Agriculture & Food Sovereignty
Formed in 2019 after years of effort and coordination by tribal members, the Agriculture & Food Sovereignty Department is the vehicle by which The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians pursues the ambitious goal of establishing food sovereignty in the future. What does "Food Sovereignty" look like? In a bright future envisioned by the GTB councilors and members who worked to establish this new department, the Tribe is able to produce food and food products for the tribal community.
Utilizing Existing Agricultural Resources
Over the 6 - County Service Area; Charlevoix, Antrim, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, and Manistee, GTB has over 1,000+ acres of agricultural lands. These lands range from a former apple orchard in Peshawbestown and near Turtle Creek Casino, to a former dairy farm adjacent to the GTB Charlevoix Satellite Office. These lands are valuable assets that can be put to use growing food and medicine for current members and future generations. Currently, the Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Department is determining the "low hanging fruit", or most readily accessible lands, that can be worked into production. Some of our accomplishments made in 2019 are listed below.
- 2019 Plant Give-Away: $2,500.00 in plant starts distributed to GTB members and staff during the June Plant Give-Away. At 4 locations (Peshawbestown, Antrim, Benzie, and the Traverse City 3 Mile Office) vegetable plants were distributed to GTB members to help incentivize food production by GTB members at home!
- The Kewadin Community Garden & Farm: This new garden space was planted by 8 or so families this season. In years past, the main organizer, Blossom Paul, had difficulty getting gardeners to participate. Facilities Management installed water on the site in the Fall of 2018. In the spring, the planting space was disked by a local farmer (megwetch Blossom Paul for arranging!), tilled, bed-shaped, and fenced by the Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Department. The garden was tended not only by residents in Kewadin, but also by GTB members from as far away as Traverse City. The Agriculture & Food Sovereignty Dept also managed space in the garden to demonstrate production techniques.
- Food Preservation Workshops: In June and August the Ag Dept. invited food preservation instructor Kara Lynch from Michigan State University Extension to host 2 food preservation workshops for GTB tribal members. The cost of the class was covered by the Ag. Dept, helping to incentivize tribal members who are interested in growing and preserving their own fruit and vegetables.
- Ag Dept Apple Orchard Management: Over 2 acres of apple orchards in Peshawbestown has been brought back into production. This has involved removing all non-apple trees that have grown during the 15+ years of no management taking place. We then mowed, and mulched what trees we could to help preserve these unique apple varieties for use in future years. We also had help from Deering Tree Service, helping to clear an acre or so of mature, full-size apple tree orchard. This orchard is ideal habitat for deer and will be utilized by hunters as a perennial feed plot. This orchard is located north of the Strongheart Civic Center.
- 2019 Ag. Department Food Distribution: In June, the Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Dept. developed a natural relationship with the culinary staff at the Turtle Creek restaurants with a shared vision; utilizing GTB grown produce within GTB owned food outlets. The chefs have worked hard to develop new menu options that capture the beauty of the diverse produce selection. Lemon Drop (yellow) cucumbers, Dark Purple Opal basil, exotic ground cherries, and Shisinto peppers are but a taste of the diverse selection of crops grown this season! A separate menu sleeve was designed to feature these produce items organically grown on tribal lands.
Public Works Partnership: In partnership with the GTB Public Works Dept, we began managing bio-solid waste sustainably on tribal lands. GTB Public Works as well as Automotive and Facilities Management have been instrumental in getting our agricultural initiatives off the ground. A big Megwetch to those who have helped us!