The Blackfeet Tribe, according to Loren BirdRattler, faces exciting and challenging times in terms of achieving food sovereignty through sustainable agriculture practices. An important undertaking in progress – the Blackfeet Agricultural Resource Management Plan (ARMP) – will change agricultural practices on the Blackfeet Reservation for many years to come, as well as the economic futures of nearly 500 producers and their families.
The ARMP will improve economic conditions and political sovereignty of the Tribe by building the agricultural industry on the Reservation and implementing holistic, food sovereignty projects that connect agriculture with community health.
The planning team previously relied on the short-term hire of outside contract-based professionals. Tribal government lacked the capacity to lead the project as they were understaffed and had limited resources. This situation did not contribute to the professional capacity of existing Tribal employees.
BirdRattler’s Western SARE Professional Development Project will build the necessary internal capacity by further professionalizing the current workforce through classroom and field courses and attendance at professional conferences. The project will support sustainable agricultural practices through a Sustainable Agriculture Train-the-Trainer course series.
“By building capacity internally, the Tribe can ensure the success of projects managed by dedicated professionals who are attuned to realities on the reservation, cultural, political, climatic, or otherwise,” says BirdRattler, ARMP Project Manager.
A successfully implemented ARMP will address the huge gap in ag production in Indian country. It will serve as a strategic plan for the comprehensive management of the Reservation’s agricultural resources and develop tribal policies based on the visions that the tribe and tribal landowners have for their reservation.
BirdRattler and the project team are adamant about reaching out to all stakeholders, including grocery stores, schools, the food delivery system, and producers. They are ensuring that everyone has a place at the table during the planning efforts, bringing together a diversified agricultural profile.
BirdRattler states, “Ideally this project will become a framework for continual training in a variety of agricultural subjects of importance.”
Training topics planned to date include soil integrity, tribally sanctioned water use, and amelioration of pests and weeds in ways that will not further the degradation of soil or water. Use of project management software and GIS will also be part of the trainings. Importantly, young ag professionals are specifically targeted, as they will carry the vision of the Tribe for years to come.
The ARMP website: blackfeetarmp.com
(photo by: Joseph Pecora Photography)