The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Fort Belknap Agency Has a New Community Garden

 

July 10, 2019

Medicine Wheel Garden in Fort Belknap. Each one of the four sections of the Medicine Wheel garden is bordered with rocks from each direction on Fort Belknap: Mountain rock from the Little Rockies, granite rock from Snake Butte, glacier rocks from the plains, and sandstone from the badlands area on Fort Belknap. Each section will also feature medicinal perennial plants so that they will grow back each year.

Fort Belknap Agency has a new community garden, and Aaniiih Nakoda College (ANC) interns, Denise Stanley and Corbin Brockie are responsible for tending and promoting the site, which is adjacent to the Discover Fort Belknap RV Park/Don Addy Park on Fort Belknap.

Stanley and Brockie were placed with the MSU-Extension program by ANC. Two days a week they spend at Hays/Lodge Pole, planting, transplanting, weeding, and tending the community garden there. Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they garden at the Fort Belknap location.

According to Stanley, two of the ten beds at the Fort Belknap Community Garden are planted with tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, and whatever else the gardener chooses, but eight beds remain available for others who wish to raise their own vegetables. "My hope is that more people will get involved," Stanley said. "I hope the whole community learns to help and comes to know the pride in growing their own food."

Stanley described the strawberries that were harvested from the Hays/Lodge Pole garden on the morning of July 1: "They were so sweet, juicy, and delicious," she said. Stanley went on to describe the fruit research site with over forty trees.

"It's beautiful out here. Just this past weekend, a family member passed, and being close to the mountains and among the trees takes my mind off the grief. Being out here brings me peace," she said.

Although the MSU-Fort Belknap Extension Program offers a variety of educational programs and opportunities centered where members of Fort Belknap Indian Community (FBIC) work and play and MSU-Extension supports the garden projects, no single individual is in charge, according to Hillary Maxwell, MSU-Extension agent for the Fort Belknap Reservation. Instead, several programs and individuals share the responsibilities.

"The community gardens are a compilation of a lot of people working together. MSU-Extension distributes good information and emphasizes quality groundwork so that the crops sown will survive in the region. Basically, we educate the volunteers on good garden practices and share research, and they do the work," Maxwell stated.

"The primary goals of the community garden are about maximizing healthy food options and beautifying the communities. The garden in Hays, for example, is a park-end garden, which provides a safe life space for people to sit and

visit. It's also a demonstration garden that provides free food for people who need it," Maxwell added.

In the fall of 2012, MSU Extension was awarded a Specialty Crop Block Grant through the Montana Department of Agriculture to establish fruit tree cultivar research sites across the state. A cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding. This project received a Montana Department of Agriculture Growth Through Agriculture Grant in the spring of 2015 to establish two additional sites, one at Shelby and another at Lodge Pole.

The goal of the fruit tree research in Montana is to evaluate the performance of apple, pear and plum cultivars, focusing on areas of the state with little to no current fruit production. Each of the ten sites has a core group of cultivars replicated at all the sites, with three replications of each cultivar at each site.

According to researchers, the keys to a successful fruit tree orchard include site evaluation and preparation, good rootstock, proper cultivar selection, proper irrigation, reducing plant competition, maximizing the potential of the soil, testing for nutrients, and using proper fertilization. Research is ongoing for what works best in areas across the state with differing soils and climates.

"We've got a lot going on in gardening in the south eastern corner of Blaine County," said Maxwell. "And now we have a garden on the Agency. I'm really proud of Denise and Corbin for getting that garden going. They are doing a fantastic job!"

Anyone interested in claiming one of the available beds at the Fort Belknap location or for answers to other garden-related questions should contact the MSU-Fort Belknap Extension Program by calling 353-2656.

In addition to the new community garden, Discover Fort Belknap RV Park/Don Addy Park is also home to a Medicine Wheel garden. Officials from the Nakoda Aaniiih Economic Development Corporation (NAEDC) extend appreciation to Chad Wing and Lynn Cliff, Jr. for this creative permaculture gardening idea.

Each of the four sections of the Medicine Wheel garden is bordered with rocks from each cardinal direction on Fort Belknap: Mountain rock from the Little Rockies, granite rock from Snake Butte, glacier rocks from the plains, and sandstone from the badlands area on Fort Belknap. Each section will also feature medicinal perennial plants so that they will grow back each year.

Medicine Wheel gardens are located in each of the four communities on Fort Belknap: Hays Community Garden and Park, Red Paint Creek Gardens at Lodge Pole, Discover Fort Belknap RV Park/Don Addy Park, and Dodson Community across from the school.

Plans are also being made to work on the Dodson Medicine Wheel garden, and community members are encouraged to assist with the cleaning. NAEDC officials give a big shout out to Fort Belknap Tribal Maintenance for use of their wheelbarrow and to Barb Cliff, Marquez Stiffarm, Barbie Russell, Theodore Has Eagle, Erin LaMere, Josie Cliff, Denise Stanley, and Corbin Brockie for weeding, landscaping, and planting. The peppermint in the Medicine Wheel's red section was transplanted from Wasay Wakpa last year and is reported to be growing great.

Erin LaMere and Corbin Brockie contribute their efforts to beautify the grounds at the Discover Fort Belknap RV Park/Don Addy Park on Fort Belknap.

The NAEDC was established on July 10, 2014 by the FBIC Council-the governing body of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. NAEDC, a nonprofit business corporation under the laws of the FBIC, was created to build the FBIC through business, entrepreneurship, and community development. NAEDC plans to accomplish this mission through a variety of community and economic development activities specifically designed to create profitable self-sustaining businesses and long-term employment opportunities-including the provision of training and financial assistance to current and aspiring low-income entrepreneurs. Each of these activities is an important strategy for addressing the high levels of unemployment and poverty on the Reservation as well as a way to combat community deterioration within the region.

The Medicine Wheel garden is another step to fulfilling the mission to promote a thriving, cultural and sustainable economy on the Fort Belknap Reservation.

 
 

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