“Growing for Tomorrow” is an educational project that demonstrates the use of traditional Mohican methods of soil preparation combined with modern agriculture applications to create a sustainable growing environment, building biologically diverse and healthy soils while producing fresh vegetables. The Stockbridge-Munsee Community (SMC), Band of Mohican Indians, is an Native American Tribe located in rural North-central Wisconsin.
The Tribe owns 500 acres of agricultural land and most of the soil types are sandy loams. Due to improper farm management of the previous tenants, the land has become depleted of nutrients and organic matter. Over the past ten years the Tribe has developed initiatives in an effort to reconnect SMC farmers with the land and make the soil fertile again.
Food producers will be educated with hands-on learning in an educational growing area. Demonstrations will incorporate soil amendments, such as: compost and biochar. Additionally, organic weed prevention tools, such as, plastic mulch and a flame weeder, will be combined with low tunnel season extension tools. Four crops will be featured in this area including: corn, beans, squash, and lettuce. Educational outreach will be done through field days, a video blog, fact sheets, and an annual case study report.
- Educate local farmers on best management practices of utilizing biochar soil amendments, compost, low-tunnel season extension covers, shade cloth, flame weeding, and plastic
- Host a series of ten farmer-led, hands-on, educational workshops for community members, local farmers, and children on fresh food production and
- Collaborate with local farmers and agricultural experts to identify and implement culturally and regionally- relevant traditional and conventional food production practices to increase the number of local food
- Author electronic and hard-copy educational materials on each production technique, emphasizing design, implementation, maintenance, productivity, and
The key point of this project is to demonstrate alternative methods of vegetable management. By our project participants being able to gain hands on experience with this time of management verse a traditional production system.
Attached is also our produce log, documenting the yield of produce harvested and the local market price for each item.
Educational & Outreach Activities
During the 2018 growing season we had a series of events where people would come out to the learning center to learn about vegetable growing techniques.
Outreach activity 1, May 2018- Tour- Students came out from the College of Menominee to tour and learn about setting up a small scale vegetable farm. During this session we demonstrated how to design landscape fabric for different crops. We also talked about general design of organizing crops, crop rotation, and the challenges of converting a space from row crops to vegetable crops. Farmer consultant Joe Miller also presented information on how he grows vegetables and sets up his growing space.
Outreach activity 2- June 2018- Three Sisters Planting- During this session Dan Cornelius from the Intertribal Agriculture Council demonstrated how to use tools like a BCS walk behind tractor and planting stick to plant a Three Sisters Garden consisting of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Participants were able to use the tractor and participated in planting. Farmer consultant Warren Miller assisted Dan with the planting demonstration and shared how he plants his Three Sisters Garden and why he saves his seeds.
Outreach activity 3- July 2018- Weeding Alternatives- During this session Project Coordinator, Kellie Zahn, took attendees through the growing space and showed how we had been using different tools to manage weeds. We talked about using landscape fabric and a flame weeder. Class participants were able to gain hands on experience with the flame weeder. Farmer consultant Warren Miller also shared how he controls weeds on his farm.
Outreach activity 4- August 2018- Planting Cover Crops- During this session Project Coordinator, Kellie Zahn, demonstrated how to prepare a field space for cover crops and did a planting demonstration. Participants helped plant the cover crops in the growing space and were also given cover crop seed to take home and plant in their own growing space. Agriculture Professional, Jamie Patton consulted on appropriate cover crops for vegetable production.
Outreach activity 5- September 2018- Preparing for Winter- During this session Project Coordinator, Kellie Zahn, discussed how the growing space was going to be put to rest for the winter. Participants were able to see how difference in the soil that had been planted in cover crops compared to soil that did not have cover crops. Farmer consultant Joe Miller talked about the importance of composting plant waste.
Increased knowledge of soil sampling methods
Increased knowledge of properly using a flame weeder
Increased knowledge of planting cover crops
Increased knowledge of using landscape fabric
Increased knowledge of general vegetable growing techniques
Through year 1 of this project we have been able to educate new farmers on best management practices for vegetable production. Through the development of educational materials, such as videos and fact sheets, as well as hands on field days and workshops, we have been able to educate community members on how they can produce their own local and sustainable food source.
Economic benefits we have been focusing on in year 1 of this project have included making investments in tools to save labor, specifically for weed management. We started diving into this topic because community members said they don’t grow their own food because they don’t have good tools to manage weeds. We were focused on demonstrating ways to over come this obstacle by planting crops in landscape fabric and using a flame weeder compared with traditional hand weeding. Through these demonstrations farmers and community members visiting the educational field were able to see how these systems work before trying them on their own farm. At our demonstrations we share information on the cost of the tools we are using and the labor it took to use them. We found that by using these tools we were able to spend five minutes weeding a space the typically took over an hour. We also developed fact sheets and videos about the methods we were using to share with anyone interested in using these tools. We hope these demonstrations are able to help increase profitability for our producers by being able to gain hands on experience with these tools before investing in them on their own farms.
Our demonstration space also focused on environmental benefits like ways to build soil health. In our demonstration space this started with the basics like taking soil samples. Many producers who visited the demonstration garden were not familiar with how to take soil samples or interpret the results. We wanted to educate the community on why it is important to start with a soil sample before adding amendments like fertilizer to the soil. As part of the project we developed an educational video on how to properly take a soil sample. As another aspect of improving soil health we had a cover crop planting demonstration and sent cover crop seeds home with the class participants. We discussed the benefits of having a diverse cover crop mix, such as mixing plants that can pull nutrients back to the surface and others that can hold those nutrients in place. Many of our producers had heard about cover crops, but didn’t have experience planting them. We also developed a fact sheet about cover crops to share with the community.
A significant challenge in the Stockbridge-Munsee Community is having access to fresh produce and this project can bring a significant social benefit to the entire community. Through this project we want to educate the local food producers as well as the community as a whole that anyone can grow their own food and how they can bring those foods to the market. Through this project we hope that we can encourage more food producers to bring their produce to the local farmers market. During year 1 of this project we documented produce at the farmers market and the price of those products. We will continue this part of the project in year 2 and have a complete listing together for our final report. We are doing this so producers who are interested in going to the farmers market can see what their income potential is so. It is our hope that this will encourage more producers to bring items to the farmers market so there will be more locally produced food available in the community.
Our food sovereignty committee, which is the sounding board for this project, met at the educational growing site this summer and again over the winter to discuss how to best move forward with this project. The committee was pleased to see the work that had been done and is excited to continue the project in 2019. It was suggested that we look at incorporating other vegetable crops into our project that can store over the winter, possibly some kind of dry bean.