In the Hayward, Wisconsin, area, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College is pushing forward with its recently funded First Nations grant to increase food security for the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation. The grant was made available through First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, and is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The college’s Sustainable Agriculture Research Station (LSARS) works to increase food security through agricultural production within the reservation. Fish have traditionally been very important to the way of life for Ojibwe people. However, modern issues of mercury poisoning and other types of contamination have limited fish in their diet, so the station proposed providing tribally raised poultry, eggs and farmed fish as a way to incorporate more affordable and healthy protein into the diets of the Lac Courte Oreilles community. An alternative purpose is to inform tribal members so they better understand where their food comes from.
From the program, many tiers of “experiential learning” and “experimental infrastructure” have helped increase the capacity of students and faculty to advance aquaponics research as well as innovation in the community’s agricultural efficiency.
LSARS has run into some challenges with inclement weather since the project began, so its assessments will not be finalized until the end of the growing season. The biggest success so far has been in acquiring a tractor that has significantly boosted production by doubling the amount of tilled space. In addition, many new partnerships have been developed with the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Food Network, WestWinds Community Cooperative, University of Wisconsin Extension, Spooner Agricultural Research Station, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Plant Pathology.
Locally there have been new partnerships forged with county extension offices and the local casino. A unique aspect of these partnerships is that the casino will start composting and will purchase LSARS produce.
The program has been very successful in community outreach and engagement. Some examples of the programs include a farmers market, monthly education activities at the farm, and an annual sustainable fair. The project also plans to start tours and open houses.
By Katy Gorman, First Nations/Ogallala Commons Intern