Sydney Colwell, who manages community gardening efforts for the Ho-Chunk Housing and Community Development Agency in Tomah, Wisconsin, said she was taught as a child that her food had feelings.

“If we nurture it and take care of it, it’ll take care of us,” she said. Unlike the norms of conventional agriculture, tribal farmers have a spiritual relationship with their crops.

Today, many tribes have a long-term goal of achieving food sovereignty, or the ability to control their agriculture and food supply systems, ensuring healthy and culturally appropriate food.

That was a key reason the Forest County Potawatomi Community in northeast Wisconsin started its farm, Bodwéwadmi Ktëgan, near Laona in 2017, said farm manager Dave Cronauer. Today, they grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, including Potawatomi watermelon and pole beans; raise beef cattle and bison; and have an orchard and an aquaponics facility on site.

On Bodwéwadmi Ktëgan, tillage is reduced, grazing rotated, and pesticides avoided to benefit both the land and the people consuming the food, Cronauer said. That food is sold at a storefront, donated to tribal programs, and given to tribal elders and others in need. Cronauer said his ultimate goal is to produce almost everything his community needs.

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