Traditional Community Agriculture Restoration

Final Report for LNC04-248

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $150,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Winona LaDuke
White Earth Land Recovery Project
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Project Information


To strengthen Indigenous agriculture and economic restoration initiatives, building community knowledge while restoring ecological landscapes. Our Traditional Agriculture Restoration Program is an extension of our ongoing work to secure environmental, economic and social justice for our people. In keeping with our mission, our project had three priorities: 1) Restoration of traditional agriculture systems, 2) Preservation of traditional varieties of corn, beans and squash, utilizing the “Three Sisters” gardening method, and 3) Enhancing our organic farming initiatives in flint corn, raspberries and strawberries.
Traditional Anishinaabeg agriculture and food sources are far more diverse than the foods commonly consumed on our reservation. Our agricultural and harvesting methods have suffered deeply from Federal policies, which separated our community from the land and allowed the encroachment of industrialized agriculture forms into our region. This has meant a dramatic loss in both biodiversity and in health.

From 1981 to 1994, some 84% of all non-hybrid vegetable varieties in the country have been lost, along with many wetlands on the reservation. We have seen a significant decline in local food production and along with the diminishment of our biodiversity, there has been an increase in diet related illnesses. In 2003, the White Earth Land Recovery Project began the groundwork for creating and strengthening a regional network of organizations dedicated to the preservation of traditional heirloom seeds. During 2003, we began our Gitigaaning Project with a regional conference on sustainable farming and seed saving in early May. This conference was free and open to the public, with 40 participants attending. Over the course of the year, we built five greenhouses and twenty grow boxes, distributing them to people in nine reservation communities. After distribution of greenhouses and growboxes, two follow-up training sessions were held. This work was the beginning to achieving the goal of true regional collaborations with other seed saving organizations.

In 2004, the White Earth Land Recovery Project received $150,000 from the NCR-SARE Program for traditional agriculture education and demonstration work on the White Earth Reservation. Our project is designed to strengthen Indigenous agriculture and economic restoration initiatives, and build community knowledge while restoring ecological landscapes.

This program is an extension of our Traditional Community Agriculture Restoration Program (program was renamed) to secure environmental, economic and social justice for the Anishinaabeg people on White Earth. Our project has three priorities:

1. Restoration of traditional agriculture systems;
2. Preservation of traditional varieties of corn, beans and squash;
3. Enhancing our organic farming initiatives in flint corn, raspberries and strawberries.

We have also identified three outcomes for this project:
1. Establishment of a Three Sisters garden demonstration site;
2. Educate the community about sustainable agriculture;
3. Establish a seed bank and a regional network of seed savers.

Our work will: enhance our existing corn, strawberries, and raspberries as it creates job opportunities for the community. It will allow us to produce stocks of two distinct varieties of traditional corn and provide additional foods for our Mino-Miijim Program. Our success is gauged in achieving these outcomes, increased crop yields, greater diversity of traditional saved seeds and heightened awareness in our community as to the advantages of growing and eating traditional foods. Here is a summary of our work for the grant period.


Project Title: Traditional Community Agriculture Restoration
Project Director: Winona LaDuke
Funding Amount: $150,000
Project Dates: July 1, 2004 – September 30, 2007

Project Objectives:

In our outlined work in this area we proposed to:

1. Increase our stock of endangered traditional seed - that we be the keeper and supplier of these seeds for our community. This would ensure that community outreach and education efforts would increase as our seed inventory increased.

2. Development of a reservation wide collaborative aimed at enhancing traditional food options and work with our Elderly Nutrition Program, Tribal Lunch programs and diabetes programs to move towards increased traditional foods consumption and knowledge in the community.

In our proposal we stated that we would work with various agencies on and off the reservation to increase traditional foods consumption by various programs/agencies. Here is a summary of our work.


Materials and methods:

Our project was designed to strengthen Indigenous agriculture, economic restoration initiatives, and build community knowledge while restoring ecological landscapes. Our Traditional Community Agriculture Restoration program is an extension of our ongoing work to secure environmental, economic, and social justice for our people.
In keeping with our mission, our project has three priorities:
1) Restoration of traditional agriculture systems;
2) Preservation of traditional varieties of corn, beans and squash;
3) Enhancing our organic farming initiatives in flint corn, raspberries and strawberries.
Project Outcomes:
Long-Term: Our long term goals for our program include; restoring traditional Anishinaabe life-ways, renewing the connection between our land, our life; replacing the diet of poverty with a diet of our traditional foods, grown in the traditional way; preserving traditional varieties of our food from extinction and restoring the seed stocks of these heirloom corn, beans and squash to pre-reservation levels. This work also includes restoring the knowledge of traditional agriculture systems in White Earth communities for both family/extended family garden systems as well as larger farms for rejuvenating our traditional economy. Our project is to work specifically on the restoration of Indigenous corn, beans and squash varieties, the development of organic/sustainable agriculture systems and the creation of a broader knowledge base of Indigenous agriculture systems in our tribal community and in the broader Native communities in the region.
Intermediate: 1) Strengthen local agriculture knowledge through building a regional collaborative network aimed at traditional and unique seed restoration. Through this initiative, we will work to increase our stock of endangered traditional seed - that we may be a keeper and supplier of these seeds for our community. We will also ensure community outreach and education efforts are increased as the seed inventory is increased. We will work with regional seed saving and community gardening organizations within our reservation to educate our communities. We will evaluate the effectiveness of planned workshops by how many community seed savers come to those workshops regularly, and by the rate in which our seed stock increases. Finally, we stated that we would distribute greenhouses and grow boxes to individuals in our communities who want to learn and preserve seeds. We will also instruct community members in the versatility of such greenhouses by showing techniques for climate control, maintenance, and how to use a greenhouse as a drying house (for seed saving).
2) Development of a reservation wide collaborative aimed at enhancing traditional food options and work with our Elderly Nutrition Program, tribal lunch programs, and diabetes programs to move towards an increase in traditional foods consumption and knowledge in the community. In this work we stated that we would collaborate with the Grand Forks USDA Human Nutrition Research Center and the WE Diabetes Project to pursue a study comparing the effects of a traditional diet and a modern diet as well as nutritional analysis of traditional Anishinaabe foods. We will collaborate with various reservation programs such as the WE Tribal and Community College and the Minwamanji’o program to increase the awareness about diabetes in our community. We will work to expand our food distribution to elders’ lunch programs as well as providing food for traditional feasts. We will work to educate community youth about the importance of eating traditional foods. We will work to establish community orchards and edible forests and finally, we will work to capitalize on the potential of our new processing facility to increase local food production at a commercial level.
Short Term: To improve our sustainable farming operations while educating our community about our traditional ways and feed our people our food. Working in our region with established seed banks, we will grow an inventory of endangered traditional foods and collaborating with organic farmers in our region, will increase stocks of these seeds, in particular, flint corn at commercial levels that will provide us with enough raw products to forego outsourcing, while providing work in our community organic farm. Finally, we stated that we would establish a Three Sisters garden demonstration site which in turn will provide nutritious, Indigenous foods for our elders and with work that will educate our community on Anishinaabe tradition. In specific, our short-term outcomes would include:
1) Increase our organizations capacity to educate our community;
2) Educate our community about the advantages of sustainable, traditional agriculture;
3) Educate our community about closed-system agriculture;
4) Increase awareness in our communities about the differences between traditional, heirloom seeds, and conventional hybrids;
5) Educate our community, in particular elders involved in our Mino-Miijim program and youth involved in the tribal lunch program;
6) Restore our varieties of traditional corn, beans, and squash and produce them in commercial quantities;
7) Create employment opportunities in our community;
8) Develop our organizations land holdings into viable farming operations where appropriate.

Research results and discussion:

Our work in 2005: During the winter months as the soil rests, a WELRP intern wrote several letters to various seed saving organizations across the country, requesting donations of traditional seeds for our organization and project. As winter progressed into spring, packets of seeds began to find their way to the WELRP office and seed collection was in full swing. As well, flyers were created and distributed, along with an ad in the local tribal paper, encouraging community members to sign up for seeds for spring planting. This gave us an idea of how much seed was going to be needed for community gardens as well as our own WELRP gardens. Along with this work, we began taking orders for fruit and nut trees/bushes.

Once the seeds had arrived, sorted by category and the bushes and trees arrived, a list of people who wanted seeds/trees or both had been identified. Dates, places, and times were set for distribution of seeds and trees, with distribution taking place well before spring planting was underway. Along with providing seeds and fruit/nut trees/bushes, we implemented a garden tilling service working with the WE RTC to help defray the cost. People who wanted their garden tilled were asked to contribute $5 towards plowing expenses. In 2005, we tilled 200 community members’ gardens. In 2006, we hope to till 300, and to expand to 400 by 2007. This is an added component of our work to increase traditional gardening and seed saving for White Earth.

Other work for 2005:

The weekend or June 10-12 2005 WELRP once again hosted its traditional food stand at the White Earth Pow-wow, and currently has two volunteers, and one intern working to plant and expand our Three Sisters gardens, as well as hosting various workshops on growing traditional seeds. In May, WELRP once again distributed seeds and donations of fruit and nut trees to community gardeners, with increased participation by 25% from last year.

During the months of July - September, the White Earth Land Recovery Project once again hosted the WE Fresh Produce stand at the WE Clinic. Community members were able to purchase fresh, organically grown vegetables grown by at the WELRP farm. As well, Margaret and interns delivered five different times these fresh vegetables to Mino-Miijim participants throughout the growing season. Along with this, the WELRP Sustainable Communities staff once again built four greenhouses for distribution to various community gardeners who are interested in getting a head start on their spring planting.

Work for fall included obtaining organic manure (for gardens and greenhouses) from a local organic farmer. Planting of 250 heads of garlic for the 2006 growing season. Working with local tribal schools to implement vegetable patches, focusing on squash production as they learn about seed saving techniques, tilling, and resource management.

As well, Emily Levine (WELRP Intern) undertook the daunting task of writing letters to various seed organizations, seeking donations for traditional seeds for 2006. Currently we have enough white flint corn seed in our local seed bank to distribute to 177 community members as well as for planting time for our own garden at the WELRP farm. Emily is looking to locate additional produce seeds as well as traditional potato, tomato and bean seeds for the upcoming spring planting.

Seeds Saved: In 2005, the following stocks of seeds were saved: Pink & White Flour Corn and Blue Bear Island Sweet Corn. Seneca Blue and Navajo Seed Sweet corn was obtained separately from a donation at a workshop.

2006 Update: During the winter months, the WELRP staff worked to obtain seeds and tree donations from various organizations and companies who specialize in organic and traditional seeds. 2006 brought new staff member Carla Rojas on board to oversee a majority of the project. During Carla’s first few months with the organization, she wrote several letters to various seek saving organizations (researched and compiled by Emily Levine, former intern) requesting donations of traditional seeds for our project. As winter progressed into spring, packets of seeds began finding their way to the WELRP farm. Along with seeds, a tree order was placed and when everything arrived, Carla coordinated the distribution of seeds and trees to local community members who were on the list to receive them. During the month of April, Carla visited three communities for seed and tree distribution, as well as the coordination of garden tilling/plowing for 250 community members.

Seeds Saved: In 2006, the following seed stocks were saved: Delicious Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Pumpkin seeds, Sadie’s Horse Beans, Nez Perce Dry Bush Beans, Wrens Egg Bush Beans, Aidatsa Shield Figure Dry Beans, Granny’s Scarlet Runner and Red Snap Beans (name unknown)

There was no booklet created about seed saving, but at each workshop, Carla gave handouts of seed saving information to workshop participants as well as those who received seeds. In 2006, 190 participants received this information, with the goal to increase the amount to 250 for 2007.

Greenhouses: since building greenhouses for community members, we have found that they become hothouses during the summer months. For 2005, we planned to implement weatherization for the greenhouses for better results. Our greenhouses actually became hot houses with the single-layer plastic shell unable to provide a thermal barrier. The result; when the sun is out, the houses quickly heated up to an excess of 90 degree even with the doors open and when the sun went down, the heat quickly escaped. Because of these thermal swings, greenhouse caretakers had the unfortunate experience of “cooking” their vegetable plants before they were able to produce any vegetables. Since we believed that these small greenhouses would assist gardeners in extending their growing season we realized that temperature control and regulation was necessary. We needed to convert our hothouses to actual greenhouses.

In order to achieve this, we would need to cover each greenhouse with an additional plastic shell and once it is secured, we will connect a blower motor. The blower will be vented into the outer layer of greenhouse plastic, sealed with duct tape and blow cool outside air in between the two plastic shells. This process will create an air gap between the two hulls that in turn will prevent the greenhouse from burning the plants on a hot day. This extra shell will also help the house shed wind, resist weather and preserve the inner shell.

Adding a second plastic shell enhances the thermal performance of the greenhouse, as it will not burn the plants during the day. However, it could freeze the plants in the cold of night. In northern Minnesota, killing frosts come as late as June in the spring and as early as August in the fall. Though the double plastic shell will not keep the house warm all night long, these greenhouses are supposed to provide our gardeners with the best opportunity to successful grow and save seeds. This cannot be accomplished if there is any risk of a late frost that may kill our supply of traditional seeds.

To keep the houses cooler during the summer months, exhaust fans will be installed (Spring 2006) to keep the air circulating through the houses, and allowing for better ventilation.

Heating the Greenhouses: Our solution was to devise a passive solar heating system with propane backup, this idea was inspired by heating units examined by our staff at other sites in Minnesota, as part of training opportunities in solar energy systems. For our greenhouses, we planned to use a 30-gallon propane water heating tank that is in a closed system with passive solar water heaters. Piping from the tank to the heaters will run through the greenhouse in a 12” x 12” grid. The piping will be buried under a mixture of sand, manure and dirt and at night, the heat for the greenhouse will rise from the water heated biomass covering its floor. The passive solar heaters will replenish the reserve of hot water on a sunny day and for some nights should be enough to keep the house warm. If there isn’t enough solar heated water or not enough sun to heat the water, the system will utilize the propane backup. This process will involve community youth in the installation process and the heaters will be monitored during a six-month period. If they work we will install these heating systems in each of the community greenhouses.

This is an area where we were not successful. We thought that using solar passive heaters would be the ticket to maintaining temperature during the night, but we found out that with these heaters and the intensity of the heat build up that these heaters caused fires. With this knowledge, we have decided to research an alternative method for keeping the greenhouses heated.

2006 Update: In 2006, we tried to develop a heating and cooling system for the greenhouses, as well as continue our work on keeping them cool during the hot summer day. Currently, we are looking at other ways/methods to implement as none of the other methods have worked.

Three Sisters Garden

2005: Each year, the White Earth Land Recovery Project plants a large Three Sister garden that is utilized in a variety of ways. First, this garden is utilized as a demonstration garden for community members, as well as the larger public. Second, the produce from the garden is distributed to our Mino-Miijim participants as well as sold for a minimal fee at the WE Produce Stand (at a location in White Earth or at the Minwanjige Café).

During the months of July - September, Margaret and interns delivered five different times fresh vegetables to Mino-Miijim participants throughout the growing season. In addition to the gardens in the community, WELRP grew a ¾ vegetable garden, 2 acres of raspberries and strawberries, and 38 acres of bear island flint corn. Some of the vegetable garden produce was distributed to the Mino-Miijim project, including 70 pounds of carrots, 25 pounds of beets, 40 pounds of rutabagas, 70 heads of lettuce, and more. The remaining produce, including greens, tomatoes, beans, and more, were sold for extremely affordable prices at the White Earth Health Clinic every week. In 2005, we experienced a very short growing season, due to an early frost at the beginning of August. Much of the fall produce, in particular the squash and pumpkins, were lost.

2006 Update: In 2006, our area was fairly dry again, and Carla had to find creative ways to keep the gardens watered during the summer, as our irrigation system was down for part of the summer. During this time, Carla linked together garden hoses and ran them from the WELRP office building basement, out the door, and all the way to the garden. This was the most effective way of watering a majority of the garden. The remainder of the garden was watered by hand by Carla and a youth intern, utilizing 5 gallon buckets and watering each individual row and plant. This was very tedious and time consuming work and eventually Mother Nature won with scorching heat and we eventually lost part of the garden due to lack of moisture and resources to irrigate. For 2007, the White Earth Land Recovery Project is looking to implement a solar powered drip irrigation system.

2006 Update: Even though it was a dry season, the Three Sisters garden produced the following:

Green Peppers: 75 lbs
Potatoes (not from the large field) 250 lbs
Dragon tongue beans: 69 lbs
Turnips: 45 lbs
Rutabagas: 57 lbs
Corn: total loss
Pumpkins: 1560 lbs
Spaghetti squash: 490 lbs
Summer squash: 120 lbs
Onions: 30 lbs
Garlic: 15 lbs
Beans: failed
Lettuce: failed
Radish: failed
Kale: failed
Tobacco: 10 lbs
Tomatoes: 800 lbs

Out of this produce grown, 150 lbs were distributed to 170 Mino-Miijim participants, with the remaining sold through the WE Produce stand at the Minwanjige Café.

Local gardeners are planting traditional seeds and growing traditional foods. For 2007, Carla will be making two or more “house visits” to each participant who receives garden tilling services this spring, to ensure the gardens are being planted and tended, what method of gardening they are using, build their self-esteem on gardening as needed, providing gardening tips and knowledge.

Weed and Pest Control

This is an area where we experienced a great deal of problems. Beginning in 2005 with our organic strawberries, right before the picking season, the plants were invaded by slugs. This was due to a heavy rainy season in the spring. Even picking them by hand and other methods of removal did not deter these pests from virtually destroying the strawberry season at WELRP.
With our Three Sisters garden, we experienced a heavy population of Canadian thistles and the only way we were able to remove them was by physically weeding them. This needed to be done before they flowered and spread their seeds even further on the farm. We came to the conclusion that the horse manure (from the WELRP horses) we used was full of thistles. So during the fall of 2005, WELRP Intern Emily Levine located and secured organic manure from a local farmer and was used in the spring of 2006 in place of our horse manure.

2006 Update: During the 2006 season, the thistles were still a problem, but not as major or as invasive as the previous year. Carla was able to keep the weed population under control, with the assistance of a youth intern. Potato Bugs: 2006 brought potato bugs to our fields, even though staff utilized a variety of organic methods to rid the fields, the potatoes were a complete loss for 2006.

Weather’s Impact

Maple Syrup: The weather in Minnesota seems to be a larger factor with our work in Sustainable Communities, and during the project period Mother Nature gave us a variety of issues. In 2005, we experienced a fairly dry winter, but a wet spring with warmer than usual temperature. We were hoping for a bumper crop of sap for the maple syrup harvest, but unfortunately, the weather turned very cool during harvest time and out of our two sugar bushes, we only received 130 finished gallons of maple syrup.

2006 Update: In 2006, we worked hard and put in 5000 taps. During Easter Sunday, we had our best harvest with one fifth of the sap and syrup flowing that day. Total production for 2006 yielded 500 gallons of sap, representing about one-fifth of what we sell through Native Harvest sales, and provide to our Mino-Miijim Program during the 2006-07 season. Because of such low harvest the past two years, the White Earth Land Recovery Project relies heavily on other producers in the region for purchase of their syrup for our needs. To date, we have purchased over 1000 gallons of finished syrup from local producers, with plans to expand for 2007.

Due to the lack of moisture the past couple of growing seasons, as well as pest (slugs) problems, the White Earth Land Recovery Project has not had a sufficient strawberry or raspberry crop. The staff continues to plant new raspberry plants each season (they were wiped out by blight a few years ago) and Carla is looking to obtain another variety of strawberry plants that are more suitable for our growing season. We hope to have organic berries for our community as well as for sale through Native Harvest in the next couple of years.

Traditional Agriculture Steering Committee: In 2005, the White Earth Land Recovery Project brought together local organic farmers and producers to create the Traditional Agriculture Steering Committee. This committee has helped our community in a variety of ways. First by helping bring awareness to the community on the benefits of eating traditional foods versus the canned, salty and processed food provided by commodity programs or purchased at the store. This program has also brought about a change on how the community views foods, agriculture and their relationship to their health. With the implementation of community workshops, the community has a renewed interest in growing their own foods for better health and the sharing of knowledge and food for others as well.

New Equipment: In May 2006, the White Earth Land Recovery Project purchased a Ford 5550 tractor (farming and gardening work) and a Ford F150 truck (sugarbush and other work). As well, there was a variety of gardening supplies purchased.

Increased availability of traditional foods: We continue to offer our traditional foods, and fresh produce to the elderly and diabetic on our Mino-Miijim food program. Currently we serve 176 individuals and hope to expand to 200 by 2007. As well, we have provided a great deal of food for community feasts and gatherings. Pow-wow gatherings offer a great example of providing traditional foods to the community, and once again, the White Earth Land Recovery Project hosted a traditional food stand at the White Earth Pow-wow in June. As well, we have begun work on our Local Food Challenge (2005-2006) and will expand this work in 2007. Various community members sponsored the Local Food Challenge, at Maplelag Resort, as well as a presentation at the Indigenous Farming Conference in February.
Donations of food for feasts and gifts: During the course of the grant period, the White Earth Land Recovery Project donated $12,153.40 in food for feasts, pow-wows, various community gatherings and events.

Resources: Resources have increased with this project, along with community volunteers coming from all regions. Each year, we are blessed to have the assistance of numerous volunteers, especially during the college academic breaks. In 2005, we were fortunate to have the assistance of three long-term interns who worked with staff to increase the size of our Three Sisters gardens. Each spring we are blessed with 50+ volunteers who assist with sugar bush operations along with assisting the food program with bagging of foods and delivery. We have generated interest from local farmers in terms of growing out increased acreage of white flint corn, production of heritage turkeys and distribution of organic manure as well as offering tilling services to community gardeners.

Along with renewed community partnerships and collaborations, we have built national and international partnerships with other organizations, such as: Slow Food USA/International, Heifer Project, Seed Savers Network, and many more.

Research conclusions:

Through all of this work, we see not only our community growing, but also our work as part of a much larger movement of peoples who want to have good food, clean energy, and dignity in our own communities. We are always inspired by our work, and the beauty of our land, and we are also, tremendously inspired by our children and youth, who will carry all of this on. The program continues to expand with the hard work of Carla and community members interested in growing traditional varieties of our heirloom seeds.

As well, this project has had a large impact, not just for the community, but for other as well. Many of our visitors to the farm have never seen a garden, let alone one as unique as a Three Sisters garden. They are impressed with the size of the gardens, considering the amount of people working these gardens, as well as the amount of food produced over the summer. We have experienced an increased interest in community members looking to obtain seeds, greenhouses and information as to how to grow these traditional foods, as well as increased participation at community workshops, seed distribution sites and signing up for seeds and trees each spring. As well, a couple of the local tribal schools are interested in obtaining greenhouses to use as a teaching model for students, and in the long-term, for community use.
As with any project, or new idea that comes along, people are skeptic. As time goes on, and we continue our work in this area, more and more people are realizing that this project actually does work, and with time, commitment and hard work, they too can grow their own traditional foods, not only for themselves, but for their families, and over time, the community.
Our work continues in this project through the beginning process of implementing traditional foods into the school lunch program. For our upcoming work in 2007, we are focusing on a Farm to School program with the Pine Point School, as well as continuing our work in assisting gardeners in saving seeds. This was not done the past couple of years during the project period and will be a focus for Carla during the harvest season of 2007.

Economic Analysis

As with any project, especially one of this size, there are generally some risks. One of the largest that we found with this project was the risk of putting up greenhouses throughout the community. With the costs associated with these greenhouses (construction, materials, and labor) the risk we identified was the use and maintainence of the structure. A big risk with greenhouses was the loss of plants, due to the extensive heat in the greenhouses, and inefficient cooling and heating options. This is something we will be working to alleviate over the next year.
In terms of economic analysis, we are now at a point where seed donations are becoming less and less each year (from seed saving organizations) and we are at a point where we have to purchase seeds. This is an economic factor we didn’t expect to happen so soon, especially since we have been working the last three years to save seeds from our garden as well as local gardeners who received seed donations, and greenhouses, or had their garden tilled by WELRP. In terms of tilling, the economic analysis was good, as the WE Tribe has allotted tilling funds for our project and will continue to do so in the future.
Overall, once community gardeners who received a greenhouse, seed donations, and tilling services begin to save seeds from their gardens, we will see an economic benefit because we won’t need to purchase seeds in the future. We hope to accomplish this in the next two years.

Farmer Adoption

Local gardeners are planting heirloom seeds, and the progress in this area has been slow. Over the past three years, we have tilled gardens for individual and community use, tilling 100 in year one, 200 in year two, and 250 in year three. We have erected 8 greenhouses in communities across the reservation and are trying to install 8 grow boxes in elder community facilities. The hardest part of this has been community involvement, but as the project continues to grow, community interest grows each year.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Educational Materials: A short term goal for out project was to develop a broad set of educational and informational presentations related to diabetes. This work included the development of brochures, pamphlets, and media releases. Along with this, Winona LaDuke (with assistance from Sarah Alexandria) wrote “Food is Medicine” a book which highlights the benefits of traditional agriculture and the importance of eating traditional foods. This booklet was distributed to all Mino-Miijim participants, as well as agencies such as the WE Diabetes Project, and the Elderly Nutrition Program. The book is now available for sale on our website (

In February 2007, we obtained a booklet “In Cora’s Garden” (by Nora Murphy and Sally Auger, from the Peta Wakan Tipi and Dream of Wild Health) to distribute to our youth and Mino-Miijim Program participants. This is an excellent booklet (geared more for youth) about diabetes, and traditional and healthy foods.
Community Workshops and Farming Conferences

Community Workshops:
2005 Update: During the year, the White Earth Land Recovery Project hosted four community workshops: 1) Food Preservation which consisted of teaching and sharing knowledge of proper food preservation techniques - this workshop was well attended by young women from the community as well as elders who have recently begun gardening; 2) General Gardening – this workshop consisted of various gardening information/knowledge as to disease prevention, weeds, and invasive care techniques; 3) Properly Pruning Fruit Trees – consisted of demonstrating the proper techniques and knowledge in pruning fruit trees; 4) Food Safety in the Garden – a master gardener from the Becker County Extension Office presented food safety tips for gardeners as well as ensuring diversity in your garden.

Along with the above workshops, the White Earth Land Recovery Project hosted a traditional corn harvesting day with youth from the Pine Point School. Approximately 50 youth assisted staff in hand harvesting the white flint corn, as well as learning corn braiding techniques (for proper drying) and corn husk dolls, passing on the knowledge of traditional corn harvesting and processing. Students were able to take a nice supply of braided corn with them to dry, and in January 2006, Emily will spend an afternoon at the school showing students how to shuck the dried corn and process the corn into hominy.

2006 Update: Organic Gardening workshops followed the tree and seed distribution and the planting season, with the first held on May 25th, 2006. The topic was “How to have fewer weeds in your garden using organic materials.” The second workshop featured Master Gardener, Genelle Bentley, with a variety of topics covered. The third workshop consisted of an informational meeting for greenhouses for community gardens.

2006 Traditional Food Stand: During the weekend of June 12-14th, the White Earth Land Recovery Project once again hosted its traditional food stand at the White Earth Pow-wow. Each year, pow-wow participants flock to the stand for Margaret Smith's fresh homemade buffalo stew, watermelon, and swamp tea. Coffee and vegetable hominy soup will also be served. Our stand is one of few that serves traditional foods such as buffalo and hominy stews/soups.

2006 Corn Harvest: Once again, the White Earth Land Recovery Project hosted a traditional corn harvesting day with youth from the Pine Point school.

Farming Conferences:
Midwest Organic Farming Conference: Each February for the past several years, the White Earth Land Recovery Project has sent a delegation of staff, interns and community members to the Midwest Organic Growers and Producers Conference in LaCrosse, WI to network and strengthen their knowledge and skills in organic farming operations. Attendees include: Ron Chilton, Sustainable Communities Director; Carla Rojas, Sustainable Communities Coordinator; Pat Wichern, SC Assistant,; Mike and Eric Chilton, SC crew members; Curtis and Diane Ballard, local organic farmers; and various interns along with Winona LaDuke, ED of WELRP.

Indigenous Farming Conference: This annual conference was started by the White Earth Land Recovery Project and continues today, striving towards sustainable, traditional agriculture and food systems for our communities and health restoration. The conference continues to grow with a larger audience each year. In 2007, the White Earth Land Recovery Project hosted the 4th Annual Indigenous Farming Conference at Maplelag Resort of Callaway, MN.

Project Outcomes


Areas needing additional study

An area that needs additional research and assistance with this project is getting community members to save the seeds after they grow them out in their gardens or greenhouses.

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.