Traditional Fertilizer, Modern Applications for Iroquois White Corn

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $17,637.00
Projected End Date: 10/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Standing Stone Farm
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Laura Manthe
Standing Stone Farm

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study, market study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, new business opportunities, partnerships, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:


    Oneida culture abounds with sustainable practices, vocabulary, stories and songs about white corn. This knowledge lives largely in the memories of our elders who number fewer and fewer. Even access to the seeds poses a challenge, because so few people grow white corn today. This presents a serious threat not only to the genetic diversity and availability of white corn seed, but also the relevancy of the Oneida songs, stories, and language that accompany them if the corn goes extinct. This loss is even more alarming for youth who are just beginning to develop a sense of cultural identity and belonging.

    On the reservation, Oneida Cannery processes raw white corn into several value-added products and sells them at Oneida Market. This year demand outpaced supply, and Oneida Market’s shelves sat empty of white corn. Project Farmers see the need for increased production, but lack reliable records of production cost and yield to base the expansion of their subsistence plots on. Tsyunhehkwa, Oneida’s organic farm, has been the sole supplier to Oneida Cannery, and hasn’t produced such economic development information. This poses an economic challenge to the subsistence Project Farmers who wish to expand their operations to meet the growing demand for white corn at Oneida Market and in markets in Iroquois territories in New York.

    At the same time, Project Farmers haven’t yet applied soil science to their operations and may be applying excess nutrients to white corn, wasting money and contributing to run off. Project Farmers see their problem as one of missing economic data, disappearing cultural practices, and potential environmental harm.


    Six Oneida white corn farmers ("Project Farmers") will evaluate the success of revitalizing Oneida language, songs, and traditional practices with modern technology and science. They will purchase a trailer mount sprayer to apply fish emulsion to the roots as an iteration of their traditional practice of burying fish waste in the soil. Tony Kuchma will provide soil science workshops and assist with soil sampling and nutrient management plans. Farmers will plant at consistent row width and plant spacing and keep consistent records of costs, labor, and amount of fertilizer applied on forms developed by Liz Binversie. Weight of both seed and food-grade (“soup”) corn will be recorded once it measures 11% or below in the moisture meter, which is the maximum moisture content accepted by Oneida Cannery. The potential products, seed and soup corn, will be assessed for potential sales to Oneida Cannery and markets on Iroquois reservations in New York. To achieve this, Project Farmers will attend Farm Days at Iroquois White Corn Project, a non-profit in New York that grows and markets white corn while building community capacity. This connection is crucial to expanding our seed sharing capability and markets.

    Eliza Pelky will distribute Oneida songs on CDs so farmers can play and sing along with traditional songs while they work in the fields. Kah^ta Cornelius will also develop a language game for Project Farmers and the 15 youth who they have identified to assist with their projects ("Project Youth"). The game will also serve as a measurement tool for cultural benefits at the White Corn Harvest Dinners, events to support community-wide recipe, story, and seed sharing to preserve the cultural expressions and genetic diversity of the corn.

    Diana Peterson will design a research poster for submission to the 2017 Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) conference.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Evaluate the success of revitalizing Oneida language, songs, and traditional practices with modern technology and science when growing Iroquois White Corn.
    2. Benefit the environment by offering soil science workshops teaching farmers how and when to properly apply fish emulsion to crop roots to limit nutrient runoff.
    3. Empower farmers economically by gauging new markets for soup of seed corn.
    4. Enrich the Oneida community by revitalizing cultural connection to Iroquois White Corn through learning language, stories, songs, and recipes.
    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.