This project is a pilot of the Diné Small Farm and Ranch Development Partnership.
A larger multi-partner initiative focused on creating and replicating model farms and ranches where cultural teachings are integrated into agricultural training and technical assistance for subsistence and market producers across Navajo Nation.
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Our project goal is to work with the communities of Tolani Lake, Leupp, and Birdsprings, Arizona, Chapters in the Western Agency of Navajo Nation to learn and practice
growing food in a sustainable manner, to rebuild food security, improve community health, and revitalize area gardens and farms as sources of nutritious locally grown food, enterprise opportunities, and safe places to share traditional teachings and build relationships among family and community.
Our approach is a holistic collaboration with diverse partners to deliver practical, comprehensive hands-on workshops and technical assistance at our 3-acre model farm on the Tolani Lake Enterprises three acre business site lease. To increase the number of growers and garden farms for family use and/or for market. We will also support community growers through consultation and services including: a low-cost plowing service where we provide a small farm tractor and operator to area farms; helping growers to market cooperatively, and providing business tools and training—addressing key barriers for small-scale farms.
We will build on Tolani Lake Enterprises’ success to date in creating a holistic community-based teaching farm and will, in future proposals, expand to address Navajo ranching needs.
Navajo Nation suffers from severe poverty and social stresses due to the US government’s creation of “Tribal Governments” which was formed to provide a “legal” means to extract resources and not to really govern
Roughly 43% of Navajo families are living below the poverty line, twice the rate for all of Arizona. 60% of community members are WIA, TANF, food stamp, and commodity program-eligible due to very low incomes, and high unemployment. Some 18,000 Navajo homes are without electricity. Roughly a third of Navajo population is diabetic or pre-diabetic, compared to 24% of all American Indian/Alaska Native populations and 15% of the total US population. An estimated third to half of all Native children are overweight or obese.
This project integrates Economic Development, Social Development, and Cultural Preservation in a community-based program that will be shared as a model for use and replication in other communities. The Navajo Nation is 27,000 square miles, roughly the size of West Virginia, with only 13 grocery stores with a fair selection of fresh vegetables. That makes Navajo one of the largest food deserts in the country. That is one of the reasons for this project.