FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded a $902,400 grant to the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law to continue developing and implementing the Model Food and Agriculture Code Project, a three-phase effort.
The Kellogg grant will allow the project to establish a model legal framework that tribal governments may adopt to regulate and support food and agricultural systems. Code sections may include provisions for food safety, land use, water, sustainability principles, organic production, seed protections and protection of traditional foods among other subjects.
“We are honored to receive support from the Kellogg Foundation for this important project,” said Janie Simms Hipp, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. “The project will support all tribal governments, their communities and families and ultimately lead to greater control over tribal health, well-being and economic sustainability.”
Ernie Whiteman, cultural director for Dream of Wild Health in Minneapolis, Minn., holds seeds from a strain of traditional tobacco that he cultivates and protects. The Model Food and Agriculture Code Project will provide code sections for seed protection. Photo by BRYAN POLLARD
The project is now finishing its first phase and is conducting a series of roundtable discussions to determine the most important needs in Indian Country. In the second phase, the initiative will draft and publish sections that will address the five most important needs as determined from the feedback gathered in the roundtables. In the third phase, a comprehensive set of code sections will be drafted and published and the initiative will aid tribal governments with the adoption and implementation of code sections.
Tribal governments possess the inherent authority to enact laws affecting the lands, natural resources, communities and people within their jurisdiction. By helping to secure food and agricultural policy within the actions of tribal self-governance, the project hopes to ensure that tribes can reclaim the health of their people and long term food security in their communities.
The Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930, supports children, families and communities to create conditions where vulnerable children can achieve success as individuals and contributors to society.
Odessa Oldham, the 24-year-old agricultural entrepreneur and citizen of the Navajo Nation was recently named a Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspective honoree and invited to speak in Washington, D.C., about the importance of agriculture and the small farmer and rancher.
Oldham, the camp director for the Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit, has deep family ties to agriculture. She said that agriculture has always been a part of her family’s lifestyle.
“On my Navajo family’s side, my grandmother had sheep and cows. And on my dad’s side, he came from horses and his grandparents had cattle and horses here in Lander.”
She said her father instilled valuable agricultural experience in her and her siblings by getting them involved with a 4H booster club at a very young age.
“My dad got us all showing (sheep) at the age of three, and we started our own sheep herd without even really knowing it,” she said, laughing.
To teach practical money management skills and an understanding of costs, Oldham’s father required her and her siblings to pay the costs associated with competing in 4H and maintaining their herd upfront with the money they earned from winning.
After moving to Wyoming at age 13, Oldham said she joined FFA, and soon after she and her brother began a small cattle operation with seven heifers. Since those beginnings, she and her siblings have transformed their small herd into more than 400 head of cattle on their Wyoming ranch
“We were running someone else’s cattle at the time, and my older brother figured it would be so much more beneficial if they were our own.”
It’s not hard to see why Oldham was asked by Farm Credit to speak on agricultural leadership and the importance of the small farmer. She’s the former FFA vice president of Wyoming and the first Native American to run for a national FFA office. She has also worked with Dr. Larry Case, former National FFA advisor, to help charter FFA chapters on reservations and was also involved with the start of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative.
Currently, Oldham is in school finishing up her agricultural communications degree at the University of Wyoming, and working on a wild horse sanctuary that her father began working on more than two years ago. The sanctuary is one of only three eco-sanctuaries in the United States. She hopes to study agriculture business in graduate school and continue applying her education toward her work.
“My biggest hope right now is to make a difference in Indian Country – a positive difference in agriculture, in education and our economy,” she said. “(The Intertribal Agriculture Council) has already done an amazing job on stimulating Native American owned operations, and I want to continue that.”
When Oldham was asked to speak as a Farm Credit honoree, she said she felt extremely honored and excited. She said her speech focused on the importance of engaging youth and educating the public on the full extent of agriculture and why it’s vital to society.
Oldham’s advice to any beginning farmer, rancher or individual interested in beginning an agriculture operation is to not be afraid to ask questions.
Odessa Oldham (left) speaking on This Week in Agribusiness with hosts Max Armstrong (center) and Orion Samuelson (right).
“They need to go out and do their homework, that’s the biggest thing,” Oldham said. “There’s a lot of risk involved and there’s different things you’ve got to learn to mitigate.”
It’s not only Farm Credit who’s noticed Oldham’s agricultural acumen either. She spoke on This Week In Agribusiness, June 23, to to speak about her ranch operations and advocate for youth involvement in agriculture as well.
Despite her success, the young rancher remains humble, and acknowledges how lucky she’s been to have family members who can act in a mentor capacity, providing advice when needed.
Zach Ilbery (Cherokee) was recently honored at the Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives in Agriculture centennial celebration in Washington D.C. The 17-year-old agricultural entrepreneur and Indigenous Youth in Agriculture Leadership Summit fellow was recognized in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher category for his dedication and leadership in agriculture.
The 100 Fresh Perspective honorees are individuals throughout the United States selected for their contribution and work toward shaping the future of agriculture.
“There were over 1,000 people nominated, and I’m honored to be in the top 100,” Ilbery said.
Ilbery was also recognized for his achievement at the Oklahoma State Capitol in May, along with fellow Oklahoman Fresh Perspective honorees State Rep. Scott Biggs and Leland Walker.
“It was a wonderful day,” Ilbery said, who, while at the State Capital, learned that Oklahoma Ag Credit would be paying for he and his family to travel to D.C. and attend the Farm Credit Centennial celebration in June.
Zach Ilbery (center), with his mother Dena Kay Davidson Miller, and step-father Vaughn Miller.
The celebration consisted of three days with discussions on rural infrastructure and youth in agriculture, a congressional reception that featured local producers, and an award luncheon where the attending honorees were each recognized with a plaque.
“It was a great experience, and it’s opened up countless windows” Ilbery said. “A while ago I thought to be in agriculture you had to be in the production side of things, but with being honored and being able to travel, I’ve learned that it’s not just in the production aspect, because you have to have people to create policy to help with agricultural aspects. You can’t just be on the production side, you have to have laws, you have to have people there to back you.”
The young agriculturalist was even offered an internship with Oklahoma Farm Credit next summer in D.C.
“D.C. is a great place and I’ll be happy to visit anytime and every time I’m allowed, but I do not want to live in the city that’s for sure,” he said. “I like my ranch and hayfield and everything I get to do back home in wonderful little Checotah, Oklahoma.”
Ilbery, who just graduated high school, said that he plans to attend Seminole State College in the fall to study agricultural education.
“The reason I chose ag ed is because as an agricultural education instructor you don’t only teach students about the importance of agriculture, you actually have the ability as a teacher to mold and transform a student’s life.”
Ilbery speaks from experience: a product of the kindness shown to him by his own instructor a few years earlier when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
“My ag teacher helped me out in a way that no one had ever helped me before,” he said. “During that time my grandpa and all of them were at the hospital but I couldn’t get out of school until evening, so my ag teacher let me live with him.”
“I feel like it’s a way to give back to my community because my community gave so much to me.”