Growing Tribal Farming Capacity and Outreach

Progress report for ENE21-173

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $142,007.00
Projected End Date: 11/29/2024
Grant Recipients: United South and Eastern Tribes; Cornell University; Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Lea Zeise
United South and Eastern Tribes
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Project Information

Performance Target:

17 Tribal farm staff will participate in train-the-trainer workshops and expand their capacity as agriculture service providers by developing culturally-relevant curricula on five topics (soil health, raised beds, planting plans, composting, and canning) and delivering 36 workshops to 150 subsistence and direct-market farmers in six Tribal Nations. 40 of these farmers will begin or expand a sustainable agriculture project as a result of attending an agricultural service provider-instructed community class.

Introduction:

Indigenous farming is undergoing a revolution in the Northeast calling for innovation in technical assistance delivery to Tribal Nation citizens. Seven Tribal Nations identified the need to train their agriculture or outreach staff in sustainable agriculture topics in order to provide in-house assistance. This project trains Tribal Nation staff with culturally-relevant curriculum and supports them in delivering workshops to farmers in their communities.

Description of Problem or Opportunity

The 150 Tribal farmers who stand to benefit from this project typically operate small farms of 10 acres or less for subsistence and ceremonial purposes. The 2017 Agriculture Census counts just 163 producers as Native American in New York and Maine. However, in just one round of surveys, project partners received 150 Tribal farmers responses, demonstrating the need for beginning farmer training for Maine and New York Tribes on topic areas requested in the survey.

This point also illustrates that Tribal farmers are vastly undercounted by the Ag Census. As farmers who don’t fit the conventional notion of farming despite being this continent's first agriculturalists, Tribal farmers typically do not participate in USDA programs or interact with Extension services. Instead, Tribal farmers turn to their peers and resources within their Tribal Nations. 

Fortunately, Tribal leaders had the foresight to lay the groundwork for in-house agriculture service to their citizens. In the past five years, several Tribal Nations in the Northeast have established agricultural enterprises that incorporate modern and traditional production, harvest, and storage approaches with the goal of building food sovereignty. Food sovereignty from an indigenous perspective focuses on developing holistic food systems that serve to synchronously improve the health of Mother Earth and ukwehu:wé (“The Original People”). To that end, Tribal food sovereignty programs have the potential to serve as a hub of not only healthy, indigenous foods but also indigenous knowledge and sustainable agriculture technical assistance.

The primary opportunity in this case lies within Tribal farm enterprises, of which seven have indicated their need for staff training to expand capacity as agriculture service providers (ASPs). The three in New York are: Seneca Nation of Indians’ Gakwi:yo:h Farms, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Agriculture Department, and Shinnecock Indian Tribe’s Natural Resources Department. And in Maine there is the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township and the Boys and Girls Club of Border Towns which operates community gardens at Passamaquoddy - Pleasant Point, Aroostook Band of Micmacs, and Houlton Band of Maliseets. Directors have already tapped staff to participate in this project’s TTT process and expand their capacity as ASPs, utilizing their farms and gardens as demonstration sites to conduct sustainable agriculture workshops for local farmers. Collectively, ASPs and Tribal farmers will improve farm productivity, increase food sovereignty, heal soil and water, strengthen cultural traditions, and build collaborative relationships with external partners. 

Solution and Benefits 

United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) designed the project to ensure new knowledge, skills, and attitudes are gained through reciprocity between Tribal Nations and Key Individuals (KIs) from USET, Cornell Extension, and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). 

At the onset of the project, KIs will attend a Cultural Awareness webinar series to provide insights into Tribal agriculture, set cultural protocols, and set the tone of reciprocal learning. As agriculture service providers themselves, KIs will come away with an improved understanding of Tribal Nations and agriculture which will serve them for years to come. 

In Phase Two, Tribal farm staff will co-develop curriculum with KIs and gain knowledge of technical agriculture content through hands-on train-the-trainer workshops, utilizing their farms as demonstration sites. As they learn, farm staff will gain the confidence to deliver workshops, honing their skills through practice lessons delivered between Tribal farm staff peers. Short evaluations after each learning module will provide feedback to Tribal staff and KIs on areas to improve the curriculum. Workshop topics were chosen to align with the needs of Tribal farmers and Tribal farm partners: Soil health, Planting planning, Composting, Raised beds, and Canning. 

Successful workshop delivery goes beyond technical knowledge, so Tribal farm staff will also learn adult learning, event marketing, and evaluation subject matter. These skills will further build confidence and help ensure continual improvement in workshop delivery content, format, and execution beyond the timeline of this project. Collecting evaluations is important for this grant because after submitting each workshop evaluation summary, Tribal farms will receive a stipend for their staff time. KIs want to ensure the farm staff have all the tools they need to hit each milestone in this project and future projects to come as established ASPs.  

In Phase Three, ASPs deliver workshops to Tribal farmers with the support of KIs. In the short term, this will result in culturally-relevant technical assistance being made available to beginning Tribal farmers. In the long term, it builds skills and relationships to ensure ongoing development of curriculum as the needs of the Tribal farms and farming community evolve over time. 

“Many health and education programs employ train-the-trainer .. models as effective means of disseminating information while reflecting specific cultural experiences that shape learning [and allows] curriculum to be tailored to local issues” (Yarber). “Agricultural studies have also shown that farmer to farmer program models  improve farmers’ knowledge [and] productivity” (Behaghel).

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Elizabeth Buck (Educator)
  • Crystal Stewart (Educator)
  • Sandy Menasha (Educator)
  • Ryan Dennett (Educator)
  • Caleb Goossen (Educator)
  • Michael Snyder

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

The sequence of learning for Key Individuals (KI) and Agricultural Service Providers (ASP) submitted in the proposal are as follows:

Cultural Awareness Training (Summer 2021): Four Tribal elders will train KIs on Cultural Awareness through a webinar series. KIs will be evaluated on Tribal history and agriculture topics afterwards, and each year following to mark progress. ASPs will evaluate the KIs’ progress in years 2 & 3. 

Adult Learning Workshop (Summer 2021): To ensure KIs and Tribal staff have the same skill set for training adults, Elizabeth Buck will lead an adult learning webinar. KIs and ASPs will share their preferred learning styles.

Curriculum Committees (Fall/Winter 2021/2022): Tribal farm staff and KIs will form committees to develop curriculum on each topic area (planting plans, soil health, raised beds, canning, and composting). KIs will show farm staff where to find education tools through extension and local farming organizations like MOFGA. The committees will then set to work on building curriculum utilizing the tools and input from KIs and Tribal staff. It is expected the final product will combine Western and traditional knowledge. 

Train the Trainer (TTT) Workshops (2021/2022): KIs will deliver the training to Tribal staff on-site and in accordance with farm schedules. Each topic will be taught with hands-on methods using the previously developed curriculum and adult learning subject matter. At the beginning of the workshop, each staff will be assigned a portion of the material to practice delivering to their peers in the second half of the workshop. The curriculum will be provided via handouts to be used as references. Training topics are as follows: 

  • St. Regis Mohawk Tribe: Raised beds, garden planning, soil health, canning 
  • Seneca Nation: Soil health, raised beds, composting, and planting plans
  • Shinnecock Indian Tribe: Soil health, raised beds
  • Boys & Girls Club of Border Towns (Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseets, and Passamaquoddy Tribe): Raised beds, soil health, canning
  • Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township: Raised beds, soil health, canning

TTT Evaluation (2021/2022): Curriculum committees will meet at Tribal farms to evaluate training effectiveness and adapt the curriculum for 1-2 hour community workshops. This will also provide an opportunity to gather feedback from Tribal staff and begin planning the community workshop series. It will be decided how involved Tribal staff want KIs to be during the next phase. Tribal staff will learn event marketing basics and evaluation methods during these in-person meetings.

Community Workshops (2022): With support from KIs, ASPs will market their workshop series utilizing Tribal channels such as newspapers, Facebook pages, email, and farmers markets. ASPs will deliver workshop content on their Tribal farms with assistance from KIs. KIs will order needed supplies and provide any needed marketing, training, and evaluation materials. KIs will assist in documenting the workshops with photos. ASPs will handle the evaluation process. Tribal farms will receive a stipend for each workshop evaluation submission, as this outreach is above and beyond the duties of the Farm staff.

Community Workshops Evaluation (2022): Committees will meet again at Tribal farms to evaluate the effectiveness of the workshops and adapt materials or provide more training as needed. KIs will be evaluated on Cultural Awareness.

Community Workshops Year Two (2023/2024): ASPs take the lead this year, marketing, delivering, documenting, and evaluating the workshop series. One KI will attend each workshop only as a backup trainer. KI will order needed supplies and provide instructive materials.

Final Evaluation (2024): Committees will meet at Tribal farms for the last time in this project to review the second year of workshops and make any final changes to the curriculum. KIs will complete a final Cultural Awareness evaluation. 

This plan will be adjusted to a virtual format if public health and safety prevents in-person meetings.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Each KI learns Tribal history, agriculture, and protocols through a Cultural Awareness webinar series led by elders from Seneca Nation, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Shinnecock Tribe, and Aroostook Band of Micmacs. KIs improve awareness of Tribal Nations, commit to an attitude of reciprocal learning, and gain Tribal protocol awareness.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
January 28, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
January 28, 2022
Accomplishments:

A virtual two-hour meeting was held with speakers from two Tribal Nations, Pete Jemison (Seneca) and Tony Sutton (Passamaquoddy), offering historical and present-day insights into the interplay between agriculture and cultural identity for their Tribal Nations.

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Six KIs and 15 ASPs (12 committed and estimated 5 additional) gain skills in Adult Learning through a virtual training which will cover identifying an audience, setting learning outcomes, teaching methods and tools, and evaluation techniques.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
23
Proposed Completion Date:
February 26, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

A meeting is in the process of being planned for late February 2022

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

15 ASPs learn how to find educational tools offered by Extension and other partners by participating in curriculum committees with six KIs. While in committee they combine educational tools with traditional ecological knowledge to develop culturally-relevant curricula for each topic along with evaluation forms. ASPs learn the subject matter and curriculum development skills and KIs gain more cultural awareness.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
23
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

TTT workshops train ASPs to deliver the content they helped create. Soil health will cover comprehensive soil testing, amendments, and cover crops. Composting will cover building and maintaining a compost bin, vermicomposting, and compost applications. Raised beds will cover building and maintaining a raised bed. Canning will cover high and low acid canning methods and value-added subject matter. Planting planning will cover the timeline and layout of farms and gardens. Workshop schedule will be staggered across two years.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
17
Proposed Completion Date:
December 16, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

ASPs learn marketing skills and hone curricula development skills by participating in the TTT Evaluation Phase and Community Workshop Curricula Development Phase. ASPs practice educational and marketing techniques, and KIs will gain insights into marketing to Tribal communities and culturally-appropriate programming techniques from ASPs.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
23
Proposed Completion Date:
June 30, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

ASPs deliver their first Community Workshop Series with significant support from KIs, including marketing the events. ASPs build confidence in workshop delivery and observe KIs conducting evaluations and documentation processes. KIs gain further insights into appropriate cultural protocols, seeing them in action. 18 workshops in total. 20 farmers indicate in evaluations an interest in adopting a new conservation practice.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
17
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

ASPs deliver second Community Workshop Series with minor support from KIs. ASPs take the lead on marketing and delivering workshops, gathering evaluations, and documenting the events. KIs are on-site at events, but only as support. ASPs solidify knowledge of topic areas and confidence in teaching them. 18 workshops in total. 20 farmers indicate in evaluations an interest in adopting a new conservation practice.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
17
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2024
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

ASPs learn to integrate outcomes from participant evaluations and KI evaluations of their delivery of workshops into curricula to improve after Community Workshop Series one and two. Committees meet after each year of workshops to make improvements to curricula. Additional traditional ecological knowledge gained from workshop participants is added to curricula.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
17
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2024
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

ASPs expand capacity by providing ongoing technical assistance to Tribal farmers with support from KIs and in the process will sharpen their record keeping skills by documenting the number of farmers beginning or expanding sustainable agriculture projects.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
40
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
17
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2024
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

100 Tribal farmers will express an increase in confidence, knowledge, and/or skills related to the subject matter of each workshop.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2024
Status:
In Progress

Learning Outcomes

Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

Project was delayed due to COVID-19 pressures on staff time. Kick-off was pushed to Feb 2022.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
17
Target: actions the service providers will take:

17 Tribal farm staff will participate in train-the-trainer workshops and expand their capacity as agriculture service providers by developing culturally-relevant curricula on five topics and delivering 36 workshops in six Tribal Nations. They will also develop close working relationships with Cornell Extension and Maine Organic Farmers an Gardeners Association.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
150
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

150 small Tribal subsistence and direct-market farms will be served by this project, bolstering food sovereignty and access within Tribal Nations.

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Target: number of farmers who will make a change/adopt of practice:
40
Target: the change or adoption the farmers will make:
40 Tribal subsistence and direct market farmers will begin or expand a sustainable agriculture project as a result of attending a community class.
Target: total size/scale of farmers these farmers manage:
The appropriate scale would be number of families engaged in farming for subsistence or direct-market sales: 150.

Participants

No participants
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.