Quapaw members, traditionally agricultural people, are embracing a farm-to-fork lifestyle and economic development with their soon-to-open processing plant for bison and cattle meat.
Today, bison, goats and about 500 head of cattle roam 1,500 acres of the tribe’s Ottawa County plains in northeastern Oklahoma. Gardens and greenhouses grow fresh veggies and herbs, and some 50 beehives produce honey that the tribe hopes to develop for market. The tribe may add poultry to the mix, too.
“Historically, we’re agricultural people, and we’re just going back to the basics. It’s who we are,” Quapaw Chairman John Berrey told The Joplin Globe.
The processing plant will help make healthy and culturally relevant food available to its members and the surrounding community. The $1 million, 25,000-square-foot facility is slated to open this summer. The tribe began work on the plant near Miami, Oklahoma in late August 2016.
The plant will additionally serve as a training center for regional educational institutions. Last July, the tribe hosted 100 Native American students attending the University of Arkansas’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative summer program. Representing more than 50 tribal nations, the students toured Quapaw businesses and agricultural operations. “We want to teach young people how to build a sustainable economy based on the farm-to-table mentality,” Chairman John Berrey previously told ICMN.
Products, including its USDA-inspected, bison and cattle meat from the ventures will be sold direct to consumer through the tribe’s mercantile store: Quapaw Mercantile, located in the town of Quapaw.
Honey produced is utilized in the tribe’s various restaurants and should soon hit retail—even though the tribe invested in the bees to maintain its pastures. “The bees help feed the cattle, basically,” Berrey previously told ICMN. “The beneficial product is the honey. But really, we got them mainly to promote good forage on our pastures.”
The Quapaw Tribe also runs the Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw—and the restaurants there are greatly benefiting. Its the only casino in the world that employs a full-time cattle rancher, a bee keeper and an expert coffee roaster. “Our chefs go out to the greenhouses daily and select the produce they will use that day in the kitchens,” tribal spokesman Sean Harrison previously told ICMN. “With the cattle, we gained the ability to serve the best quality beef available anywhere at any price. We hired the experts in the field to run these operations, and we spared no expense in setting up the perfect systems for our agriculture program.”
Fresh, tribally roasted coffee through Quapaw Coffee Company will also begin supplying the restaurant soon.