Near the western edge of the Navajo reservation, non-profit North Leupp Family Farm uses solar panels to power irrigation systems and traditional farming practices passed down through generations. About thirty Navajo families grow corn, squash and melons on small plots on the 100 acre farm.
Native owned and operated, the farm recently won a USDA Value Added Producer Grant for socially disadvantaged farmers to pursue becoming a regional producer of milled blue corn (a traditional Navajo crop). But first the farmers must raise another $5,089 in matching funds by Dec 1, 2014 or forfeit the grant.
With only five days to go, we hear from the farm’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Stacey Jensen, about what the grant would mean for the community on the Navajo Nation, where unemployment hovers around 40 percent, and per capita income is just $10,695 per year.
North Leupp Family Farm was established as Navajo Farm in the early 1980s and has operated as a community owned and operated farm off and on ever since. North Leupp Family Farm was incorporated within the Navajo Nation Corporation Code as a nonprofit in 2009 and we recently obtained 501 C 3 status.
One of the big challenges we face is doing a lot with very little or no resources. We depend on contributions, grants, volunteers, and in-kind donations. To get to where we are now, we’ve had to get creative and devote a lot of energy to building partnerships, as well as generating revenues by marketing produce.
We hope to become a blue corn milling facility that will employ local community members and provide economic development, as well as promoting access to traditional food for local and outside demand.
Blue corn is more nutritious and is used in Navajo ceremonies. In a traditional Navajo wedding, the blue corn is mixed with cedar ash and hot, hot water and then made into a mushy consistency. This blue corn mush is then put in a wedding basket, blessed, and partaken by the bride and groom.
The farm could also benefit the community by providing a regional corn milling place for people and companies who have corn or grain they’d like milled.
We hope to use the grant to develop a business plan and feasibility study for producing blue cornmeal from traditional Navajo blue corn and building a solar-powered, portable cold-storage unit to reduce food waste and add value to harvested products.
We’d also like to establish a mobile market to increase our customer base. Flagstaff-based Local Alternative Inc. is very interested in using the Organic Native Blue Cornmeal in its Tepa™ veggie burgers and would like to purchase 3 ½ tons per year of cornmeal from us, if we can start producing it.
What the farm needs the most at the moment is money. We’ve raised $7,145 in matching funds. People as far away as Virginia have pitched in to help us out, but we still have a ways to go. We need to raise $5,089 more in matching funds by December 1, 2014 or we’ll have to forfeit the entire $26,268 USDA Grant.
Any size donation helps—a lot what we’ve raised so far has come in small increments from people who want to see the farm move forward with blue corn milling—we hope, with people contributing what they can, to raise the rest in time.
YOU can help North Leupp Family Farm reach its goal. Donate today.