Intertribal Agriculture Council Convention Highlights
I just returned from the Intertribal Agriculture Council’s Convention that was held this week. I was gifted a scholarship to attend so I was able to meet farmers and ranchers who are successful operators along with some who, like us, are emerging into agricultural or horticultural businesses they are developing.
IAC hosted the 35th Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the largest conference to date, with over 950 attendees. The conference theme, We Belong Here, highlighted decades of resilience and grit exhibited by IAC leadership as Native people raise their voices to help inform the policies that affect Indian Country. Workshop topics ranged from policy and government relations to business and marketing support to regenerative agriculture to food sovereignty. We also had options to learn more about grant writing to support development projects and other resources for strengthening sustainable agriculture projects.
I was amazed to learn that there are more than 80,000 Native farmers and ranchers who support their communities and families through food production and that sales total $3.5 billion annually. Despite this increased strength of Indian Country agriculture, our friends at USDA NRCS shared with me that we currently have 34 American Indian and Alaskan Native farmers and ranchers, plus there are 8 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander producers. We realize that farmers of color are more likely to be farm laborers or tenants than owners, that they also own less land, and generate less farm-related wealth per person than the White counterparts. (Racial, ethnic and gender inequities in farmland ownership and farming in the US, Megan Horst, Amy Marion, Agriculture and Human Values, 2019, vol 36, pps. 1–16).
We know that the needs of Native producers in USDA programs have historically been overlooked, and that today’s Native farmers need critical support in order to grow and prosper. (Native Farm Bill Coalition, September 2022, p. 7, https://www.nativefarmbill.com)
At Elderberry Wisdom Farm, we want to help our Native community members who are interested in careers in agriculture or horticulture. We are continuing to recruit Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander adults and youth to participate in our trainings so we can increase the numbers of successful producers in our region. If you are interested in knowing more about our farming and conservation trainings, please contact Rose High Bear at email@example.com.