at the second annual Native Youth in Food and Agriculture
Summer Leadership Summit take a group shot in front of the
Native American Courage to Lead statue at the
University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Nine Cherokee students
participated in the summit learning how to overcome food and
agriculture challenges facing Indian Country. (courtesy photo)
The next generation of tribal and agricultural leaders
will feature nine Cherokee youths after their participation in the
second annual Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Summer Leadership
The University of Arkansas School of Law held the summit July
19-28, hosting 79 youths and 15 student leaders representing 47
tribes across the country.
The summit is part of the schools Indigenous Food and
Agriculture Initiative, which has goals such as increasing student
enrollment in land grant universities and creating new education
programs in food and agriculture.
The summit mixed classroom time and practical learning to prepare
students for what they may face in the future of food and agriculture
in Indian Country.
A lot of challenges that come to land is definitely finding
the opportunity, Odessa Oldham, summit camp director, said.
A lot of individuals dont realize theres a lot
of opportunity there. They dont know how to access that land.
Some of the challenges are not being educated on where to go find
those opportunities to get involved with that. Another big problem
is Native Americans not being able to voice what they want and when
they want it.
Summit officials also said the average age of Native American
farmers is rising.
Of all Native American producers in the country only 9.5 percent
are under the age of 35, said Erin Shirl, summit program director,
who also tracks U.S. Census data for the law school.
There are problems that I never even would have thought
about if I wouldnt have came to this summit and had someone
stand in front of me and tell me we have problems that have to be
fixed, and its only us youth that can fix them, student
Jacey Phillips, a Cherokee Nation citizen, said. We have a
giant age gap between our farmers, and if we dont get that
age gap filled we wont be able to feed ourselves.
The summit works to combat these issues by inspiring and educating
students into food and agriculture careers.
Our topics here range from business planning to market
identification and planning, food sovereignty assessments, the history
of Indian Country of Food and Agriculture, Janie Hipp, director
of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, said. And
because we are at a law school, we talked about land tenure, Indian
land title and regulation of Indian agriculture.
The summit covered all costs such as food, lodging, instructional
materials and travel for students, including Eastern Band of Cherokee
Indians citizen and North Carolina resident Anthony Toineeta.
I was interested in it because I want to study agriculture,
agribusiness in college, he said. I hope to take what
Ive learned here back to my tribe and put it to use and spread
the word about this and get more people involved.
While on campus, students got an inside look at greenhouses,
a cow and calf operation and food science labs that assist local
food and agricultural entrepreneurs.
Off campus, students went on field trips to Bedre Chocolate
in Ada, Oklahoma; a Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Bentonville;
and the Fayetteville Farmers Market.
This is a very important experience for Native youth,
Wade Bergman, a student and CN citizen, said. It teaches us
that we are the future. We cant just rely on everyone thats
older than us to teach us. We have to find out ourselves.
Summit activities also included placing students into groups
that were given the week to create fictional companies based around
The assignment was for them to take that food assignment
and build a mission, vision, goals for what they were going to do,
a business plan, a marketing plan and then to work among the groups
to see what they could do intertribally to support each other in
food, Hipp said.
Hipp said the summit is already seeing fruits of its labor,
with students from 2014 going back to their communities and creating
community gardens, helping families draft business plans and having
conversations with tribal leaders about creating youth councils.
The expectations this year are just as high for the new crop
We really dont know what theyre going to come
away with and implement, Hipp said. All we know is if
we see what we saw last year, it will be amazing and were
very excited. Were going to keep in contact with the all students
like we did last year and keep building their relationships with
each other and their support systems.