Western South Dakota is home to the three counties with the nation’s highest poverty rate, and four of the top 10, according to US Census Bureau statistics.
In Todd County, South Dakota, where the Rosebud Sioux reservation is, has an unemployment rate over 80 percent, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. About 76 percent of the employed labor force on the Rosebud Sioux reservation lives below poverty level and 58 percent of youth under the age of 18 in Todd County live below the poverty level (both on and off reservation).
Lakota Youth Development started Honey Lodge to teach youth about beekeeping, honey, pollination, permaculture, Lakota values, and entrepreneurship. Youth grow and slit hives under a mentor and apprenticeship program. They have the opportunity to take hives home over the summer, harvest the honey for themselves and their family, and sell back extra honey to Honey Lodge. Older youth participants often become staff members at Honey Lodge; many have taken over day-to-day aspects of the business.
The Honey Lodge enterprise (keeping bees, collecting and selling honey) supports Lakota Youth Development's overall mission of promoting education and healthy lifestyles for youth through culturally based strategies. Youth learn critical skills to nurture the environment, build entrepreneurial skills, and thrive in today's world.
- According to the USDA, over one-third of all crop production in the US—90 crops ranging from nuts to berries to flowering vegetables—requires insect pollination. Managed honey bee colonies are the primary pollinators and add at least $15 billion a year by increasing yields and helping ensure quality harvests.
- North and South Dakota are the highest honey-producing states in the US.
- One out of every three bites of food you eat has been in contact with a honeybee.
- Honey Lodge has served over 550 youth and has sold its honey in 38 states.
- Featured on two South Dakota Public Broadcasting TV station programs (Dakota Focus and Savor Dakota)
- Featured in a Mt. Rushmore promotional video and on a National Public Radio talk show as the only native owned youth beekeeping enterprise
- Honey Lodge has been certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation
- Articles about Honey Lodge have been published by Powwows.com and Dakota Rural Action
- Triple the number of hives that they can send out with youth into all 20 communities of the Rosebud Sioux reservation
- Increase impact reservation-wide to include the youth's families and extended families
- Improve workforce development opportunities for local Lakota youth
- Rosebud Sioux Tribe
- Rosebud Economic Development Corporation
- Small Business Administration
- South Dakota Department of Tourism
- Jerry Owens, Mentor and Bee Trainer
- Business growth
- Access to capital and new markets
- Youth skills development
Beekeeping for Native Youth Enterprises
Fellow Lakota Youth Development Honey Lodge, which uses beekeeping to support native-owned youth enterprises, received a $10,000 grant from Solve in 2019 for being selected as an Indigenous Communities Fellow.