focus though is talking to community members and leaders to gauge what matters most to them.
“Whatever the community decides they need,” said Gilbert of her position as an area resource from SDSU Extension.
Gilbert can be reached at the SDSU Extension Office located in the BIA Education Building, (605) 964-4955 or email@example.com.
Also see Gilbert’s column with the Soiled Hands Society on page 4 of our print or e-edition.