Diné College farmers’ market may be catalyst

May 15th, 2013 | By | Category: 24-4: Language Revitalization, Tribal College News
By Marsha Whiting

(Reprinted with permission from First Nations Development Institute’s Indian Giver newsletter)

Diné College (Tsaile, AZ) on the Navajo Nation is often a catalyst for community improvement beyond the school’s doors. In September 2012, it launched a project that may become yet another catalyst.

The college held the first of several planned farmers’ markets as part of its effort to introduce healthier and local food to the community, and to generate some economic growth. The event, held in Tsaile, AZ, was small, but organizers hope it will grow and create a spark in the area. Besides produce and bread sales, the event included a demonstration on how to prepare traditional foods.

Diné College is a grantee under First Nations Development Institute’s Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative. The college received $45,000 in 2012 to address a lack of access to healthy, affordable, and traditional foods in the region. The college also seeks to revitalize traditional food systems by establishing a regional food policy and farmers’ market, and to conduct a public education campaign about Navajo food-system issues and agriculture. Funding for this grant from the First Nations Development Institute was provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The first event drew at least 12 farm ers and vendors, most of whom sold out of their produce and products in a short time, according to Dana Eldridge, who added: “It’s really good for the people… It’s a starting point for the Navajo Nation. It’s small now, but we can really go somewhere with this.” Eldridge is a policy analyst at the college’s Diné Policy Institute. She heads up the Diné Food Sovereignty Initiative, which aims to revitalize traditional agriculture and rebuild local food economies on the Navajo Nation through the activities mentioned above.

Local Navajo farmers are very excited about the creation of the farmers’ market. They expressed that sentiment to First Nations staffers at the college last November, and many indicated that they are hard at work developing new ideas and sales strategies for future markets.

In 2012, First Nations awarded 31 grants totaling $905,000 to 29 Native organizations dedicated to increasing food access and improving the health and nutrition of Native children and families. The grants are intended to help tribes and Native communities build sustainable food systems such as community gardens, food banks, food pantries, and other agricultural projects.

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