Agricultural Enterprise Development at Nebraska Indian Community College
The Santee and the Omaha Indian people of Nebraska have the following interconnected problems that relate to agriculture: 1) unemployment rates above 50 percent, 2) few employment opportunities in traditionally male-identified occupations, 3) a high percentage of tribal land leased to non-Indian farmers, and 4) poor diets that cause health problems.
We would like to address these problems through a sustainable agriculture project administered by the Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC) in partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and the Nebraska Sustainable Agricultural Society (NSAS). Through this project we would develop a two-year training program that would lead to the development of small agricultural enterprises. These enterprises would, in turn, lead to the development of jobs, increased local food production, and enhancement of land and water resources.
1) To develop a plan for a small agricultural enterprise program at NICC. With input from existing NICC faculty, tribal leaders, tribal organizations, UNL specialists, and Nebraska farmers, the Project Manager will develop a detailed plan to implement small agricultural enterprises through NICC’s educational activities.
2) To identify specific sustainable agriculture enterprises that are compatible with the conditions and goals of the Santee and Omaha tribal communities. NICC students will be guided to identify agricultural enterprises that: can be started with low investment on a small scale; provide healthy food products that can be marketed directly to the Santee and Omaha people and to nearby urban consumers; protect the land, water, and soil resources of the project area; have the greatest potential to employ the most people, especially young men; and use the unique talents and resources of the people in harmony with their culture.
3:) To teach the skills that NICC students will need to be successful with the identified sustainable agriculture enterprises. Students will learn through formal courses specifically designed to give them the background they need to run these enterprises, and through extended practical hands-on experience that will give them real problem solving skills. They will, as many successful farmers have done, learn from others, learn by doing, develop their own niche markets, and adapt to changing conditions.
4) To provide students at NICC with the support networks and reference materials for efforts in sustainable agriculture. The networks that will help NICC with future sustainable agriculture work will be formed through the contacts with NSAS and other farmers, through linking NICC to the sustainable agricultural expertise and resources available on the Internet, and through generating interest in sustainable agriculture among the Santee and Omaha communities. Strengthening the ties between UNL Cooperative Extension and NICC will also be important. The reference materials for NICC’s sustainable agriculture program will be balanced among scientific findings, practical how-to books and philosophy. A list of potential mentors and resource persons in the region will be compiled and maintained at the college.
Expected results include:
1) Implementation Plan for the small agricultural enterprise program, syllabi for the first two courses, 10-15 interested students.
2) Materials for resource assessment available in the NICC library, report of local conditions relevant to small agriculture enterprise development, food preference and market potential survey results, list of agricultural enterprises tailored to local conditions.
3) Course outline for sustainable agriculture degree, list of appropriate and experienced instructors, pilot enterprises managed by students for one summer, 8-10 students with skills needed to start their own enterprises.
4) UNL extension staff involved with teaching at NICC, NICC staff aware of sustainable agriculture resources on the Internet, SARE and other sustainable agriculture resource guides available at NICC, a collection of sustainable agriculture reference materials at the NICC library.