Trip Report: Supporting Native Farmers

By Melissa Kruse-Peeples, Education Coordinator and Nicholas Garber, Conservation Program Manager.

If you are familiar with Native Seeds/SEARCH, you are probably aware that we steward a collection of arid-adapted seeds from the Southwest United States and Northwest Mexico in our seed bank in Tucson. Seed banking provides long-term security for agricultural biodiversity. However, is it just one of our core strategies. The work of Native Seeds/SEARCH also focuses on empowering local seed stewardship through education and putting agricultural biodiversity in the hands of regional farmers. After all, what good is the agricultural diversity if no one is growing, eating, and stewarding these crops in their places of origin? Earlier this month we traveled to work with growers at White Mountain Apache and Hopi with these goals in mind.

Ndée Bikíyaa (The People's Farm), located outside of Canyon Day, AZ, is a project of the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Resources Department and farms traditional crops, vegetables, and fruit trees on 24 acres. The goals of the farm are to support healthy living and a reconnection to farming among tribal members.

BBQ corn pit

Hoop House

They are one of several participants in the Bulk Seed Exchange program this summer season. We delivered seeds for Apache Sugar Cane, Apache White Striped Sunflowers, and Apache Giant Squash. As Grant, one of the farm employees said, “The seeds are coming home." Indeed.

Throughout our visit we couldn’t help but be inspired by the amazing work of this group. We were able to tour the farm’s seed bank, passive green house, hoop houses, and the massive pit used to make BBQ corn in the Fall. We hope to make it back at the end of the season for the Harvest Festival to see the roasting pit in action. Currently, lettuce, peas, and other cool season crops are thriving in the shade houses. Much of this makes its way to the Rainbow Treatment Center, the tribal drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Soon the fields will be planted with Apache yellow corn, beans and the seeds we delivered.


Seed Keeper workshop at Hopi

Our trip to Ndée Bikíyaa was enroute to Kykotsmovi Village on the Hopi reservation where we partnered with Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture and the Hopi Office of the Cooperative Extension Office on the Hopi Seed-Keeper Initiative. This exciting initiative aims to strengthen and increase the viability of traditional Hopi agricultural seed heritage systems to increase the seed-keeping practices and enhanced cultural understanding around seed-keeping. The initiative has numerous opportunities planned for the Hopi community in the upcoming months including seed saving trainings, film screenings, seed exchanges, and field trips.