Grow Our Own

TLE’s “Grow Our Own” program guides our work and empowers us to build local capacity to do for ourselves as we once did.
Growing our own food again in area gardens and farms will allow us to reclaim our health and sovereignty, and strengthen our culture. TLE recognizes that Navajo people believe when they see with their own eyes and learn when they do with their own hands. So we host workshops and courses at our demonstration garden and orchards at the TLE lease site and in gardens at area schools and senior centers and at North Leupp Family Farms, a 100-acre collective of Navajo family garden plots and a market farm alongside the Little Colorado River north of Leupp.

We know that youth are our hope, so we integrate gardening into after-school and summer youth programs to show young people how to build productive gardens, plant, tend, harvest and eat fresh, nutritious locally grown foods. All of our work involves sharing knowledge, skills, and cultural teachings from our team and invited elders as we work side-by-side at local schools, Chapters, Senior Centers, and housing developments. We are working primarily in three Navajo Nation Chapters: Tolani Lake, Leupp, and Birdsprings, Arizona. We serve community and rural residents.

At Tolani Lake Enterprises, we will be planting seeds in the spring in the usual way. If you have not been by the Enterprise office lately, please come visit to see what’s going on.

You’ll see that the fruit orchard we planted last year is budding. The hoop house in the summer is full of greens, tomatoes, chilies, garlic and onions watered by rain caught from our office roof. We have plans for a high tech greenhouse, new beds, summer youth Green Teams to help us here and to build gardens around the community, and a new food co-op to share what we’re growing.

On top of all that, we were able host an organic gardening course with “12 Heirlooms” (Navajo and Hopi students)—working together on building soil, planting, and growing… It’s amazing. These 12 students will take the knowledge and like seeds plant it in their communities. For that reason we call them “Heirlooms”

The Grow Our Own Initiative will help us keep the momentum going. We will build more garden beds, work with more youth in gardens to learn skills and traditional stories, form summer youth Green Teams that will work with families to build home gardens and help families start growing their own food again.

The food system on the Navajo Nation is broken. There is only 13 “supermarket” type grocery stores on a reservation that has a population of nearly 174,000 people spread out over more than 27,000 square miles, (an area the size of West Virginia). Most people drive over 80 miles round trip in order to purchase fresh produce. One out of every three people here either have or are
pre-diabetic.. Although there is demand for traditional foods, few farmers are growing food like in the old days. Healthy food and active lifestyles help to reduce the risk of diabetes.

We want to make a change and want to ask you to be a part of it.

Your contribution can help accomplish these initiatives:

• Build 20 more garden beds

• Finish our greenhouse with stronger fabric, shade and fans

• Catch and store scarce rain to water the gardens and trees

• Teach and mentor 20 young people how to garden this summer

• Share and sell real, local, healthy food in a new Local Food Co-op

Be a part of the growing grassroots movement to rebuild Indigenous communities from the ground up.

Part of  “Grow Our Own” is our Green Team.

The Green Team is a local group of committed gardeners “Heirlooms” and like-minded folk recently graduated from the first ever Organic Gardening Course class held in Tolani Lake this past spring.

The team is a diverse group of Diné and Hopi men and women—parents, grandparents, and community members concerned about the health and wellness of our people and the earth. The team’s goal is to create awareness and provide assistance to combat issues from diabetes to climate change, and to create sustainable solutions for ongoing problems that affect both people and the land. Their capacity is varied and broad and includes teaching hands-on gardening/farming workshops covering a range of topics from building soil to adding value to harvested produce. They also have design and construction skills plus specialized expertise in solar PV and water harvesting systems. Members work on projects based on their expertise and availability.

We include wages in all Green Team projects to build in sustainability. These garden experts need to support themselves and their families while they build more capacity and lots of gardens here at home. We are building relationships with funders of various missions to pair those like Partnerships with Native Americans who mostly fund materials and supplies with those who other funders who can support salaries. Together we will demonstrate how working together, we can support committed local people to help their neighbors build food security and a local sustainable economy.