Hugo —Dream of Wild Health, one of the longest serving Native-led nonprofits in the Twin Cities, has purchased an additional 20 acres of farmland in Hugo, where it currently has a 10-acre organic farm, indigenous fruit orchard and pollinator meadow.
In response to a growing demand in the Native community for culturally relevant food, as well as increased interest in cultural programs from Native youth and families, the organization’s board of directors and staff decided to take advantage of a unique opportunity to purchase additional acreage on the same street as the existing farm.
The purchase comes in a time when the community is reeling from the economic and social impact of COVID-19. The high rates of poverty and health disparities in Native communities heightens the effects of the pandemic. Dream of Wild Health youth and family participants are expressing an increasing need for access to food. The organization is working to expand food access immediately to respond to this need. The revitalization of healthy, indigenous foods and traditional seeds is essential to the success of our communities.
The recently purchased site will be a case study in transitioning a conventionally managed field of corn into a thriving ecosystem that not only supplies food to people but supports insects, plants and animals as well.
Jessika Greendeer, seed keeper and farm manager, said, “The vision for this land is to transition a barren, monoculture field into a rich, bio-diverse community of plant relatives. There will be tree rows separating the growing space for annual plantings. This will provide habitats for our bird and insect relatives, while protecting our heirloom seeds from cross-pollination.”
Food grown at the farm will be distributed through the organization’s youth programs, at the Four Sisters Farmers Market and through its Indigenous Food Share CSA. It will also be sold wholesale to Native chefs and restaurants and donated to food shelves. The project will take years to manifest, but as Greendeer says, “We will work tirelessly to tend the land for our collective future generations.”
According to Executive Director Neely Snyder, “We have been blown away by the response from our generous funders and are so grateful for the support. We now have a lot of work to do.”
The organization is seeking additional funding to begin to realize the vision for the site. They need resources to amend the soil, plant hundreds of trees, install irrigation and begin to lay a foundation for year-round growing through season extension infrastructure such as hoop houses and greenhouses.
Snyder said, “Our Elder, Ernie Whiteman, would often say at Dream of Wild Health (that) we grow seeds and leaders. This purchase allows us to honor his memory and bring that vision to life by serving even more youth and stewarding our seed collection for the next generation. Indigenous food sovereignty has never been more important.”
Dream of Wild Health began as a program of Peta Wakan Tipi, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that was founded in 1986 to provide transitional housing and supportive services in a cultural context for homeless and chemically dependent Native Americans. In response to residents’ requests for re-connection with their traditions, foods and medicines, Dream of Wild Health was created in 1998 to recover and preserve the traditional Native American relationship between people and plants, especially traditional plants that offer spiritual and physical sustenance to our ancestors. Today, Dream of Wild Health is a national leader in the movement for indigenous food sovereignty, with year-round programs for Native youth, a full production farm and orchard, a seed stewardship initiative, ongoing community outreach and events and a recently launched social enterprise.
From press release