Meet A Farmer

Kelsey Scott
DX Ranch

Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation

“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 exist in the genetic potential of our people should be leveraged.”

Kelsey Scott

“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 Scott

It’s 6am. The morning breeze sways alongside the native grasses near the Cheyenne River on the Sioux Reservation. The sun awakens, stretching its rays far and wide, reminding the vast open grasslands to rise and shine. This ecosystem of mixed grass prairies were developed under the cloven hoofed animals of the antelope and the bison and the deer.

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 Scott, a 4th generation rancher of the Cheyenne River Sioux 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.


Kelsey’s vision for the future is beautiful and it begins with the wakanjeja. 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 Scott

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.”

“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

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.

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.

Lineage and the Path to Purpose

Kelsey Scott is a 4th generation steward of The DX Ranch on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, carrying with her the innate wisdom that comes with being raised amidst the rugged beauty and harsh reality of the reservation. The imprint of a sacred connection to the land, resources, community, and the lineage that defines her heritage was, and still is, the north star for her life’s work.

Her living canvas is her ranch as she embodies the practices of her ancestors while advocating for a legacy of resilience and reverence for the earth that is rare to find and unforgettable when you see her in action.

Growing up attending a tribal school alongside 15 classmates for most of her childhood, she developed a deep appreciation for her cultural roots and the importance of an interconnected way of seeing the world. Her journey led her to pursue a passion for veterinary sciences, but it was at South Dakota State University where she discovered her true calling. Shifting her focus to Rangeland Management and later earning her Master’s in Agriculture from Colorado State University, she paired her education with the Indigenous lifeways she grew up with and found her purpose in applying and advocating for regenerative practices (practices native to Indigenous people ages before it was referred to as “regenerative”)

Her life is a loom – every day, each thread intricately woven representing the various strands of her experiences, choices, and relationships built on this land. Just as the weaver carefully selects and intertwines threads to create a tapestry, she navigates the complexities of this landscape, intertwining moments of joy, challenge, triumph, and growth. With each pass of the shuttle, the fabric of her life expands, revealing patterns of creativity and sovereignty. And just as the loom requires balance and rhythm to create a masterpiece, she finds equilibrium in the mosaic of her cattle and horses, the far reaching grasslands and her community – regeneration in a fluid cycle – for all life.


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 Chief Strategy Officer 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 and her team oversee regenerative, innovative, and strategic activities in the organization in service to their member tribes and American Indian and Alaskan Native tribal producers across the nation. 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.”

When People and Food Reconnect

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.”

The Indigenous legacy of regenerative practices are utilized throughout the vastness of her land, strategically grazing cattle and working within the natural cycles of nature, “It was really exciting to be able to try to find ways to mimic nature. And to me, that’s what regenerative agriculture is, it is stepping back and listening to nature a little bit better than we’ve allowed ourselves to and trying to mimic it in the way that it has evolved to exist.”

When Kelsey peaks the hilltops in the valley to seek out her herd, she feels connected to the generations that came before her.

“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 grandparents left behind a herd of horses which have become symbolic on the ranch and the inspiration of Project H3LP, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which Kelsey leads along with a team of family and community members, teaching lifemanship to youth.

“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.”

– Kelsey Scott

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.

Kelsey carries these philosophies with her into her work with the Intertribal Agriculture Council, where she spends each day supporting an ecosystem-wide effort where she believes all generations can engage. In reflecting on her work with the IAC she shared, “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”

“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

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.

Where are
they now?

We are circling back to witness what has shifted, evolved, composted and changed within her, the community and on the land.
How has your understanding of regenerative agriculture shifted in the past 3 years?
What has shifted the most over the past three years for me in my understanding of regenerative agriculture is embodying a regenerative thought process internally and not being so critical of myself.

Three years ago, my interpretation of regenerative agriculture had a belittling thought pattern; I was constantly critiquing or criticizing the ways we weren’t accomplishing, “best”. In the grand scheme of things, I was focusing on the micro issues and oftentimes considering any indication of disturbance as bad. I continue to grow in my ability to look at the entire system and I have come to appreciate that sometimes a small little section within the system will have to get overextended, for the benefit of the greater system progressing forward. And as I’ve started to be able to associate and recognize those very degenerative ways of thinking, I’ve realized that regenerative agriculture is on a time continuum – it takes time.

Of equal importance is to practice a mindset that is regenerative in nature, one that is working to rebuild. So as we start to extend grace and more regenerative thought processes to ourselves, we begin to really model appreciation for the fact that we are going to make mistakes. If we’re not making mistakes, we’re probably not trying. The whole point behind this regenerative mindset is working within the system, embracing it, and not trying to control it. Learning from the ebbs and flows and embracing them rather than using them as measurements of failure has led me to look for more success in some instances, and inspired me to completely redefine success in other instances.

What new evolutions have surfaced on your farm since your feature? Please share the victories, challenges, and all the updates!
The past few years have definitely presented producers in my region with some very unique and unpredicted challenges, like weather events for example. What we’ve been able to appreciate and recognize is how valuable a regenerative ecosystem is in being able to withstand those shifts. Planning and managing for the day to day regeneratively has future payoffs which may not be apparent in a typical production year. This isn’t the first time that our ranch has had to withstand a drought or a really treacherous winter, but it’s the first time we’ve had to withstand them back to back in such a short period of time and NOT had to tremendously shift our approach to production. Being able to see our system maintain and thrive in the continuum of weather patterns was really a great learning opportunity for us and reinforced our awareness of how meaningful and important this work is.

From a more logistical or technical standpoint, we have diversified our ranch income streams. A unique way we’ve grown our direct to consumer grass fed beef business is by raising calves through to slaughter, tapping into new markets, and establishing new relationships with local food efforts in a way that we’re really proud of and excited by. There are niche offerings surfacing for regenerating our food systems. And that’s really at the heart of why DX beef exists; we want people to have access to quality food that nourishes their mind, body, and soul, and to have a connection with nature. We prioritize care for system over profit, and to see the repairs of our local food system happening more regularly with more hands. I’m proud that we’ve helped to contribute to the extent we can – we definitely come in and learn from folks that were already in this space – that’s a part of what that generational knowledge transfer is about.

We’ve also continued to improve our infrastructure so that we can more intentionally target our grazing efforts based on what the plant community is asking of us. We’re able to have more deliberate and extended rest periods and more water infrastructure by mimicking beaver dams so that wildlife and livestock have more watering points. We continue to reduce our inputs and really prioritize a low input cattle herd that’s well matched to the environment so that we’re not having to work so hard and invest so much money in order to make the cattle produce at quality. We’re constantly writing down when the warblers or bald eagles are migrating through and doing a better job of tracking and getting curious if our management is having an influence on them.

Additionally, this past year, we have a record of doctoring one calf through the entire growing season. We’re really proud to know that the animals aren’t stressed, not getting sick, and are more resilient to airborne or pest borne diseases in general.

I’m always thinking through how we are modeling regenerative systems thought processes within our families existence and relationship with one another as it relates to those living on and off the ranch. There wasn’t such a thing as paid help for DX Beef when I started because we were still young as a business, and I never wanted to ask for help or impose upon anybody – that’s a very degenerative way of approaching it. I leaned more into family that was willing and wanted to help and retraining my thought process to see this need for help not as an imposition, but as an opportunity for more folks to be a part of healing the local food system. Inviting more family into the fold has been really helpful for me, the business, and the success of DX Beef. Opening our homes in the way that my grandma and grandpa really modeled is one of the things I’m really looking forward to embracing in this new year.

As a 4th generation, female Lakota rancher, what is your perspective on what is needed to achieve food sovereignty for your people? What support do you need/ how can our community support you?
What I think community members across the country can do to help farmers and ranchers like myself is to meet us where we’re at, do what you can to buy local, and invest in local efforts that support these farmers and ranchers. Depending on where you’re at, that might mean contributing to a fish and wildlife organization that benefits farmers and ranchers that are working to deploy wildlife friendly grazing, and sometimes that means going to the farmers market and buying directly from the farmer or rancher.

I think that we have to get curious as community members around how we can be better stewards of the community that we are a part of. Being a better community member is keeping our food dollars and any of our personal spending dollars as local as possible; dollars that are circulated within your local economy will turn over and create more economic impact. So I think when you support your local farmers and ranchers by buying products directly from them, it helps to push back against the very monopolized food system that we’re currently all victims of in this country. We can have co-ownership in healing our food system. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be planting a garden or growing your own meat, it just means you have to get curious about where your food products are coming from, and become inspired to source more of those food products from within the local economy.

As a Lakota rancher on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation, I recognize that my community needs the same as any other community in pursuit of food sovereignty; the community must embrace partnership with one another in healing our food system. We need to come together as a community and to more intentionally plan for, co-design, and co-create what we believe and define as food sovereignty. We need to come up with a plan to clearly define roles and measures of accountability for us to rebuild a food system that is sovereign.

I think we also need to model our tribal way of thinking that existed on this continent a long time ago, but seems to be very void of food systems presently on this continent. At one point, we had such a robust relationship with nature that our food system was plentiful. We were able to trade additional surplus with those that were less fortunate and didn’t have the access. There was no such thing as food inequities; everybody was facing famine if there was famine, or nobody was facing famine because there was a sharing of access to the food system that was modeled in tribal communities. And I think that’s a beautiful reality to build towards in our pursuit for food sovereignty. We MUST be able to reach everybody within the system. It’s not just about a community; food sovereignty is also every individual household being food and nutrient secure within that system. We’ve got a long way to go in practicing that thoughtful approach and community way of being, but I believe that we can.

What brings you hope?
Over the past three years, I’ve become a mother. I have a 1.5 year old son who is a “little rancher baby” through and through. From the minute he wakes up until he falls asleep in the evening, he loves to be immersed in nature, and being able to watch how innate that desire for connection with nature is for him gives me a lot of hope. There’s been an evolution over the past several generations in what connection with nature looks like, and for many members of society that connection has been lost. Aside from my husband and I having the good fortune of being able to expose our son to nature, his desire to have an obvious relationship with the natural world was just innate in him. He wanted to be on the ground, touching the soil, smelling the plants, feeling the animals, etc. I think that is an inspiring thing: that we get to be born with a desire – a longing – for kinship with nature. That really gives me hope. It makes me believe we’re going to come back to that deep relational awareness with nature because it’s a biological connection we have – we know we’re supposed to crave it, to gain microbiome from the soil, to gain nourishment from our plants, to gain trust and reciprocity from our animals. We know this when we’re born and I’m seeing that modeled by 1.5 year old, and that’s been a really inspiring and hopeful thing to get to learn.
How has your previous Farmer’s Footprint feature impacted your life/work?
There are a few ways that the previous Farmers Footprint article has impacted my life, and I can’t isolate the ongoing relationship I’ve gotten to have with Farmers Footprint as well – in a couple of ways.

When my article came out with Farmer’s Footprint, it was the first time I had received any sort of hate correspondence around butchering of livestock, and it’s just because it’s the first time I think my story was being told on a platform that distinctly and uniquely tried to engage with a different subset of consumers than the ones that I regularly interacted with. So I wasn’t quite expecting that and I didn’t quite have responses for those types of questions. That was an interesting learning experience for me, but what I loved was the way that Farmer’s Footprint really stood by me as the farmer; I didn’t really feel like y’all were defending me, but you definitely took it upon yourself to put articulate and thoughtful correspondents out there in response to some of the questions or statements that were accusations posted alongside the initial article. And I really appreciate that – I felt that was something you didn’t necessarily need to do, but it showed that you did actually deeply care about the success of the farmer and rancher and you weren’t just using us as a way to draw attention to yourself, and I appreciated that.

The second thing that had a really meaningful impact for me was that you guys pulled out aspects of my story that are just my normal life, but you were able to find and point out beauty and joy and privilege and all of the different things about my life. It was mainly virtual, but you were able to pick up on whatever sound bites you could and you told a really beautiful story, and it helped. It kind of further contextualized for me how meaningful of a life I do get to live. I mean, I’ve always felt very privileged and honored to be able to have these opportunities in front of me, but you all contextualized them a little different than the ways that I’ve appreciated those opportunities to be, and so it inspired me to dig deeper into my own awareness and gratitude for just how much depth my life as a farmer gets to have. I really appreciate that additional kind of contextual framing; seeing how you guys talked about us helps me.

The third thing that I would highlight or call out is my interaction with Leia. I definitely could tell that Farmer’s Footprint was not, and maybe it was just Leia I guess, but y’all weren’t just approaching this conversation, this dialogue, this narrative, through a conventional mindset. The questions that were asked were deeper and more interconnected, and it was obvious that there was a good amount of homework put in on Farmers Footprint’s side to really just uplevel the the ways in which you communicate and asked the questions. It’s not just a surface-level ‘tell me what practices you do’, which is a lot of what the regen ag promotional features really hone in on you. You help us learn from your mindset and you took it deeper, which to me shows that you guys aren’t only uplifting folks and producers that are working hard to think regeneratively, but you’re working to think and model regenerative thought systems yourselves. And so I really appreciated that and every conversation that I got to have I enjoyed deeply. I was humbled by, inspired by, and I learned from – and that’s not always the case when as a producer you pick up an interview or you agree to hosting somebody on your ranch. So thank you for that, it’s been a really wonderful and rewarding relationship for me as well, not just from the social media content or the storytelling that you’ve helped me to do, but it’s helped me and my own personal journey in life too.

And I will comment also that Leia driving out to our annual conference and being there, truly just being immersed in it, and soaking it in and watching the ways that her eyes genuinely lit up when she was talking to me about what she was learning – it just was such a meaningful sentiment. I know that it was not intended to be like a bargaining chip in the relationship; it wasn’t intended to manipulate the relationship, right? Which can oftentimes be the situation when there’s like a power dynamic at play, similar to, you know, the Farmer’s Footprint relationship with farmers, but that’s not why you were there, you were genuinely there to learn, and to be a part of the community and that was very apparent, and so it just is a another example of the ways that the team at Farmer’s Footprint is embracing the opportunity to think deeper in this life and I really respect and appreciate you guys for that.

Learn more, support, and stay connected with Kelsey: