In September of 2016 Tolani Lake Enterprises (TLE) was awarded $99,999 to examine the feasibility of a USDA certified harvest (sheep and cattle processing) facility and feed lot.
As a part of developing Navajo Nation food sovereignty and economic development it was decided by Navajo livestock producer that a animal harvest facility would be a way to accomplish these goals.
During the course of the study three potential site have been identified. Turquoise Ranch at the Leupp I-40 exit, The Red Barn in Sanders, AZ, and Vans Trading Post in Tuba City. All three sites have pros and cons.
No matter which site is chosen the other two sites will be in consideration for site-II and site-III
Along with identifying a suitable site it is also necessary to have an accurate count of producers, location, quantity, and quality of livestock. Our consultants have advised us to start small, yet build the facility in a manner that it can be enlarged. Taking this advice into consideration we plan to start with processing sheep, with an occasional beef for personal use. Because we are going to concentrate on processing sheep first we have been holding “Sheep Workshops” in order to identify sheep producers and to gauge the availability of mutton and lamb. To find out how many producers are on rez, how many are interested in providing for the off rez market and how many for the on rez market. The on rez market is mostly mutton while the off rez market is mostly lamb.
Some of the many sheep producers on Navajo attending a workshop on flock improvement and breeding
All though this will be a USDA certified facility we plan to use traditional methods of butchering for the mutton products that will be sold to Native clients. The Navajo People have been butchering for hundreds of years and have ceremonial guide lines that need to be respected. We will not butcher outside, but the techniques will be the same.
Traditional Navajo Butchering Mutton Off Rez Lamb Butchering
There are many items that will need to be worked out with the USDA in respect to culturally sensitive materials. The on Rez market has different needs and expectations than the off reservation market.
The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission encouraged TLE to look at a property owned by NHLC as a possible facility. There are many facets that must be considered in order to complete this phase of the feasibility study. When the study is completed we will then be in a position to seek funding for the facility, and be able to present a very strong case.