The 208th recipient is Cherilyn Yazzie of Coffee Pot Farms @coffeepotfarms in Winslow, AZ.
Cherilyn writes, “My husband Michael Hester and I became farmers on the Navajo reservation in Arizona in 2018. We grow good food for the health of our people. Before my career was in social work & public health nutrition programs. I became interested in growing food while working in public health. When we started, we knew we needed to grow in non-traditional ways & we invested in knowledge, tools & infrastructure that would help us to become market farmers. It felt like we went back to college as we learned from experts like Clara Coleman, Ben Hartman & JM Fortier.
My maternal grandmother & my paternal grandfather are my connection to this place I call home. I used to herd sheep with my grandma. She stopped herding sheep six years ago & she knows the Navajo names of all the plants, trees & insects. My grandfather worked into his mid-seventies. He dug a two-mile water pipeline; from a natural spring to a seven-thousand-gallon water tank. He hauled water for the livestock & corn field. These two people are my inspiration to farming.
The support I seek is knowledge to decode our land & water laws that would help improve our agriculture. The greatest challenge in our work has been getting access to water for our plants. We are in the process of getting a well drilled on our homesite lease. I believe that Indigenous people all over the nation are ready for change in their food systems. However, we don’t know enough of the federal laws to say where to find the loophole that will unlock the flood gates. I know we are all ready. All farmers can support one another, we’ve got to be strategic in our movements. Food shouldn’t be democrat or republican issues because everyone needs to eat. In 2022, Navajo farmers still lack access to capital, water, & qualified labor to become adequate producers of healthy, nutrient dense foods. I believe that community care, mental health & self-care are very important for all farmers everywhere.
There needs to be better access to services that help us stay balanced, to prevent burnout. I saw many farmers do amazing things for their community during the pandemic & I wonder if they have been able to slow down to catch their breath. Reach out to each other, be kind and just listen to each other. As for others, support your local farmers & ranchers because they love what they do & are always thinking about how to get more food to your table, join a CSA & when you can buy directly from them. To policy makers, invite a farmer/rancher to your table & learn what their jobs entails. Together we all have the knowledge to problem solve the climate crisis, water access & feeding everyone.”