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On Pine Ridge Reservation, a Garden Helps Replace an 80-mile Grocery Trip

For the past six years, a garden program has taught residents of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation how to build financial independence and food security through gardening.

Buying groceries can take Doug Pourier the better part of a day. A member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, Pourier lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota, where he says local convenience stores sell limited quantities of expiring produce at inflated prices. For that reason, he spends his weekends driving to and from Rapid City, which is 80 miles away, to purchase a variety of higher-quality foods.

“It’s frustrating because you have to drive that far just to get your fresh vegetables, and you have to buy [in bulk] because you don’t want to be taking a trip every other day,” said the 43-year-old father of twins. “And it starts to go bad in your refrigerator because it was sitting there too long.”

More than 40,000 members make up the Oglala Lakota Nation and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation spans nearly 3,500 square miles, but the dearth of grocery stores and the high poverty rate put residents in a profound state of food insecurity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).