Conversations about a Citizen Potawatomi Nation Community Garden began in 2014 when tribal members and employees brainstormed ideas how to bring Citizen Potawatomi of various generations together for cultural activities.
“Gardening and farming is something our Potawatomi ancestors have done together for centuries. We wanted to have a place where families or groups of any age could come and spend time together, outside in the fresh air,” CPN Cultural Heritage Center Director Kelli Mosteller, Ph.D., said. “It is an opportunity to get some exercise, work with your hands and see where our food comes from.”
As many Hownikan readers know, this idea became reality in 2014 as a CPN Cultural Heritage Center project. The garden has moved to its third location for spring 2017 and many cultural aspects are being added to the new space.
“We have a three sisters garden area that is set aside from the rest in this garden. It allows us to grow our beans, corn and squash together, the way our ancestors did,” said Mosteller. “We are also building an outdoor kitchen area that will allow people, including our youth program, to cook over fire using more traditional techniques. In the future, we hope to grow some of our traditional medicines around the garden complex.”
The new garden site has been a joint effort by several CPN departments and a lot of manpower is still needed to make this year’s garden a success.
“It takes a great deal of work to get a garden of this size established, and we compounded the amount of work by including the construction of the hoop house, the new shed, and the relocation of the greenhouse,” Mosteller said. “The spring and summer months require at least six to 10 volunteers working an hour or two per week to keep up with regular maintenance activities, like weeding, watering, adding compost or mulch, checking for bugs and more.”
At harvest time, garden coordinators will call for ‘all hands on deck.’ Some vegetables, like okra, peppers, and some beans need to be harvest almost every day, Mosteller explained.
This year, two full-time employees – Andrew Gourd and Coby Lehman – and intern Heath Steward, are spending much of their time working at the garden. They can adjust their schedules to spend several hours a week working on the project when it is necessary.
“I don’t think we could have made this transition to the new garden spot without them. It has really taken a team who can stop everything else and focus on the looming projects that have to be completed so we can move on to the next task,” Mosteller said. “I’m really grateful for all of them. I’m excited that this is something we offer to the community.”
If you are interested in getting involved with the CPN Community Garden, follow the “Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Cultural Heritage Center” Facebook page for updates at cpn.news/garden.