Published October 14, 2016
AKWESASNE — The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Agriculture Program recently received a $20,000 grant from the First Nations Development Institute’s Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) based in Longmont, Colorado. The one-year grant award was made possible through generous support from the NoVo Foundation and will be used to conduct an assessment of the Akwesasne community’s food systems.
“The Agriculture Program was implemented in March 2016 to help stimulate local interest in producing and consuming foods that are naturally grown and healthy for Akwesasne,” said Environment Director Ken Jock. He added, “The grant will continue these efforts by gathering data and determining the feasibility of introducing local produce into community households and grocery stores, as well as making healthy foods available to our children at schools. It’s a great start for our Agriculture Program and I extend my appreciation to Darlene Francis for her grant writing services to their project’s proposal.”
The first project implemented by the new tribal program entailed working with ten (10) youth, ages 14-17-years old, on the production of organic eggs. The youth received instruction on all aspects of the egg production process, as well as assistance and the materials necessary to build their own chicken coops. Each student received 100 chickens, along with feed and supplies to care for their flock and ongoing support from the Agriculture Program. The food grant will assist Akwesasne youth and other farmers by providing data to help sell their produce locally.
To help initiate the community food assessment project, the Agriculture Program has established a working relationship with two tribal programs — Ahkwesáhsne Cultural Restoration Program and Tsitewatakari:tat (The Let’s Get Healthy Program). Their cooperative efforts will have a greater benefit to the community through an assessment that looks at other aspects of Akwesane’s food programs: traditional foods and agricultural producers.
“Our goal is to build strong partnerships that will help improve an individual’s lifestyle by increasing the availability of healthy foods in the community,” said Agriculture Program Manager Wally Ransom. He noted, “The assessment of our existing food systems will provide the data needed for the Agriculture Program to maximize our resources and healthy results for the community. It will identify all of our community’s food resources; including food related programs, businesses, entrepreneurs, fisherman, farmers, hunters, and those who produce traditional foods like ash washed corn.”
The assessment entails engaging key stakeholders and community members to acquire the most comprehensive data possible to achieve the project’s objectives. It will focus on building community food sovereignty by doing an examination of the community’s current food assets, food systems, accessibility, production and market potential. It will be conducted through direct interviews, paper and online surveys and focus group discussions overseen by a project team comprised of youth, elders, and individuals with traditional food knowledge.
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