Skip Navigation

Conservation showcased at 2018 Intertribal Food Sovereignty Summit

USDA leadership joined tribal leaders from across continent at the Intertribal Food Sovereignty Summit, August 21-23, 2018 at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Ledyard, Connecticut. The event highlighted indigenous food landscapes from forest, farm, and ocean through workshops, panel discussions, exhibits, entertainment and meals. The three-day conference culminated with a conservation tour at Crandall Minacommuck Farm, the Narragansett tribal farm in nearby Westerly, Rhode Island.

The event was sponsored by Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Narragansett Indian Tribe, Mohegan Sun, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

NRCS Acting Chief Leonard Jordan, RMA Administrator Martin Barbre, and NRCS Deputy Chief for Programs Jimmy Bramblett were among several USDA leaders that participated on a panel discussion about USDA assistance for tribes.

A team of indigenous chefs from the area and abroad provided meals with fresh indigenous ingredients. Attendees also visited the Pequot maple sugar shack to learn about traditional and modern maple sugaring.

NRCS Rhode Island State Conservationist Pooh Vongkhamdy and his staff planned the day-long tour at Crandall Minacommuck Farm in conjunction with Narragansett tribal members. Attendees rotated through eight stations where they viewed and learned about conservation practices at the farm.

Now owned by the Narragansett tribe, the property had been owned by the Crandall family for over 300 years. The land has both historic and cultural significance to the tribe. The tribal community is pursuing many initiatives at the farm, including sustainable agriculture, economic development, community involvement, and cultural and educational programs. 

With NRCS assistance, the tribe has completed several conservation practices on the farm, including three forest management plans, four high tunnels, a water well, cover crop and nutrient management.

More practices are planned, including conservation cover (pollinator seeding), tree/shrub planting for wildlife, three more high tunnels, brush management, an access road with a culvert, a pump and irrigation storage reservoir, irrigation pipeline, and cultural plantings and tree pruning.

In 2015, NRCS and the Narragansett Indian Tribe entered into an agreement to build the first community garden on reservation land in Charlestown, Rhode Island.  The agreement provides educational and outreach opportunities highlighting the importance of fresh produce and opportunities to garden for historically underserved communities.

NRCS provided $10,000 in funding through Conservation Technical Assistance, while the Narragansett Indian Tribe provided in-kind contributions worth over $5,000 for the volunteer labor, donated materials and equipment required to construct the garden.

The garden was planned to accommodate the needs of the Narragansett Indian elders.  It was conveniently located next to the Narragansett Indian Tribe Community Center where elders’ meals are prepared.  The garden consists of 19 raised beds which are higher than traditional raised beds and includes a seating area and shaded benches to allow elders to rest when working in the garden.

Recently, the Narragansett Tribe was among 30 tribes to receive a Soil Climate Analysis Network (SCAN) weather station as part of a Bureau of Indian Affairs and NRCS joint pilot project to support agricultural operations and Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education on tribal land.