The Pomo Tribal Supported Agriculture Program coordinated twenty-four hands-on workshops with nine different Bands of Pomo at six Reservations and the Mendocino Jail. One hundred seventy-eight Tribal members (including twenty-eight youth) participated in workshops. Twelve inmates participated at the Mendocino County Jail, attending workshops and growing fruit trees to distribute to Tribes. Outcomes included nine Tribal Farmer’s Markets near Tribal pre-schools with a variety of products from Tribal members, 10 acres of vineyards, 40 fruit trees, an acre of row crops brought into organic production, and the creation of Tribal Agriculture web-site with links to on- and off-site resources.
The Pomo people are, in fact, many linguistically distinct bands of Native Americans, living in a rural area in Northern California. The Pomo face continuing mental, physical and spiritual health challenges directly related to the loss of a traditional food system that provided a healthy diet, social interaction, exercise and commodities to trade. The Pomo have farmed the lands in a sustainable manner for thousands of years in this area; growing spring greens, a variety of berries, Indian potatoes, a diverse selection of seed crops for Pinole and acorns for flour. Currently, many of the Pomo Tribes have small farms and agriculture projects on their lands that could be expanded to provide food security and income for their Tribe. The Hopland Band of Pomo has over 20 acres of 100-year old dry-farmed organic grapes, with the vision of integrating food crops into the vineyards. Potter Valley Pomo grow fields of pumpkins, corn, tomatoes and a variety of squash, providing hundreds of pounds of produce for their people. Coyote Valley Pomo have a farm with a large commercial greenhouse for growing winter tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. Pinoleville Band of Pomo has a more eclectic blend of Traditional and mainstream vegetables, with fields of fruit trees intermixed with Native Traditional Foods Gardens and a round-house style greenhouse/education center.
Even though there are these farming projects, the Pomo suffer from high obesity rates (even among the children), isolation, lack of exercise and unemployment. Distribution of the produce has been challenging, and many Tribe members (especially Elders) rely on commodity foods, with little or no fresh fruits, vegetables or traditional foods. Isolation and high unemployment lead to depression, drug and alcohol abuse and high rates of incarceration.
By providing workshops, educational opportunities, a Farmers Market for distribution of fresh food and hands-on support with a blending of UC Farming and Pomo Traditional Farming methods, the Pomo Tribal Supported Agriculture Program (PTSAP) can address many of these issues. A Lead-Farmer liaison was to be identified for each Tribe to assist in coordinating the workshops, distributing information and communicating with the Technical Provider. On-site follow-up support was provided by weekly contact with farmers to assist with questions and concerns. The year following the workshop series (year 2 of the grant) was to consist of meeting with the farmers on their farms, evaluating the progress of the farmers and providing follow-up technical support. The UC Santa Cruz Curriculum was also to be made available to incarcerated Native Americans at the Mendocino County Jail through the Inmate Welfare Services Certified Organic Farm Program at the Jail coordinated by Technical Provider Terri McCartney.
*Coordinate 24 workshops with four bands of Pomo (Hopland, Pinoleville, Coyote Valley and Potter Valley Pomo) and inmates working at the Mendocino County Jail Organic Farm Program.
*Develop a Pomo Supported Agriculture website with the capacity to link the participating farmers with farming information, sources of supplies, farmers market dates, nutritional information and recipes of crops, as well as highlighting farmers and their success stories.
*Coordinate seasonal farm stands with EBT (Food Stamp) ability, fruit and vegetable tasting and recipes at three Pomo Pre-Schools.
The Pomo Tribal Supported Agriculture Program was based out the Hopland Reservation in Mendocino County, Northern California. Workshop locations were rotated through Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County Reservations. The three basic components of program were hands-on workshops, Tribal Farmers Markets and the website for sharing information. While this was the basic framework for the program, it was also very organic in scope and grew in some very exciting directions. The key to maintaining growth was being open and listening closely to what the different Tribes were looking for and allowing Tribal members to own the direction of program and being flexible with the outcomes.
The workshops were based on UC Santa Cruz Sustainable Farming techniques, adapted to be user-friendly for beginning Native American Tribes and farmers. Much of the workshop information was oral and discussion-based, with the workshops addressing the diverse challenges and agriculture projects of the Tribes. As outreach continued through the term of the project, the original participating Tribes: Hopland Band of Pomo, Coyote Valley, Pinoleville Pomo Nation and Potter Valley Tribe were joined by an additional six Tribes: Big Valley, Robinson Rancheria, Sherwood Valley, Cahto Tribe, Graton Tribe and Kashaya. Topics and workshops were targeted to enhance the individual Tribes cultural, environmental and agricultural resources; Potter Valley Tribe has a commercial kitchen and is interested in expanding canning, Pinoleville Pomo Nation is interested in producing Native plants of interest, Coyote Valley has a large greenhouse that can be utilized for year-round vegetable production and Kashaya has heirloom apple orchards that are being brought back into production. Thus the workshops were hosted at a variety of sites in order to increase the ability of different Tribes and their members to participate. At Tribal members’ requests, there were also several “mini workshops” and outreach events scheduled, including smoking and canning salmon, processing acorn, youth gardening projects, (with pre-school and Tribal youth) and youth at markets. The workshops proved to be very popular, with the Tribes requesting a variety of topics for future programs, such as mushroom growing, seaweed gathering and more canning workshops.
One of the outcomes of the seed-starting workshop was the growing and distribution of over 2,000 vegetable seedlings to Tribal mini-farmers. It had been noted that many of the challenges of community gardening in this area (lack of transportation to gardens, lack of security at gardens, uneven care of crops) could be corrected by supporting home market mini-farms. Many of the participants of the workshop reside in Tribal housing, with small plots of land. They were eager to plant their own gardens and sell their vegetables at the market and to make salsas and other value-added products to sell. Also, a certain amount of inter-Tribal trade (peppers for salsa, zucchini for zucchini bread at market) started to develop. The market became a community gathering, with Elders attending to sit and enjoy seaweed tacos and ice teas. Tribal Council also supported the Market and requested that it be continued as long as possible.
The third component of the program is the website. The Hopland Band of Pomo Indians has an inter-active website with sustainable agriculture pages and links to the on-site library and outside resources.
Tribes Participating in Pomo Tribal Agriculture Program:
*Hopland Band of Pomo Indians
*Coyote Valley Tribe
*Pinoleville Pomo Nation
*Potter Valley Tribe
*Big Valley Tribe
*Sherwood Valley Tribe
178 Native American participants:
*3-5 years old (pre-school)-9
*5-10 years old (after-school) – 10
*10-18 years old (summer interns and school programs) – 28
*Elders (55 and older)-6
Agriculture and Value-added products Tribal members produced for Market:
*Dehydrated apples, pears, apricots, kale, plums
*Apple wood chips for smoking
*Grape jelly, pomegranate jelly, huckleberry jelly
*Cookies; apple, peach, pumpkin and apricot pies; walnut candies
*Lettuce, chard, carrots, onions, tomatoes, squash, corn, walnuts, almonds
Land brought into production utilizing organic methods:
*Hopland Reservation-Ten acres of vineyards, a mix of dry-farm Carignon and Petit Syrah grapes
*Coyote Valley-One acre of row crops and one greenhouse with year-round production
*Pinoleville Pomo Nation-1/2 acre of raised beds
*Kashaya-40 fruit trees, old stock Gravenstein, plum, cherry, peach
*Pre-schools at Hopland, Coyote Valley and Pinoleville also engaged in the markets and gardening activities.
Grants written to continue Tribal Sustainable Agriculture:
As interest in PTSA grew, Tribal Environmental staff and directors were encouraged to engage and request feedback from their community regarding future agriculture projects. This led to the writing and funding of “TAP meets TEK, Tribal Agriculture Programs Meets Tribal Environmental Knowledge.” This USDA Department of Advocacy and Outreach Grant is continuing the workshops, with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture products that can be tribally-produced and sold at the Tribal Farmers Markets and Farm Stands.
Long-term Tribal commitment to agriculture:
Seeing the popularity of the market encouraged other Tribes to investigate agricultural products; walnuts, apples for cider, dehydrating, and canning, and apple chips for smoking. Also, Hopland harvested grapes from vineyards that had not been tended for over 20 years and was able to juice and make jelly for distribution to Elders and to sell at market. This encouraged the Hopland Tribal Economic Development to set aside funds to revive the vineyards for organic certification and future grape juicing and jelly making.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Several methods of outreach were utilized for the program, including:
*The Hopland Band of Pomo Indians website has created a dedicated Agriculture page for outreach, information and resources for farmers.
*Gregg Young of Potter Valley Tribes created power points for the Soils and Integrated Pest Management workshops.
*Monthly fliers were distributed door-to-door at housing and Tribal offices and sent out by email to Mendocino, Lake and Mendocino Tribal Environmental contacts, announcing workshop dates, topics and location.
*Quarterly newsletter updates were sent to Hopland Tribal members.
As with any farming program, there will be long- and short-term impacts. The workshops provided the seeds for many Tribal members, ranging from youth to Elders, to begin the process of rebuilding a sustainable food and agriculture system. The impacts will be across the generations, with youth having access to local fresh nutritious foods, adults learning the skills to create their own small business opportunities, Elders having better access to foods. Access to better foods will reduce the rates of chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. There has already been increased awareness of healthy foods, with customers at the market requesting gluten-free and sugar-free products, as well as the standard vegetables.
Working in the fields with Tribal members in the pruning and planting workshops inspired many residents to prune their own vineyards and fruit trees. Members of Tribal Council have commented on the improvements in the vineyards, with the vines putting out their flush of new healthy growth. The intangible benefit of improvement of the physical environment of the Reservation filters throughout the community, with gardens being planted in housing and fruit trees planted at homes. The opportunity to sell at the market has encouraged farmers and gardeners to continue planting and expanding their projects, as well as making value-added products. There is the probability that within three years, with outside support, there could be a sustainable, self-supporting, long-term agriculture project that provides jobs, food and healthy lands for the Tribes.
The revitalization of the vineyards in Hopland has the potential to increase Tribal income and employment.
Variety Average yield Price/ton Total harvest value
Carignon 6 ton/acre $800-$1000/ton $4800-$6000/acre
Petit Syrah 4 ton/acre $1400/ton $5600/acre
Pruning $ 2000
Harvesting $ 1000
Organic Certification $1000
Total Expenses $5000
The Tribe was able to prune 10 of the 20 acres of the vineyards during this program with the potential income of $56,000-$60,000 worth of grapes. However, due to variability’s in the wine market, the Tribe is also looking into juicing the grapes and distributing grape juice through the pre-school programs, Farmers Markets, casinos and smoke shops.
While the individual Farmers and producers at the market enjoyed the market, most vendors made between $50-$75 per market, some making only $25. However, this seemed to be enough to keep the producers coming back and supporting the market. There were suggestions that the market could have been moved to a more visible location near the Casinos, though this would take away from the community-feeling and not be accessible for the preschoolers and youth, so it was decided to keep the markets at the original location.
The hands-on workshops have given a “boot’s on the ground” incentive for the Tribes; getting in the fields to prune the vineyards and apple trees has inspired memories of how the lands used to be tended and could be tended again. Tribal Elders share stories of working in the fields and the progression of agriculture in this region, with the crops changing from sheep, to cattle, to hops, to prunes, plums, apples, and pears to the many vineyards on the Reservations.
The Tribal Councils for the four original Tribes: Hopland, Potter Valley, Pinoleville and Coyote Valley have all shown wide-ranging support for the agriculture projects and markets.
Council members from Hopland have spearheaded the vineyard restoration project, with organic certification in progress for the land.
Pinoleville is requesting additional support from their Environmental staff to expand their growing of greens for juicing to a year-round project.
Coyote Valley is researching a commercial kitchen, aqua-ponics and livestock. Coyote Valley has begun to support 4-H with pig projects.
Kashaya Environmental Department is overseeing the pruning and care of over 40 fruit trees.
Nine Hopland Tribal members in housing and on the Reservation are planting their second season of vegetables.
Pinoleville Pomo Nation Housing is beginning garden projects for Tribal members.
As of March 2013, the Hopland Tribal Council has committed to supporting the market, with bi-weekly markets planned though the fall of 2013. Several members of the Hopland Tribal community attend the weekly markets with vegetables, nuts, pies, cookies, canned goods, planters and jellies.
Four Hopland Tribal youth prepare cookies, dried fruits and baked goods for the weekly market.
Areas needing additional study
While the challenges facing Tribal Agriculture Programs are basically the same as those facing small farmers everywhere (how to make a sustainable living as a farmer, what crops to grow, what value-added products to make, how to care for the existing crops, a lack of trained farmers, lack of local distribution system, water, lack of local packaging, canning, processing facilities), the Tribes are now aware of the potential for their lands becoming a sustainable and economically viable resource for their community. The Tribes are learning how to access programs through USDA and Farm Agency and how to partner with each other and other local agriculture producers in this area to better leverage the limited resources available. Further areas for the Hopland Band to research are how and where to best process their grapes into juice, whether or not to co-pack with near-by producers, labeling requirements, pasteurization and refrigeration needs of grape juice, distribution and resale of product.
There are also infrastructure hurdles to be faced: how will the Tribes zone their land for agriculture? Will Tribal farmers be allocated land as a rental, lease, share crop or other negotiated method? Will the Tribes hire the farmers or will they be independent farmers on their own land? These questions will be addressed in the next step…”Feeding Ourselves.”