White Earth Land Recovery Project Fish Fertilizer Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Winona LaDuke
White Earth Land Recovery Project

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Vegetables: beans, cucurbits


  • Crop Production: fertilizers, fish fertilizer


    This project took place over two and a half years on the White Earth reservation, linking to project work on the Red Lake and Mille Lacs reservation area. The intention is to restore traditional corn varieties and other crops as an essential food source for our community, utilizing post petroleum labor and agriculture,  in this case horse power and fish fertilizer.


    We’ve begun using fish parts to strengthen our soils in a traditional Anishinaabe way – which we wish to restore to our practices. This method of managing soil fertility has been used on our land for thousands of years, and we’re proud to utilize it today. This last growing season, we applied the fish fertilizer to our crops, in which we grew out our Native seed varieties of corn. 

    The horses are two 18 year old Percheron Work horses- Aandeg and Rosebud. The horse equipment used was purchased with SARE money including a cultivator, and several plows.  The land used for the project was initially the land and parcel on the Callaway, White Earth Land Recovery Project, where we applied fish wastes directly and then tilled it in with the horses. At this time, we raised the Bear Island Flint.   In 2015, we were able to secure a tribal land lease for 80 acres on the Ponsford Prairie. This land has been farmed conventionally, but is tribally owned. The land sits between other industrial agriculture fields, and as such we determined that we would not use a highly endangered set of seeds from our heritage Bear Island Flint or our Manitoba White Flint, in 2015.  Instead we raised a crop of Painted Mountain Corn, with seed stock originating from the Mandan varieties of western North Dakota. 

    Project objectives:

    Studies undertaken to establish the feasibility of a fish fertilizer producing facility with the original objectives being:

    • Fishguts added to the soil over 2 year period
    • Fishguts mixed with sawdust, then composted and added to the soil over 2 year period
    • Fishguts blended in a large blender and sprayed on as fish emulsion.

    Having completed the feasibility study in year 1, we established that we needed further analysis to verify the optimal NPK level output for our crops. Hence why we needed a second growing season.

    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.