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

    Proposal summary:

    The Navajo Nation’s farming enterprises are overseen by fourteen local farm boards and committees. Younger Navajos are assuming the farm leases previously held by their parents and grandparents. Their desire is to return these small farm plots to the vibrant, productive and sustainable farms that dotted the Navajo Reservation in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. They inquire about what to plant, what crops do best under limited irrigation, how much fertilizer to apply, how to market what they produce and if there are workshops they can attend to gather needed information and skills.

    This project will provide five young to adult Navajo farmers with sufficient resources to develop demonstration plots on their farm leases. These demonstration plots 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 be fully productive and sustainable.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    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. Many Navajo farmers lack the farm equipment necessary to implement newer farming methods. Grant funding will be used to reimburse local high school agriculture programs and their students to apply mechanical farming techniques with school-owned equipment to the demonstration plots. This partnership will be a valuable experience for the farmers and allow the students enrolled in the agriculture programs to have real-life farming experiences.

    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.