Hopi farmers sell their produce in markets with sustainability in mind

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KYKOTSMOVI — Cianna Sakeva stood under a white tent that shaded a variety of vegetables placed on tables in front of her. The produce was grown on Hopi land in the High Intensity Gardens, where individual plants are placed next to each other, and sold at the Hopi Farmer’s Market.

It was a nice, cool Sunday morning in the village of Kykotsmovi, and the nonprofit group Sakeva is part of, Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture, offered an abundance of leafy greens and apricot trees for sale.

On another table designated for Community Supported Agriculture were potatoes, jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, red onions, garlic and scallions, all grown by local farmers and donated. community members who have signed up for the program.

“The idea of ​​living sustainably and going back to our roots is why I love working with HTP,” said Sakeva. “Being able to give back to communities through gardening, farming or educating individuals on how they could live sustainably is why I grew up to be part of the non-profit world, especially of this organization.”

Cianna Sakeva of Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture shows off some of the produce on offer at a recent Hopi Farmer's Market.

The Hopi Farmer’s Market held four events this summer, with the final Farmer’s Market scheduled for October 2 to wrap up the growing season. Members of the Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture group were among the farmers and gardeners who participated in the community market, which emphasizes community sustainability.

Kyle Nutumya is the program manager for the Natwani Coalition, an organization that works to preserve Hopi farming traditions, strengthen the local Hopi food system, and develop innovative sustainable strategies to promote wellness. He was one of the event leaders this season, although that responsibility will be compromised next season.

The Hopi Farmers’ Market was created to help support local farmers by creating a space for them to bring in their produce to sell or trade, Nutumya said. It’s also a place to learn new gardening methods and techniques from each other through food and gardening demonstrations.

“We encourage barter and trade,” Nutumya said. “So you might see producers here trading their products for maybe arts and crafts or other products. The goal was to really support producers and producers and give them a space where they can come and feel supported.

Seasonal rains damage some farms

Hopi is in northeastern Arizona, occupying part of Coconino and Navajo counties, and encompasses over 1.5 million acres, with 12 villages across three mesas.

The monsoon season brought heavy rains to the Hopi villages. In July, an emergency declaration was issued by the village of Walpi for the Polacca area, after flooding escalated in the Polacca Wash. It affected several houses in the area and displaced families who were rebuilding. Monsoon rains also affected crops, sometimes adversely.

“It affected many farmers simply because their crops were overwatered or if they gardened near a washhouse their crops were completely flooded,” Sakeva said. “There were a lot of farmers who had lost a lot this year. Hopefully next year they can recoup that with wetter soil and being better prepared as well.

Sakeva said she hopes farmers will be more aware of how they can handle future monsoon seasons. She noted how droughts have been a huge problem for Hopi farmers.

“With the drought, a lot of farmers couldn’t get much out of their crops,” Sakeva said. “With the corn, they’ll get the stalks, but they won’t get the actual corn with it.”

But the drought has led farmers to take up gardening, which Sakeva says is flourishing and more drought-resistant. It also gave farmers the ability to grow other produce such as kale, tomatoes and lettuce.

“People are learning to grow things other than corn, squash, beans, so they become more sustainable and attentive to what they can actually grow for themselves and their families,” Sakeva said.

Connecting people with local producers

Jacobo Marcus, acting director of Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture, said the group’s primary goal is to build food security on Hopi. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said many relief efforts were put in place by other entities, as well as their own. But what emerged from those other efforts were boxes containing items from industrial food companies such as Sysco and Shamrock.

Jacobo Marcus, acting director of Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture, explains how the organization takes care of its gardens.

“There were some good things, but all of this farming depends on huge water and chemical wasteful practices,” Marcus said, “So we thought why not connect community members with local growers We started reaching out and what we did was instead of using food boxes, we were doing our own actions.”

This share box was the beginning of the Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Community Supported Agriculture Share Box. The group would buy whatever was left over from farmers and producers after sharing with their own family, neighbors and relatives, and they would give it to people who signed up for the sharing box.

“All kinds of things go into these boxes: seeds, medicine, wild foods, meat sometimes,” Marcus said. “But we need to connect directly with the farmers so that the people who get the share are eating local and regional food. It’s all about trying to minimize any kind of reliance on these big companies that have horrible practices. Labor, they use migrants, they don’t care. It’s just a bad food system.

Agriculture:A Hopi farmer works to maintain corn farming traditions in the face of climate change

Sean Lester was sitting in his jeep eating cucumber from his family’s garden. It was the first time he had tried to sell items he had grown at the Hopi Farmer’s Market.

Like farmers and growers who share their produce with family, relatives, neighbors and friends and sell or trade the surplus, Lester brought cucumbers. He had more than enough for himself and was looking to sell the excess for gas money. Large cucumbers were plentiful because of the monsoon rains his farm had received.

Cucumbers from Sean Lester's family farm are available at a recent Hopi farmers' market in Kykotsmovi.

“With all the rain we’ve had this year, we’ve had an abundance of cucumbers,” Lester said. “Since I’ve been commuting between Flagstaff and Tuba City, I thought maybe I could sell some to get some gas money to tend the fields. This is the first year we’ve been trying to sell anything.

A community effort to help local farmers, educate about sustainability, and share knowledge about farming methods and practices is what the Hopi Farmer’s Market represents for Nutumya.

“The big picture is a healthy and sustainable food system,” Nutumya said. “A local food system. That was what Hopi was. If you go back 100 years ago, the sustainability we had when it came to our food was very different. We had more control, but now not so much. So we’re trying to get it back.

Arlyssa Becenti covers Native Affairs for the Arizona Republic and azcentral. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]

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