Grow Our Own Update

We are in the beginning to mid summer of 2021. We have started visiting gardens and receiving pictures of all the beautiful plants and flowers from gardners who support Wind River Grow Our Own. We have started sharing gardens on our Facebook page.

Grow Our Own Garden

The trees we planted in Ethete, Wyoming at the Little Wind Bioregion are coming along nicely. They even have been joined by a 4 year old Canada Red Chokecherry tree which Grow Our Own purchased from Sprouts Greenhouse near Lander, Wyoming.

Canada Red Chokecherry Tree in Ethete, Wyoming

Grow Our Own received a grant from the Equality State Research Network to help 75 additional gardeners. These gardeners received an Earth Box which was a different concept to gardening. An actual introduction to hydroponic growing. The water is stored underneath the soil and watering is more spaced between days.

75 gardeners received Earth Boxes

During the 2021 Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Powwow, Grow Our Own held two events: Kombucha Making

Garden Box Making

Community Invited To Come Plant Chokecherries!

Chokecherry trees will be planted at two community sites for future use.

We are inviting the community to come help plant chokecherry trees. We are planting these trees as a prayer for those we have lost during this pandemic. This journey of sickness in our community has not been good and now we feel it is time to heal. We invite the Wind River Reservation community to this event to come hear the songs and come pray as we offer new life to Mother Earth for her to provide us in years time. We will create a medicine garden for those and our younger generations to learn why we have these medicines, and why they are so important to us. We must protect our medicines. We must protect them from being Exterminated and Exploited!

The day of the ceremony for both locations is on May 8th and May 9th 2021.

We invite the Wind River Community to a sunrise opening where we will have an elder pray over each site and allow community to come plant trees with prayer as an offering to Mother Earth and Creation. We are in time of healing. We invite our community to come and heal. Come help learn and to teach the younger generation the importance of our medicines.

May 8th Sunrise Ceremony 5:58a.m. (Arrive early) Meet at Fort Washakie School starting at 5a.m. to walk to the site.

May 9th Sunrise Ceremony 5:57a.m. (Arrive early) Meet at Little Wind Casino starting at 5a.m. to walk to the site.

Following the ceremony we will have a community leader/elder do an educational component on plant medicines and their uses.

In partnership with the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Fremont County School District #21, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes, and Wind River Grow Our Own 307.

Help us to take care of EACH OTHER and to take care of OUR EARTH HOME!

Gardening:It Takes a Village

They are finding ways to create pathways in the Native American Community on the Wind River Reservation. Sharon Wagon works for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk is the Co-Founder of Wind River Grow Our Own 307, and Jacqueline White works with the Food Bank of the Rockies and serves on the board of directors for Wind River Grow Our Own 307. 

Wind River Grow Our Own 307 received funds from The Wyoming Hunger Initiative back in December of 2020. Those funds were used to build 100 garden boxes made from lumber purchased through local stores in Riverton, Wyoming. 

Through additional donated funds, 50 more boxes were built by community volunteers. With a total of 150 garden boxes, the Grow Our Own organization plans to begin distributing garden boxes and garden supplies to the first 20 participants who have signed up beginning March 1, 2021. 

The garden box distribution will continue throughout the month of March to those who have signed up. Serving on the Board for Wind River Grow Our Own 307, Jacqueline White, Northern Arapaho is grateful to also work for the Food Banks of the Rockies. Her passion is in helping to find ways to feed the people of the Wind River Reservation. 

With Wind River Grow Our Own’s continued passions in gardening and ceremonial and medicinal plant revitalization, Co-Founder Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk says, “Now is an important time to be involved with this important work….planting trees, growing food, building garden boxes, having greenhouses, and growing foods that can be taken as a medicine.”

Sharon Wagon is a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. She is the mother of Wind River Grow Our Own 307 Co-Founder Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk. Sharon works for the Eastern Shoshone Recovery Program in Fort Washakie. “Gardening has helped me to find peace in watching the flowers grow and the plants grow and also a place to free my mind by talking to the plants.” Sharon said, “I want to be more aware of what I eat in a way to help my health and to teach my grandchildren how to garden so they can be healthy.”

Healing through gardening 

Connecting through gardening

Christy Black is one of the volunteers who recently built the garden boxes for Wind River Grow Our Own 307. She said, “I was able to teach my son a skill that he wants to continue. He wants to build garden boxes. Anyone can learn. We learned it from Grow Our Own. I am grateful to have had a moment with my son and glad that we both learned how to make garden boxes. Something he will remember.”

If you would like to donate to Wind River Grow Our Own 307 you may do so by clicking here: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=99L6EDQ5R5DQE&Z3JncnB0=

Fighting Food Scarcity by Building Garden Boxes

In December 2020, Wind River Grow Our Own 307 received funding from the Wyoming Hunger Initiative to build 100 garden boxes for 100 families on and near the Wind River Reservation. The group just recently reached their goal with help of community volunteers and plan to build an additional 50 more garden boxes with funds provided through private donation.

Volunteers: Christy Black, Mark C’Hair, and April Goggles building garden boxes on a cold winter day

With Springtime right around the corner, Wind River Grow Our Own 307 hope to provide seedlings to Fremont County gardeners. An application for a geodome has been submitted.

We are asking all seed starters to plant extra seedlings to donate to our organization so that we may provide them to 225 gardening participants. 

Proposals: Wind River Grow Our Own 307 reached out on an extended partnership with researcher Dr. Christine Porter and researcher Melvin Arthur, where dual program participants who are both Growing Resilience and Grow Our Own with soon get an option to tell their stories via picture and storytelling.

An introduction and update meeting with the Eastern Shoshone Business Council teamed in favor of the project and in favor of the healing of the Wind River Reservation community project; with the planting of Chokecherries, Eastern Red Cedar, Black Currant, Sage, Peppermint, and Sweetgrass, the goal is to create accessibility to Native American traditional plant medicines. “To have medicines right out the backdoor,” Co-Founder Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk says, “With them more readily available throughout the next few years, we hope the community will begin using them. “With education and motivation, we are dedicated to the revitalization of these important plants,” Co-Founder Deneica Barrett says, “We treat the plants right, they are certain to grow back in this area. There will be enough for everyone.”

“Wind River Grow Our Own Logo Designed by Northern Arapaho Artist Janelle Reyes”

“The trees, the medicinal plants, the garden boxes, the seeds, and the starter kits are all made possible by community participants, donors, and partnerships through grants and awards. Without non of these great collaborators, the dreams and goals of preserving culture and health could not be possible.” – Wind River Grow Our Own 307

To donate time or resources to Wind River Grow Our Own 307, please contact either Deneica or Darrah at growourown307@gmail.com

Donations can be made here:

Thank you Wyoming Hunger Initiative!!!

Wind River Grow Our Own 307 was recently awarded a grant from the Wyoming Hunger Initiative to build a total of 100 garden boxes from purchased lumber. The non-profit applied back in October and have now begun the building right after the Christmas holiday. The 100 garden boxes are for participants of the Wind River Grow Our Own 307 program.
The program started back in April of 2020 to help in the teaching of gardening techniques and tips to aid growers, new and old, in producing their own healthy, organic food. The foods grown from gardens are great for the reduction of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Most of the foods we eat today are from a box in processed form or from the fast food drive-thru through which some people rely heavily on because of time and affordability.
Cooking meals, using ingredients from a garden helps promote wellness. Spices created from a garden are also beneficial to one’s daily health (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/cooking-skills/meal-planning/homegrown-meals)

Grow Our Own 307 will begin utilizing Zoom to meet for growing fruits and vegetables this Spring, with the invitation for all.
We are not experts and don’t expect you to be. Just come to Zoom meetings ready to learn and together we can combat food scarcity and health disparities in our community.
Follow us for updates and upcoming projects.

Upcoming Project:
[x ] In April we will begin tree planting. We have ordered chokecherry tree starts and will begin planting for our participants in late April and early May.
[x ] Starter garden kit Delivery to community will begin in April.
[x ] Garden box delivery will begin in late February and go into March.

Wind River Grow Our Own 307 wants to wish the Fremont and Wyoming Communities a safe holiday season. We thank all our funders and all those who support our efforts in the community, without your help none of this would be quite possible. 

Fresh Vegetables from the 2020 harvest season

Many Creative Pumpkins for the first annual Grow Our Own Pumpkin Carving Contest

Wind River Grow Our Own 307 celebrated the 2020 Halloween via social media by posting carved pumpkins from 31 pumpkin carving contestants who participated in the first annual event for Fremont County. The contest was open to all, but most participation came from members of the Wind River Reservation. With prizes in three categories: the most popular, the most creative, and the most scariest; majority of the entries were not your average jack-o-lantern with eyes, a nose, and a mouth. It happened to be that the most popular pumpkin was not carved at all, but had been hand painted to take the appearance of a native cowgirl with cowboy hat and dangling beaded earrings. The winner for this category was the daughter of Dawn Buffalo, 15 year old Sophia Medina. Her popular pumpkin had the most likes and most shares, and because of this, she won a Walmart gift card for $75. 

Native Cowgirl by Sophia Medina
Baby Yoda by Kendryck Shoyo

The most creative pumpkin was submitted by Kendryck Shoyo who is 8 years old and in the 3rd grade at Fort Washakie School. The creative pumpkin submitted by Kendryck was Baby Yoda. This year Wind River Grow Our Own 307 had two participants submit a carved pumpkin both resembling Baby Yoda and Shoyo took the winning prize for detail and patience.  

Kendryck Shoyo won a gift card to Walmart for $50 for most creative pumpkin

The most scariest pumpkin winner this year was Sharmaine Weed with her Werewolf entry. This selection was picked by numerous judges in the judging category held via video where 13 judges from the Fremont County community selected one choice for most creative and one choice for most scariest. 

Sharmaine Weed won most scariest pumpkin winning a gift card for $25 to Walmart

The first annual pumpkin carving contest sponsored by Wind River Grow Our Own 307 was a big success filled with creativity and fun, both Founder Deneica Barrett and Executive Director Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk agree this is an event they will continue to have in the upcoming future. 

Deneica Barret: “We will definitely do this again!”

Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk: “Yes, we will do this again, it was fun!”

First Time Gardener on the Wind River Reservation heals from loss through gardening

A first time gardener and resident of the Wind River Reservation, Vernalyn Bearing has found success in growing vegetables her first year. Vernalyn says gardening has not only helped with providing fresh vegetables, but has also helped her grieve the loss of her father.

“When I needed tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, or peas, I didn’t have to go to the grocery store and risk exposure.”

Vernalyn: “I found a connection to my dad when I was grieving his loss. He was the best green thumb I knew, and I learned how to take care of plants from him. So I found comfort when I was gardening.”

Vernalyn: “He always told me if you put your mind to something you can do anything. So I started gardening. I didn’t think I could do it but I did.”

Crawford White Sr. passed over in January at the beginning of 2020 and Vernalyn Bearing a graduate student attending the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work says the nonprofit Wind River Grow Our Own 307 has really helped her during this difficult time of loss and through the Covid-19 pandemic. “The program gave me an opportunity with support, being a working parent, and student, when I couldn’t purchase what I needed Grow Our Own was super helpful,” says Bearing.

“I would make a meal using wild game and vegetables.”
“It was a good feeling to clip vegetables and go inside and cook with what we grew.”

Vernalyn has always dreamed of having a garden but couldn’t just yet, because of her living space. Through now owning her own home, she says she can plant trees, and garden, whereas renting it wasn’t as easy to do so.

Gardening has been her connection to comfort during the loss of her dad who once told her, “There is no adopted, I’m your dad.” Vernalyn honors her dad’s words for he was the best green thumb she knew and she learned how to take care of plants from him. At one point she doubted that she could maintain a garden but after the 2020 growing season she is already preparing for 2021 and the vegetables it will bring. 

Better Garden Boxes for Wind River Grow Our Own Participants

For the Spring of 2020, Wind River Grow Our Own was able to build raised garden boxes for interested Wind River Reservation gardeners, making a total of 30 boxes from old wooden pallets.
With donated funding, they were able to purchase wood for the building of more solid, durable boxes;10 garden boxes went to the Wind River Cares Diabetes Program and 10 went to the Saint Michael’s Mission which are both located in Ethete, Wyoming.
The lifespan of these newer wooden boxes compared to the wood pallet garden boxes are expected to last anywhere from 3 to 5 years or longer, with care.
With Covid-19 creating a spur the moment challenge of building the garden boxes at the beginning of 2020, Grow Our Own has decided they will not rush into box building in 2021 and have been busy working on the creation of 50 boxes for community members. These 50 boxes will go to participants who recieved the old wooden crate-style boxes the previous growing season.
It is the goal of Wind River Grow Our Own to build more boxes. With more funding we would be are able to create more boxes for more families.
With the Wind River Reservation population at 26,490 (2010 Census), there is more need for local homegrown foods. For gardening can help with food scarcity, but also provide care for mental health for sadness, depression, and suicide prevention. Gardening has really helped heal a few hearts in such a short time. With the need for more Wind River Reservation residents gardening, Grow Our Own can help teach gardeners the knowledge to produce food through the teachings and lessons of all Wind River Grow Our Own participants. We at Grow Our Own are continously searching for funders to help aid in our projects. Interested funders, please contact Wind River Grow Our Own 307 via email at growourown307@gmail.com

Chokecherry Medicine

Chokecherries are a medicine for many

“When she told me she 76 years old I was awestruck at how active she was in picking chokecherries for members of the Wind River Reservation community,” Sally Palmer contacted Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk of Wind River Grow Our Own 307 and mentioned that the Laramie community had thousands of chokecherries that she walks by each day. She said, “It makes me sad to see so much of them go to waste.” An agreement was made that if Sally could get some volunteers to help her pick the berries, she would send them via postal mail.

“At first I thought no way can chokecherries be mailed, they will go bad,” Perez-Good Voice Elk said, “But then they arrived, and after opening the package I took a hand full of berries and instantly thought who shall I give them to, I don’t want them to go bad.” The chokecherries had made it to the Wind River Reservation.
Because of the vast expanse of the area where Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk lives on the land, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, Darrah at first thought…gas to get from point A to point B would be an issue. Her first instinct was to sell the berries for a small price, but the demand was so high that the berries were gone before even leaving the gas station.
With a call coming in the next day from Chesie Lee of the Riverton Peace Mission, the news was… another box of chokecherries had arrived. Once opened a note inside read, “3500 cherries carefully picked.” Was Sally Palmer counting all the chokecherries one by one, this was a question Darrah had asked.

Sally Palmer organized the picking of chokecherries to send to the Native community on the Wind River Reservation

The Native American classify chokecherries as a medicinal food. The healing properties are within the pit of the berry. Amygdalin and prunasin create hydrogen cyanide. In small quantities hydrogen cyanide can stimulate respiration and can help promote digestion. In small amounts it is also known to fight cancer cells. The fair warning is that in consumption of large amounts hydrogen cyanide is deadly and can result in serious injury or death.

The ancestors knew that all good things came with consuming the berries in moderation. This is something that is still being taught today in Native communities.

“I remember when my late grandmother would pull out her grinder and grind up chokecherries. She even ground up the pit to make chokecherry gravy,” Darrah says. “I never knew while growing up that the gravy was not only a traditional food but also contained medicinal properties.”

Co-Founder Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk harvesting lettuce from a garden

Today, Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk likes to learn about the different health benefits created by eating the foods of her ancestors whether through foraging or creating and growing gardens through the nonprofit Wind River Grow Our Own 307. The goal of the program is to bring back food sovereignty through gardening, and through the teaching and continued learning of medicinal food properties to aid in the health and wellness of the Wind River Reservation population.

Members of Wind River Grow Our Own 307 can be reached via email at: growourown307@gmail.com

Why Grow Our Own?

Grow Our Own started at the beginning of the year when toilet paper and food started becoming scarce off of store shelves.

Empty shelves at the grocery store!

Darrah Perez-Good Voice Elk and Deneica Barrett came up with a plan to utilize zoom with friends and family. “It started out with the planting of strawberries,” Barrett said, “Darrah had a plan to get us to grow our own food.”

Strawberries in a basket!

They planted strawberries from the seed on the app Zoom and the following week they planted potatoes in a box. Technology had become their connection.

The Grow Our Own group has a Zoom meeting every Sunday starting at 11a.m. where they start each session with an introduction and reintroduction for those who are new or for others who are curious to know what others are doing. So far it has been a great way to connect and gain inspiration for what the Wind River gardening community is doing.

Weekly zoom!

With gardeners from all levels of experience Wind River Grow Our Own 307’s weekly zoom has become a great way to keep everyone connected with what’s going to happen next in the Wind River/Fremont County gardening community.

Connections are made on Zoom!

Each week the zoom meetings are recorded and can be watched upon Grow Our Own’s YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy12z9z-mb4Iqsxoc4QzOWw