Keeping Traditions Alive: Creating Food Security in Northwest Wisconsin's Tribal Communities

Project Overview

FNC13-919
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $21,551.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Amber Marlow
Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College

Annual Reports

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community development, local and regional food systems, food security

    Summary:

    Partners in the SARE project for the 2013 beginner farmer/rancher grant include the tribal communities served by the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCOOCC): Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau, St. Croix, Bad River, and Red Cliff; all located in northwest Wisconsin. Although currently at different stages of sustainable agriculture and food system development, this grant created more regional actions to improve food security within these communities, while creating educational opportunities that were scientific in scope for LCOOCC students, educational workshops for community members, and providing greater access to local, nutritious, traditional foods, as well as supporting traditional Ojibwe subsistence practices.

    Each of the five sites maintained an experimental garden plot to determine yield rates of various traditional foods. This will help determine which varieties grow best in the different climate zones and soil types. The data collected in year 1 provided information and direction on what to grow in year 2. The plot size, location, and companion planting scheme was developed by an Ag/Natural Resource Intern who was hired to assist the interns working at all outreach communities and was also responsible for the plot at LSARS. The intern started 125 plants per site; seeds or seedlings were provided to each site at the beginning of the season, the plants included: ceremonial perennials including sage, sweetgrass, and produce of tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, onion, potato, and more.  Historically, the Ojibwe traded foods that were abundant in their relative locations to accommodate items of need; this project will seek to re-establish traditional trade among these tribal communities which was and can be instrumental in developing sustainable regional food systems.

    Introduction:

    Ojibwe reservation communities in northwestern Wisconsin share the common need of food security. Due to poverty, poor agricultural soils, many health and nutritional concerns, distances to each other, nearest areas of commerce, the loss of knowledge and skills in securing sustenance, these entities are in dire need of projects that will build sustainable living capacities in their respective communities. Linked by culture, traditions, and family relationships, opportunities are needed to address cooperative food and nutrition security issues together while sharing resources, skills and traditional Ojibwe environmental knowledge. The LCOOCC Sustainable Agriculture Research Station staff worked together with agricultural professionals, students, interns, and interested community members at all five locations to provide educational and experiential opportunities in sustainable gardening/farming practices, such as soil amendment, irrigation, good agricultural management, as assessed as individual or group needs. Elders are being approached to share good practices and to provide knowledge about sustenance and healthy living. Community members at each site will have opportunities to learn and share through practical experiences such as: workshops, mentoring, and participating in sustainable living events; also learning traditional and modern preparation and preservation techniques which will allow for year round food security.  Classes were held in each community on specific topics such as basic food sovereignty, food preservation, composting, basic gardening, and water bath canning.

    Each of the five sites maintained an experimental garden plot to determine yield rates of various traditional foods. This helped determine which varieties grow best in the different climate zones and soil types. The data determined what was grown in year 2 at each community. Historically, the Ojibwe traded foods that were abundant in their relative locations to accommodate items of need; this project will seek to re-establish traditional trade among these tribal communities which was and can be instrumental in developing sustainable regional food systems.

    Project objectives:

    Community garden/ research plots conducted in 5 tribal communities.  Produce provided to community programs such as early childhood center, elder center, etc.

    A farm-to-table survey was administered and results were utilized to provide direction for workshops in 2014 as well as provide the data to the tribal communities and tribal councils.

    Workshops were conducted in all 5 tribal communities.  The workshops included: basic canning, water bath canning, composting, basic gardening, seed saving, and more. The contacts at each site assisted with the coordination of the events.  The canning classes had great attendance with about 10 people participating from each community.  The events were held directly in the communities.

    Information sharing regarding the project was provided at:  Tribal Food Sovereignty Summit, Indigenous Farming Conference, Intertribal Ag Council, and local venues such as health fairs and pow-wows.

    Supplies were provided to each community to increase capacity and included:  handwashing stations, rain barrels, irrigation supplies, canning equipment and dehydrators, plants and seeds, along with garden tools and carts, etc.

    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.