In a small restaurant located inside the Ho-Chunk Plaza, Reggie Frazier makes some of most mouthwatering food on the Winnebago Reservation.
So, what’s on the menu? On a recent Friday, it was an Alaskan Po’ Boy Sandwich, served with a zesty Cajun sauce and a Creole-inspired cole slaw that was the midday special.
“The Po’ Boy is one of the most popular lunchtime offerings,” Frazier, who owns R-EATZ, a 504 Ho-Chunk Plaza café with his wife Rita, explained. “It’s almost as popular as our Chinese Beef and Broccoli or our Pulled Pork Nachos.”
Wait, New Orleans-style Po’ Boys, Asian cuisine and South-of-the-Border fare? That wasn’t what we were expecting from an eatery inside of the Native American Reservation in Northern Thurston County, Nebraska.
Read more at The Sioux City Journal
On the rolling plains southwest of Chamberlain, South Dakota, lies a 30-square-mile farm and ranch that serves as a testament to the power of soil health practices.
Bryan Jorgensen has devoted his life to nurturing the soil and maintaining the ecological balance on his family’s land.
Jorgensen said the practices not only improve his yields at harvest time but also cut back on the need for pesticides and fertilizers, and drive more carbon into his soil – which is good for the plants.
“Carbon is not an enemy,” he said. “We have an ecosystem problem, not a carbon problem.”
However, Jorgensen said centering farm policy on the health of the ecosystem is an uphill battle against the forces supporting more traditional practices.
Read more at The Nebraska Examiner
On a recent summer day, Timothy Rhodd fearlessly opened the lid on a box of bees and pointed out the hive’s complicated systems.
“It’s pretty cool once you start learning what these insects do for the whole world. And they’re dying and it’s agriculture that’s causing it,” said Rhodd, the chairman of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.
Not only do the bees produce honey that is sold, but the tribe’s agricultural operation, Ioway Farms, also uses the bees to pollinate its orchard. It’s all part of the work the tribal nation is doing to better farm the land. Rhodd said just a few years ago they used the same row cropping practices as the rest of the Midwest.
“What folks didn’t see was the financials of our operation. We were spiraling downwards,” Rhodd said. “Financially we weren’t a profitable farming operation, and it’s due to the mindsets that’s been instilled in us.”
Read more at Nebraska Public Media
The state’s nitrate-in-groundwater problem is growing worse, especially in parts of northeast, central and southeast Nebraska. The state median nitrate level doubled between 1978 and 2019.
But some Nebraska farmers and researchers are fighting back with technology. They are embracing new methods that can reduce nitrate leaching into groundwater, improve their soil’s health and also, they say, boost the bottom line.
Some farmers interviewed by the Flatwater Free Press have completely switched over to “regenerative agriculture”, a farming approach focusing on restoration of the environment, which advocates say also ultimately boosts farm productivity.
Others are marrying traditional farming with precision technologies like soil testing and remote sensing, or using more efficient equipment like the Knuths do.
Read more at The Flatwater Free Press
Farmers and leaders from more than 20 progressive agricultural groups gathered this week to march on the U.S. Capitol and promote climate solutions and underserved producers as priority issues for lawmakers in the upcoming farm bill.
“As farmers, we are close to the land. We love the land. We understand the sanctity and the sacredness of water. We understand the essence of life,” said Duane “Chili” Yazzie, a regenerative farmer in New Mexico and member of Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation, to dozens of demonstrators at Freedom Plaza Tuesday.
“We demand that we — as small farmers, as the BIPOC farmers, as the farmers that need a helping hand — must have the provisions in the farm bill that make sense to us.”
Read more at The Nebraska Examiner
Though UCSB doles out plenty of awards to faculty and students every year, they almost never go to citizen scientists, those folks who help academics collect data and provide critical insights while going about their daily lives. But next week, UCSB’s longtime leader Henry Yang will bestow the university’s top medal upon Narciso Torres, a Maya forest gardener and longtime collaborator with archaeologist Anabel Ford who will receive the Chancellor’s Award on January 12.
“Chancellor Yang is highlighting the importance of different ways of knowing and seeing,” explains Ford, who’s built a legendary career around her discoveries at El Pilar in western Belize. After achieving initial acclaim for unearthing the ancient ruins on the border of Guatemala, Ford soon realized that there was more to learn from people like Torres, who rely on generational knowledge to cultivate the region’s flora and fauna in sustainable ways that have much to teach us today.
“In this award,” said Ford, “the academy is opening its eyes and welcoming traditions born of the basic scientific method of trial and error, recognizing the wide range of contributions to the world of science.”
Read more at Santa Barbara Independent
In Burt County this summer, rows and rows of identical corn fields painted a familiar and quintessentially Nebraska landscape — until you reached a quarter of an acre of land teeming with a diversity of crops near Lyons, about 70 miles northwest of Omaha.
12-year-old Evelyn, who did not share her last name for privacy, crouched down in a small patch of budding plants on a Saturday morning in June. With pale blue plastic gloves on her hands, she yanked weeds out of the earth and left the varied leafy crops between them rooted.
“We’re looking for the ones that are thicker,” Evelyn said in Spanish. She was among 14 other youth and adults of Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim in the field separating invasive weeds from budding vegetables for the First Acre Milpa summer program.
Read more at El Perico
When I quit my high-profile job at the University of Massachusetts 30 years ago and came home to farm in Nebraska, I started growing corn and alfalfa, relying on lots of inputs to maximize my yields. It didn’t take long for me to get disillusioned with high-input, chemical-based farming: After I paid all my bills, there was rarely any profit left for me.
Everyone talks about farming as a lifestyle. That may be true, but farming is a business first: If you want to keep doing it, you have to make a profit. Bankers don’t care how many bushels you produce. They want to be paid in dollars. They also want to see that your business is profitable!
My profits improved the first year I began farming regeneratively and organically. I’ve found that the key to maximizing profitability is to reduce or even eliminate inputs, and then add value on the marketing end. Not only are my seed costs lower than conventional GMO seed costs, I’m also immune to all the outrageous fertilizer prices — which are now three to four times higher than what they were a couple years ago. I haven’t purchased any chemicals or commercial fertilizers in over 20 years. My cattle graze year-round and are integrated into my cropping system using an Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) system. This symbiotic relationship improves soil health and fertility. Using these practices, I’ve been able to increase the soil organic matter on my crop fields from 1.5% to over 6%.
Read more at Progressive Farmer
Aaron LaPointe stood before a large map on his office wall in Ho-Chunk Inc. headquarters just as harvest season got underway. The map details all 178 square miles of the Winnebago Reservation in northeast Nebraska. It also depicts a success story for the tribe.
“We have 6,400 acres this year that we farm,” LaPointe said, pointing out color-coded land plots on the map. “We’re pretty much spread out all across the reservation.”
That wasn’t always the case. For years, harmful federal policies uprooted the Winnebago people, and tribal lands often were sold or leased to White farmers at rates that were below the true value of the land.
In 2012, the Winnebago Tribe aimed to change course by developing a land-leasing policy that furthered opportunities for Native American farmers to lease tribal land. The policy shift has brought an estimated $10 million to $12 million to the tribe.
Read more at the Omaha World-Herald
Graham Christensen farms with his family near Omaha, Nebraska, where they grow 800 acres of non-GMO corn and soybeans and are experimenting with contract grazing their cover crops. They have grown non-GMO corn for almost 15 years and non-GMO soybeans for the last two years.
The business case for non-GMO: Raising non-GMO crops has been financially advantageous for the Christensens. “We pay less in seed and are seeing a premium on our product in the marketplace,” says Graham.
Read more at Practical Farmers of Iowa