United Cherokee Ani-Yun-Wiya Nation Blackberry Development Project (UCANBD Project)

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2010: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Judy Dixon
United Cherokee Ani-Yun-Wiya Nation
Gina Williamson
United Cherokee Ani-Yun-Wiya Nation

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: flax, hops, oats
  • Fruits: berries (cranberries)
  • Nuts: walnuts
  • Vegetables: beets, carrots, garlic, peppers
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, study circle, workshop, youth education, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, marketing management, feasibility study, market study, value added, agritourism
  • Pest Management: botanical pesticides, mulching - plastic
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Tribally, there has always been a person or persons called Indian Doctor(s) or Herb Doctor(s). Among Cherokee's these individuals have a gift and understanding of herbs and healing. The way leaves grow, the way a root twists and the color of the blooms tell the tribal Herb Doctor what part of the body a plant is best suited to aid. Many of UCAN's Tribal members, as well as many people within the Southern region of the country suffer with sinus problems. Today most individuals fast pace schedules do not allow for the time to steep blackberry leaves for tea. The convenience of taking a capsule has become the preferred method of treatment. Tribal herbalist Greg Holderfield researched the marketing and availability of blackberry leaves. Greg found little information promoting blackberry leaves as a sinus support. Our tribal members use the blackberry sinus remedy and thought it would make an excellent product to introduce. A number of locals come in the UCAN tribal center to get blackberry leaves regularly after being introduced to blackberry leaves for treating sinus problems. UCAN will bring to the public at large an all natural American Indian herb shop with its’ leading product being a historical herb, to the millions of Americans who suffer from sinus problems, a breath of fresh air through the wonderful healing property of blackberry leaves. We look forward to building our herbal base of herbs through local farmers and land owners. We will enlist the guidance from a number of agencies available to us to enhance every agricultural advantage to benefit our efforts and partnered farmers. Some of the small fruit farmers we have gotten acquainted with rely on farmers markets and fruit stands to promote their products. The UCANBD Project will give these farmers an opportunity to add value to their existing crops by selling otherwise unusable foliage and it will give UCAN the much needed chemical free herbal ingredients for traditional remedies. A capsule machine which is capable of producing three different size capsules has been awarded to UCAN through a grant from Tuskegee University. One of our tribal members, Belinda Hollingshead, donated a capsule machine which encapsulates three smaller sizes of capsules. Each capsule machine is valued at two thousand dollars. UCAN has been awarded a grant from IBM for two color laser printers valued at one thousand five hundred dollars each, for the production of labels, business cards and literature. UCAN invested five hundred dollars in vitamix machines to powder leaves, dried berries and roots. There are a number of tribal members that harvest small quantities of herbs for the tribe every year. Blackberry leaves is the herb we have used and produced the most. Through the UCANBD Project, UCAN plans to expand the limited current production into a sustainable business enterprise that will benefit UCAN's tribal community, farmers, land owners and surrounding non-tribal communities. The UCAN tribal community is already recommending other products they would like to see produced that would also be available through farmers and land owners. UCAN will be seeking sources for peach leaves traditionally used for tremors and as a diuretic support, peppermint leaves used for digestive support, ginseng is used for energy to mention a few.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Acquire necessary software and materials to aid in accounting, reporting and production of blackberry leaf products and additional herb items.

    2. Form partnerships with small fruit farmers and land owners with the goal of introducing our product line through the use of blackberry leaves for sinus problems.

    3. Set agreeable realistic goals with farmers and land owners about blackberry leaves and other potential products that could be produced on their farm.

    4. Encourage farmers to use current sustainable agriculture practices such as plastic mulch and drip irrigation in connection with blackberry production. Introduce positive options like the Environmental Quality Incentive Program through Eddie Wheeler with the Alabama Cooperative Extension to enhance production and apply conservation techniques.

    5. Enhance the processing and marketing of the blackberry leaf product through volunteer force, paid employees, updated systems, and adequate equipment.

    6. Conduct outreach field days and workshops in June, 2011 at David Cox blackberry farm located in Grant, Alabama and in October, 2011 on Steve Dixon’s land located in Guntersville, Alabama to identify various herbs and practices used to develop and market these products.

    7. Consult with agricultural and horticultural sources at Tuskegee, Alabama A&M and Auburn universities, Darryl Patton herbalist out of Gadsden, Alabama, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Don Wambles with the Alabama’s Farmers Market Authority and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System to identify most successful partnership opportunities for growing herbal needs.

    8. Take full advantage of being in front of any audience and hand out literature and brochures. We visit a lot of schools, but we also work with adult groups and colleges as listed below.
    *Jacksonville State University, Calhoun County, AL
    *Forestry Camp, Epps, Saint Clair County, AL
    *Native American Heritage Day, Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery, AL
    *Wallace State University, Hanceville, Cullman County, AL
    *The Mountain Valley Council of the Arts, Marshall County, AL
    *Scout Troop 27 of Scottsboro, Jackson County, AL
    *Five Feathers Educational event in Madison County, AL
    *Trail of Tears Motorcycle Event ending in Waterloo, Lauderdale County, AL
    *Wal Mart Diversity Training, Gardendale, Jefferson County, AL
    *Wal Mart Diversity Training, Oneonta, Blount County, AL
    *Jackson County Heritage Center, Scottsboro, AL
    *Trail of Tears Re-enactment & First Nations, Lincoln County, TN
    *Native American Celebration, Chattanooga, Hamilton County, TN
    *Marshall Community Club, Guntersville, Marshall County, AL
    *Guntersville Jaycees, Marshall County, AL
    *Sam’s Club Diversity Training, Hunstville, Madison County, AL

    9. Train employees that quality and consistency comes before quantity.

    10. Work with website developer Robert Martin to make upkeep of website user friendly so daily maintenance of website can be accomplished in-house. Database drive site preferred.

    11. Work towards goals of Over the Counter products and Food and Drug Administration approval.

    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.