Tsyunhehkwa- Agricultural Page

Our Agricultural component is located at 139 Riverdale Drive, on a Certified Organic 83-acre site. Our program is founded on Self Sustainability, and service for the Oneida Nation and the Community. Our entire operation and services are open to the public. We provide a variety of products and services to the people of the Oneida Community, in which all of them are open to the public. The Agriculture component is responsible for the heirloom White Corn, field crops and animal care, rotovating services, coordinating and facilitating educational hands-on workshops, and other outreach aspects.

We also have a solar greenhouse and herb and berry garden areas and can maintain up to 35 grass-fed cattle, which includes our cow/calf operation and 25 acres of pastures. We have about 20 acres of crops planted on a rotational basis. Our organic certification was received in 2001/2002 from the Organic Crop Improvement Association for our White Corn, hay, pasture, pumpkin, and fruits and vegetables, (Our herb garden was certified in 2003). Our growing year starts in February starts when we plant our vegetable and herb seedlings in the greenhouse. Every year we raise and process free range poultry and farm fresh eggs. We share our knowledge with the community through workshops on diverse topics, such as Three Sisters Garden, Productive Vegetable Gardening, Herb and Berry Workshops, and Holistic Health issues.

One of our primary responsibilities is caring for our Three Sisters, Corn, Beans and Squash. A key part of this obligation is providing and caring for our White Corn. Please review the portion of our Creation Story on our Home Page to better understand the role we have with our Traditional Iroquoian White Corn. As we care for the Three Sisters, we continue to learn how to accomplish this, and share that knowledge. Caring for the White Corn goes hand in hand with caring for and respecting our natural environment and all that it provides in return. It is our job to respect all that the Creator has offered, and we look at food as the natural medicines and health provided for us by the Creator.

As with every year we began this season with a recognition for the Seed that we planted, and invite the Community. The tobacco burning is a traditional way to honor and recognize our White Corn, including those Community members that are planting their corn, their gardens and the responsibility that we all have in caring for our sustainers.

Each year we plant between 3 - 6 acres. The life cycle of our White Corn runs from May till October. We plant and cultivate the White Corn with modern equipment (Tractor/Seeder), and in accordance with our traditional ceremonies and the lunar cycle. We celebrate the Green Corn stage in August, with our Green Corn Ceremony, and we set the date for our Community Harvest and Husking Bee based on this Stage. During the Green Corn stage it is sweeter, milkier, and yellowish in color. It is the Corn that determines the dates for Harvest and Seed selection. We hold another Tobacco Burning for the seed selection, which the Community and all personnel at tsyunhehkw^ take part. We look for traits that will provide the strongest seed for the coming years, such as stalk strength, average height, one ear per stalk, and eight kernel rows. After husking, we make more than two hundred braids, each with sixty-five ears in them, and hang them to dry in the traditional manner. The rest is placed in storage racks in our greenhouse for the Winter season.

We will be holding our 14th Annual Community Harvest and Husking Bee in the Fall of 2007. It is our custom to harvest our sustenance by bringing the Community together to complete all of our responsibilities. During the Harvest and Husking Bee we share the knowledge of snapping, husking and braiding our White Corn. With community support the corn is hand harvested and braided to dry in the Oneida tradition. The entire program is involved during this time. We coordinate all efforts in harvesting the fields, and keeping everyone in a good mind and place. It has always been natural for us to share stories and laugh when we come together. It is usually at each other’s expense, but it is all in good humor. We provide meals during the harvest, and everyone is welcome. The Harvest could not be completed without the help from our Community and friends.

Products from our White Corn include Raw Corn, Dehydrated Corn, Corn Soup, Corn Bread, and Flour. These products are processed at our Cannery, and are available at our Retail Store. Nutritional analysis completed on our Corn has shown a higher value of protein compared with other varieties of conventional corn. The Three Sisters is traditionally one of our primary sustainers, and the health benefits from all three provide many of our nutritional needs.

We face many challenges each year to grow these sustaining crops in a way that fulfills our cultural and spiritual responsibilities. Many issues have to be addressed such as cultivating, weed and pest control, harvesting, drying, storage, processing, and availability. We are continually working on controlling the thistle that grows with our Corn, and in our other crop fields and pastures. We rely on research and try different techniques to deal with this issue. We plant our crops on a rotational basis, and are able to rotate for 3 to 4 years before we plant the White Corn in the same field. Cover crops of clover, legumes, and grasses are applied to the rest of the fields until the White Corn is scheduled to be planted again. They not only help to return nutrients to the soil, but provide hay for our cattle. Our Organic Certification requires annual testing, and the soil samples provide the basis for our Nutrient Management plan. Controls become extensive due to our natural sustainability, and available aids that qualify for organic standards. We continue to research traditional ways to care for the crops, land, and the animals by talking with our elders, and reviewing historical records.

Storing our White Corn is another ongoing challenge. We braid and hang the Corn in the traditional way for drying and storage, but we also use racks in our greenhouse to dry and store the additional corn. Mold is always an issue we face, and we are working to find solutions. Our White Corn has a high moisture content, and shelling does not begin until the corn has dried to a moisture content of 12 percent. Currently we hang the braided corn in an on-site Pole Building. In years past, our harvest was depleted by the Spring or Summer time. In 2003 we had planted and harvested about 6 acres, which has provided us the best yield in recent history. Storage for this yield was another matter. We had to make sure we had enough space for drying and conduct it in the proper way. Careful observation is required.

Our goal is self sufficiency and providing for our Nation and Community. Communication and cooperation are a vital part of this program and what we believe in and strive for. There are several many other indigenous entities we work with throughout North America, that have the same goals and ideas. We work with the elders in the area, and other programs in the Oneida Nation. The Cultural Heritage Department, Oneida Museum, Conservation Department, Environmental Department, Department of Public Works and many others work with us toward completing and maintaining our responsibilities. We maintain a very good working relationship with our neighbors and Community. Recently one neighbor, a non-tribal land owner, decided not to have her field planted in order to reduce the risk of cross-pollinating our White Corn with modern corn hybrids. Many natural and organic growers in our area stay in touch with one another, and we all help where we can. Any questions we can help with please let us know. We look forward to hearing from you.

Ted Skenandore, Agricultural Supervisor

P.O. Box 365

Oneida, WI 54155

(920) 869-2718 ~ Office

(920) 869-2147 ~ Fax

tskenan2@oneidanation.org ~ E-Mail

LOCATION:

Agricultural

139 Riverdale Drive

Oneida WI 54155

 

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