Earth Notes: Tribal Gardening Challenge

Sep 14, 2016

Each year in spring and early summer, families across the Navajo and Hopi Nations gather to plant crops on their land. This year preparations were more thorough than usual for a group of Native students who took part in a seven-month organic agriculture training program at Tolani Lake Enterprises near Leupp, Arizona. 


Kim Howell-Costion and Tyrone Thompson trained twelve students to improve their growing skills and make them green crusaders, returning to their communities and encouraging more families to start gardens and grow their own food – spreading passion and know-how from Leupp to Ganado on Navajo land, and on the Hopi Mesas.

Tolani Lake Enterprises distributed free non-GMO  seeds. Along with the traditional "three sisters" of corn, beans, and squash, there were also newer crops like lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, chilies, strawberries, and fruit trees.

The youth also learned about raised beds and the "lasagna technique" of garden preparation, layering cardboard, straw, manure, and dirt to develop well-matured organic matter and beneficial microbial activity in the soil.

These green-thumbed graduates have helped seed many new gardens across Native lands, bringing together young and old, in immediate and extended families. They have also propagated the ideals of food sovereignty and self-reliance – so that more people can enjoy tasty and nutritious home-grown organic produce from their own backyards.