Meet a Farmer : Kelsey Ducheneaux | Farmer’s Footprint

DX Ranch

Location: Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation
Website: www.indianag.org, www.projecth3lp.org, www.dxbeef.com
Contact: Instagram or Facebook

“A very great vision is needed, and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky.”

— Crazy Horse, Lakota Tribe

And if you can just envision yourself, for a moment, on the ranch, you’d likely see a rider far off in the horizon. Her name is Kelsey Ducheneaux, a 4th generation rancher of the Lakota tribe in South Dakota. Boots in stirrups, hair back, hat on, and she’s ready to lasso her vision closer to reality. Within moments of meeting her you quickly realize there is nothing that will get in the way of her vision.

For most of us, the space between vision and implementation is usually far greater than we initially imagine. If we really knew what it would take to accomplish the dreams that float in the corners of our hearts and heads, we’d likely never start the race to catch them and bring them down to earth to make them real.

“No matter what it is, whether it be in law or healthcare fields or agriculture, the lineage of our family’s focus has in some form or fashion contributed to the greater good.”

Kelsey’s vision for the future is beautiful and it begins with the wakhanheza. Wakanjeja means children in Lakota which is interpreted to translate as “sacred gift”. She imagines a world where there is a robust food system for all of Indian country, one that is locally derived and regeneratively designed, not necessarily just in the capacity of regenerative agriculture production practices, but also in making the resource base stretch and continually innovate to find unique ways to enhance the needs of the community.

Kelsey believes all of this should be led by the visionaries and leaders within the youngest generations of youth within the tribe. “In my ideal world, it would have youth as leaders at the forefront of making decisions, offering valuable input, exercising and growing as leaders in the spaces that we create. I hope that in my work I can help community members and youth realize that they don’t just live in the middle of nowhere. I want them to realize they live in a sea of resources and opportunities and that they truly can map out their future and figure out a way to hopefully have their future bring them back home; to contribute to, develop and expand on all of the great ongoing efforts that we’ve got here and across Indian country everywhere.

When we asked Kelsey how she plans to make her vision a reality she was quick to clarify that money isn’t the only solution and that behavioral change can happen if we start with perception.

“I truly don’t think that any part of my vision takes an excessive amount of money. I mean, money sure helps. But money is a very short term solution in establishing the infrastructure and charging the economy for a short stint of time. Money doesn’t actually get at the heart of the issues.”

Kelsey feels strongly that the food system and economies are unmatched because of the conformation to varying cultural beliefs and cultural structures that have been pushed onto native communities.

“I think that there’s a lot to be learned from Indigenous systems and there’s a lot of potential that could be tapped into if we had more allies willing to learn from indigenous systems and production practices. Our human resources and the resiliency that exists in the genetic potential of our people should be leveraged.”

The potential of her people and wider Indigenous communities is extensive and, she feels, could be a place for symbiotic relationships and resource sharing. Two of the largest opportunities include the extensive growing season experienced on the Cheyenne River which could be producing food based crops that could better feed communities. Second is the phenomenal capacity they have for producing local, grass fed meat.

“In the old days they said that you were measured by your generosity, not how much money you earned.. you were measured by how you could feed the people.. how you could house them, how you could take care of them.”

— Elder Faith Spotted Eagle

Kelsey’s work is the epitome of Elder Faith Spotted Eagle’s quote. All of Kelsey’s efforts are dedicated to caring for and feeding her people, and in the process, creating a template for other Indigienous communities to use to thrive.

Kelsey’s work is extensive so we are going to break it all down, but first let’s go back to where her passion for regenerative agriculture began.

Kelsey Ducheneaux is the 4th generation of The DX Ranch on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. She was raised on the reservation and went to school with 15 other kids at a tribal school, and then graduated from a local public school with 19 classmates.Throughout her upbringing, she fell in love with veterinary sciences. She went to South Dakota State University where she realized while she loved the topic, it was not her forte and quickly shifted gears and tackled her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Rangeland Management and then her Master’s of Agriculture Degree in Integrated Resource Management from Colorado State University.

This is where the magic happened for Kelsey. What started as a journey into textbooks, lectures, and study groups, sparked a passion in working directly with land managers and producers to promote regenerative agricultural practices and has become an all encompassing career.

THIYÓŠPAYE (N) — LAKȞÓTA

A clan-like division of a tribe; extended family; community

When you look at the expansiveness of Kelsey’s work, it’s as though her Lakota lineage is dancing with the present moment and the song of everything she does is resounding with community.

Let’s hop off the horse and break down everything she’s got her hands in these days:

She is the Natural Resources Director for the Intertribal Agriculture Council, which presents her with a unique opportunity to support the improvement of Indian lands for Indian peoples across the nation.

Kelsey’s goal at IAC is to help to enhance Indian agriculture for the benefit of Indian people. She develops natural resource specific curriculum, outreach materials, workshops, resource toolkits designed specifically for Indian producers across the country. She will analyze agricultural operations and help figure out how they can add dimension to their operations by vertically integrating or diversifying their systems to mitigate risk, shifting investments or taking back ownership of managing their land and resources.

She is also the owner of DX Beef LLC, which offers locally raised beef for direct sale. If you ask Kelsey she’ll say, “Yeah, I’m the owner of DX Beef, but more importantly, I’m a steward of the land and its communities.”

Kelsey feels the culture, tradition, and story should be affixed alongside that of our food. The driving force behind her operation is to help consumers reconnect with their food source.

“Consumers have the opportunity to be as connected to their food source as desired. We hope to offer an insight into where our beef is raised, who has cared for the animals, how our beef gets from pasture to plate, and the Lakota culture that carries DX Beef through every step of the process.”

When Kelsey peaks the hilltops in the valley to seek out her herd, she feels connected to the grandfather and the peace he brought to the community.

“No matter what it is, whether it be in law or healthcare fields or agriculture, the lineage of our family’s focus has in some form or fashion contributed to the greater good.”

“Granny and Poppy made sure we looked at the world with a sense of community and public service and to empower and inspire people to H3LP others.”

Lifemanship is a simple, holistic process designed to help foster responsible development in all four aspects of life; Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual. Lifemanship is the constant development and fine-tuning of the skills necessary for improving one’s life.

Project H3LP! has developed a practical, logical way to encourage the construction, repair, and enhancement of our people’s personal foundations and by extension an improvement in the quality of their lives. Additionally the program includes both youth from the reservation as well as non-Indigenous youth who visit and participate in their ranch’s equine internship program.

And when she steps back from it all, this is how she sees all of these projects coming together to make a difference, “I’d like to think that all of these different components of our organization work together. First, working with youth, getting them excited and eventually inspiring those youth to become beginning food and ag producers. They’ll then work with our technical assistance specialist and that technical assistance specialist will help them to get access to equitable financial lending terms and develop their natural resources and a business plan. Eventually we’ll have fostered and helped that producer to get to the point where they’re involved in our American Indian foods program and we’re helping them to export their food product locally and around the world and really highlighting the benefit of all of our indigenous foods and all of the good that that brings into our food system”

From the time Kelsey meets that radiant sunrise at 6am all the way to sunset on those prairie grasslands, her vision for the future is just like that eagle seeking the deep blue skies. Generations upon generations have walked the same lands she now loves and it is when we explore the footsteps of the past, rich in knowledge and reverence of being a steward of the land, that a regenerative future becomes possible.

“If you too, would come to love this land as our ancestors did, all the problems of the word will fall away like autumn leaves in the wind.”

— Tony Ten Fingeres Wanbili Nata’u Oglala Lakota

Stories like this one, that connect you directly to the farmer journey, are made possible only with your support. If you loved this, consider donating to Farmer’s Footprint — a 501c3 dedicated to the regenerative movement here.

Originally published at https://farmersfootprint.us.

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