In April of 2021, the Southwest Indian Foundation acquired a working farm in the Zuni Mountains, just outside of Gallup, NM. This project serves as both a new program and a new area of focus within the scope of our Mission.
We named our 270-acre historic property the "San Isidro and the Three Sisters Farm" after the patron saint of farmers—an important figure to the people of New Mexico—and the Three Sisters is both a nod to the traditional Native American farming technique of planting the ‘three sisters” of corn, beans, and squash all together in the same place at the same time as well as an historical reference to the family farm of nearly 150 years that was there before us.
As a non-profit organization, building back up a working farm has presented us with a rare and interesting opportunity to directly address the important issues of nutrition and health in the communities we serve.
So why take on such a seemingly huge project?
We learned alot during the Coronoavirus Pandemic. As we all began to lockdown in 2021, SWIF began almost immediately to prepare for the most obvious impact of those shutdowns in a region that is not only a food desert, but one that is spread out over an enormously vast amount of land.
SWIF jumped in feet first by raising money, purchasing groceries and creating tens of thousands of food baskets, and then delivering them across several of the local reservations. As time and lockdowns went on, we watched as the pandemic swept through the families of the people we serve. We saw how the virus had a greater effect on the Native population, making it one of the minority groups at highest risk from the disease. These are the same communities that were already struggling with high rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease, and an incredibly disproportionate burden of type 2 diabetes across all ages.
When we were finally able to slow down and reflect, we began to see how the pandemic changed many of our lives completely. At SWIF, we came face to face with the realities of access and distribution of food on many of the local reservations.
It was an area that the Foundation had never really worked in before, and what we saw surprised us. Within that system, we saw the need for nutritional education and physical access to better and healthier choices in food.
Our primary goal at the Southwest Indian Foundation is to lessen the poverty and unemployment among the Indians of the Southwest. To that end, we believe that by addressing nutrition and personal health head on as a new area of focus for the foundation, we can still impact and meet the primary goal of our Mission, in a novel way.
It is early days yet, and we need your continued support to get the farm up-to-speed and moving toward our 5, 10, and 20-year plans. We hope to feed many people with this farm, but also through jobs, research opportunities, youth programs, and educational services, we hope to promote nutrition, research and utilize traditional and modern farming techniques and technologies, and bring that knowledge, expertise and real experience from our farm onto the reservations.
It may be ambitious, but in the extreme long-term, we hope to do our little part in helping provide food security to the area, impacting the health of Native Americans, and turn our food deserts into food oases.
We invite you to join us in this journey!
“May you always walk in Beauty!”