Navajo Crop Demonstration Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2011: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Ernesto Zamudio
Principal Investigator

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, oats, sorghum (milo), grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cucurbits, garlic, onions, peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: crop rotation, continuous cropping, irrigation
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, youth education, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, value added
  • Pest Management: chemical control, physical control
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures


    Navajo Crop Demonstration Project has been in place since spring 2011. Five farmers were initially involved in the project. One in Many Farms, AZ., one in Wheatfields, AZ., and three in Ganado, AZ. Because of the availability of farmland and water at very low cost, these farmers wanted to show other farmers that crops can be produced and a profit can be made from growing crops. Also, soil and water can be conserved and used wisely. One of the farmers in the project stated that "participating in this grant as a beginning farmer has allowed us and our family to share wonderful experiences and learning." Back in the 1950s, farmers in the area used to share this same experience, but now it has been forgotten. Crops that were grown were: vegetables, corn, alfalfa, sorghum-sudan grass, oats, orchard grass and switch grass.


    Our technical adviser, as he worked with and advised farmers in the area, noticed a need for this project. He met with farmers that were interested, and it was decided to apply for this grant and conduct the study. Many of us were struggling with raising crops and trying to finance the operations. Through this grant, we were able to conduct more research about our soil, fertilization and irrigation, and it provided more knowledge and experience for the future.

    Because the individuals involved have livestock and buy hay, all of the participants decided to grow pastures and alfalfa. By doing this, the participants are able to grow their own feed and they can also sell what they don’t use for their livestock. Crops were grown to provide food for the family and to sell the crop to community members so that an income can be generated. The majority of the participants don’t have a large number of acres to produce in a large-scale manner, so the product can be sold locally. Squash is a very popular vegetable to sell, especially during the summer when squaw dances are held and the demand for squash is high as it is used in mutton stew during the ceremony. The corn is picked when it is still tender, and then it is steamed in a mud oven and sold as steamed corn. This corn can also be chucked after it is steamed and dried and then stored for the winter and used in stew. So, the participants grew crops that could be used by the family or could be sold locally to the community.

    Project objectives:

    To provide adult Navajo farmers with sufficient resources to develop on-farm demonstration plots that will become learning centers for local farmers to see how sound management activities and innovative technologies designed for farms with limited water resources can be used to bring Navajo farms back to being fully productive and sustainable.

    1. The farmers with the demonstration plots will gain a firm understanding of sound financial management practices for successful farming. They will be trained in proven financial record keeping techniques that will enable them to determine if their farming practices are economically sustainable and if they can be replicated.

    2. The five demonstration farmers will each establish demonstration plots that will allow a comparison of traditional Navajo farming methods with newer innovative techniques or methods that are expected to increase crop production and sustainability.

    3. The third goal is to compare a variety of crops, including vegetable and forage crops. Navajo farmers express the desire to raise alfalfa in order to eliminate the need to purchase alfalfa for their livestock. We hope to demonstrate that there are crops that will be better suited to be grown under limited water resources. Variety trials and data from those trials will help answer that question.

    4. The fourth goal is to use field days and workshops to demonstrate farming techniques and management practices that can be replicated across the Navajo Nation to make small farms productive and sustainable.

    5. The fifth goal is that five additional farmers will grasp the concepts of the demonstration plots in the first year of this project, and in year two, 20 additional farmers will be on engaged with productive farms.

    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.