The Producer Training Program (PTP) provides an invaluable opportunity for individuals who want to grow food for their community in a sustainable, agroecological manner, to innovate such asdeveloping unique environmental degradation techniques such as using manoomin hull mulch. At the heart of our program – focused on Indigenous principles of ecological reciprocity and agroecological management practices, Gitigaaning is a 36-acre organic farm located on Fond du Lac reservation. TheFond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa generously donates 4-acres to the Producer Training Program each year, understanding that access to land in our region is limited. Per capita income for Carlton County is $18,073 per annum and with a cash rent of $26.00 per acre of farmable land often without supporting infrastructure, it is a large barrier of access for many emerging farmers and could explain the reason why there is only 1.7% of Native American producers.
The PTP not only provides educational opportunities through classes, workshops, and farm tours, but provides access to land and aids to currently over 40 beginning producers in scaling up their farm businesses. At the end of 2020, the Fond du Lac Band added a community kitchen, Na’enimonigamig, an all-season growing dome, irrigation, and fencing to Gitigaaning. It is through our strong community connections that we are able to leverage this new infrastructure to expand our program participation and incorporate resiliency and mindfulness practices into our program. Feedback from the PTP producers informs the support and education that advances the food sovereignty goals of the community.
With the addition of new research programming on manoomin (wild rice) hull mulch, we are incorporating ecosystem thinking that is a keystone of Gitigaaning. The wild rice hull mulch research will measure the impact of this traditional resource on ecosystem health that has the potential to alleviate environmental degradation, provide climate crisis mitigation, and preserve the natural resources of NE Minnesota. In providing access and resources, as well as research, we aim to grow the production of value-added products and better understand the ecological impacts of traditional and sacred foods (manoomin, three sisters, etc.)- thereby creating a sustainable food system; from farm to fork.
Project objectives from proposal:
Producer Training Program Education Project
Learning outcomes for our education programming include expansion of skills regarding ecologically sound organic practices, best practices for personal and community mindfulness coping strategies.
Action oriented outcomes for our education programming focus on engaging farmers with research,growing food, and decision-making focused on the food sovereignty needs of the community.
Manoomin Research Project
Learning outcomes will focus on answering three questions about hull impact on;
- soil moisture
- soil health
- Weed suppression
Research Action outcome will be knowledge contributions that support sovereignty of manoomin on Fond du Lac Reservation, by providing revenue streams for wild rice producers.