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IFAI featured in 2016 Good Food Org Guide

IFAI featured in 2016 Good Food Org Guide

Food Tank and the James Beard Foundation have selected the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative to be included in the third annual Good Food Org Guide, which features 1,000 organizations creating a better food system across the United States. Download the guide and check out the website HERE!gfog_selected-badge-2016

With the help of an advisory board of food system experts, Food Tank and the James Beard Foundation created the guide to feature organizations that are creating a better food system. The organizations in this year’s Guide are effecting change in kitchens, schools, churches, labs, businesses, community centers, governments, urban farms, fields, food banks, and more. 

Since the inaugural Good Food Org Guide was released in 2014, it has highlighted groups who combat childhood obesity, malnourishment, and physical inactivity; prevent food waste; educate consumers on healthy, nutritious food choices; create networks of social entrepreneurs; protect food and restaurant workers; highlight solutions for restoring the health of people and the planet; work with indigenous communities to preserve traditions, culture, and biodiversity; inspire and educate individuals to cook more of their own food; and protect public health, human health, and the environment.

This year’s Guide, building on the success of the 2015 Guide, includes an online search tool.  The website enables users to search for organizations by the region and category of the organization’s work.  Each organization highlighted in the Guide has its own profile page, which includes their contact information, description, logo, social media links, location, photos, and related organizations.

”Working in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation, we are proud to bring the total number of listed organizations to the 1000 mark. It is a testament to the tremendous amount of growth and support we have seen in the ‘good food’ sector,” Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, said.

IFAI and Native rapper Frank Waln collaborate on Native Youth Summit video

IFAI and Native rapper Frank Waln collaborate on Native Youth Summit video

The video features outtakes from the 2016 Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Nearly 100 Native American, Alaska native and Native Hawaiian students representing 51 tribes met at the University of Arkansas School of Law for a unique 10-day leadership summit to learn how food and agriculture policy impacts their tribal communities. The summit, sponsored and organized by the law school’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, is an annual event in its third year.

Applications for the 2017 summit are being accepted now and can be downloaded here.


During the summit, students engaged with a wide variety of guest speakers who presented topics including the history of American Indian Agriculture, business planning, ethnobotany and seed preservation, legal issues in Indian Country and the importance of traditional foods.

Speakers included:

  • Janie Simms Hipp (Chickasaw), director of the Agriculture Initiative
  • Ross Racine (Blackfeet), executive director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council
  • Professor H.L. Goodwin of the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences
  • Stacy Leeds (Cherokee), dean of the School of Law
  • Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee) from EchoHawk Consulting
  • Justin Wilson (Choctaw) from the U.S. Department of the Interior
  • Mark Tilsen (Lakota Sioux) from Native American Natural Foods
  • Toni Stanger-McLaughlin (Colville), consulting attorney for the Agriculture Initiative.

The students were also treated to a presentation by Native American celebrity chef Sean Sherman (Lakota Sioux), also known as The Sioux Chef, who has become a leading advocate of preserving traditional foods and restoring  an indigenous diet. The final speaker of the summit was Arthur “Butch” Blazer (Mescalero Apache), former U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment, who spoke about the importance of tribal leadership.

Odessa Oldham (Navajo), founding camp director, said the summit is vitally important to the future of Native agriculture.

“Youth today are three to four generations removed from the land. At the summit we teach the youth the importance of agriculture and how we are connected through our culture. All of our tribes are connected to agriculture, through our ties to the land,” she said. “Our future is bright ­– we just need to believe in our youth and educate them on what agriculture really is.”

Learning extended beyond the classroom through visits to several agriculture operations and food businesses including the Cattle Company and Downstream Casino greenhouses of the Quapaw Nation, a Walmart distribution center, the U of A animal and food science laboratories and the Fayetteville Farmers Market. The summit field trips were capped with a full-day excursion to Daggs Farm in Stratford, Oklahoma, where students helped install irrigation systems and learned about small-scale chicken operations, cultivating ancestral plants and the importance of good nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

Zach Ilbery (Cherokee), one of the summit student leaders who runs a family-owned cattle operation in Checotah, Oklahoma, said he understands the value of the summit experience.

“The hands-on experience goes right along with the classroom work to teach students how to build a business plan from the ground up. The summit taught me that, and I’ve implemented it in my own operation. The summit can help students to start or improve their operation back home.”

The summit is sponsored by the U of A School of Law and Bumpers College, and it is funded by numerous supporting programs including the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, Southern Extension Risk Management Education, Farm Credit, Intertribal Agriculture Council and First Nations Development Institute. Summit students receive an intensive and fun course in agriculture while getting an early glimpse at campus life and study.

“The University of Arkansas has long been recognized nationally as the go-to institution for training the next generation of food and agricultural leaders,” Leeds said. “In keeping with that tradition, the Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit has, in just three years, become a foundational program to launch the educational careers of hundreds of future contributors to agribusiness and tribal sovereignty.”

Planning for next year’s summit is underway. Native students aged 15 to 18 who are Native American, Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian are encouraged to apply early. Please contact Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative recruitment officer Emerald Hames at or 479-575-5128 for more information.


NAVAJO TIMES: Young Dreamers envision sustainable communities—ag experts show the way.

By Colleen Keane

Special To The Times


When more than two dozen youth from southwestern tribe gathered recently for a Native youth agricultural summit, a roomful of dreams spilled out.

“My dream is to create a functional community garden and to bring back the traditional teachings that were taught to me,” said Kyle White, Diné from Crownpoint.

“My dream is to own an organic farm, create an educational component, and encourage Native American youth to learn about agriculture,” said Azelya Yazzie, Diné/Blackfeet from Montana, who now lives in San Diego, California.

“My dream is to carry on my traditional teachings so I can pass them along to my children when I have a family,” said Kayden Murphy, Diné, who is originally from Gallup. Murphy attends school in Moriarty. He added that he plans to start his own livestock processing plant back in the Gallup area after he finishes his education. The operation will be accessible to local ranchers so that middle man costs can be cut and income kept in the community.

Other tribal youth and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 envisioned creating sustainable housing, revitalizing indigenous farming, while becoming experts in environmental engineering, to mention a few more aspirations that surfaced during the three-day seminar held at the Santa Claran Hotel and Casino in Española, from Aug. 19-21.

The Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Regional Summit hosted by the University of Arkansas School of Law and the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) aims to engage tribal youth to become agricultural leaders in their communities. The sponsors host similar regional and national seminars around the country. Enrolled tribal youth or tribal descendants are eligible to apply.

“The hope is that the younger generations will be food producers so they can be great leaders in the future,” said Bryan Pollard, Director of Tribal Relations for the Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative.

To attend, students had to complete the application, provide references and explain how they have taken on community leadership roles and have helped their communities with agricultural initiatives.

Food sovereignty was the underlying theme of the seminar.

“We wouldn’t be so dependent on the federal government if we produced our own food,” IAC board member Zach Duchenaux, Cheyenne River Sioux, told the students. By doing this, he said that there would be no more food deserts in tribal communities, referring to the scarcity of fresh fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed foods.

“We need to go back to our traditions and get away from eating junk food and going to fast food restaurants,” said Murphy who is a freshman at Moriarty High School.

“There are a lot of people with diabetes,” he noted.

Added White, “Where I live it’s very rural and isolated. We have to travel one hour away to get access to fresh produce.”

Continuing, Duchenaux talked about the need to rebuild the food system in tribal communities. “This is a movement!” he emphasized.

To provide youth with the skills and knowledge they need to become agricultural experts, the seminar gave them inside information on how to start businesses, capture the food dollar, secure loans, and become USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) certified organic farmers.

Raphael Nevins, one of the founders of Healthy Futures, an organization that helps farms become organically certified, told the students that there’s a great need for Native American owned enterprises.

“In New Mexico there are only three Native American farms and organizations that are certified organic,” he stated.

Healthy Futures is creating a digital application that will help with the process.

According to Nevins, the electronic notebook will allow growers to collect field data offline they need for USDA organic farming applications, like the types of seeds they are planting, or the fertilizer they are using, and then upload it when they get to Internet access. The app should be available this coming spring.

“All of this is within your grasp!” Nevins exclaimed referring to the ability to make their dreams reality.

He added that they can get assistance from regional university extension servicers that are located throughout the country.

Duchenaux noted that there’s plenty of funds to tap into, referring to the Bureau of Indian Affairs annual $2.9 billion budget, Indian Health Services $5.1 billion budget and casino revenue estimated at $34 billion.

When it comes to securing funds he told them to never take “no” for an answer. Giving an example, he described how IAC secured a 90% discount on a federal conservation program after first being told it was unachievable.

The initiative encourages mentorships between youth, tribal leaders, and agricultural experts.

White said that he and about 30 other youth from five schools in Crownpoint receive support from former Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim through a grass roots organization called Navajo Community Health Outreach.

“We are establishing a community garden,” said White adding that the group also conducts healthy food demonstrations and makes presentation of their work. White mentioned that the Bread Loaf School of English in Santa Fe, provides tutoring in writing and creating presentations.

When Murphy returns to Gallup to start his local business, he said the first person he is going to turn to is his grandpa, who he said has been working on Navajo Nation lands for may years.

Yazzie said that her mentor is Kier Johnson-Reyes, Osage Nation.

“He opened so many doors for me. Ever since then, he started mentoring me, I’ve been active in agriculture more than I expected to be. It is really great!” she said.

Yazzie mentioned that she hopes that other students have the opportunity to participate in Native youth agricultural summits, so that they can develop their skills and can return to help their communities.

“I think we have to stand up right now and educate our people on what we are eating and why it’s bad for us. We can benefit each other by growing our own food and becoming sustainable and sovereign,” she said

For more information,