Food Sovereign Summer

Co-written by Hayley Wells and Jenna Makes Good.


Food insecurity and poor diet contribute to many health issues facing Native people today.  Growing healthy food at home can help close nutritional gaps. There are only a few things that need to be known in order to successfully yield your own crop at home. Food sovereignty is a common indigenous ideal and becoming food sovereign does not have to be hard. Growing your own food can be a very wholesome and beneficial experience for yourself and your family. 

When getting started, it is a good idea to start small. To begin, you’ll need seeds, a location, and a little time. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the variety of seeds available.  Choose a variety or two of seeds to begin with and expand over time. Make a list of the fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating and see which grow best in your climate.  Many first time gardeners find success with lettuce or beans.

Backyard Garden. Photo by Hayley Wells

Some plants need more sunlight and some need less water. It is very helpful to research your plants and also find quality soil. Soil quality will influence a plant’s nutrient intake and how it grows. It is easy to make your own compost to mix with your soil to provide organic materials that will breakdown to provide further nutrients. Gardens thrive with compost! Instead of throwing away coffee grounds, eggshells, and orange peels, you can toss them in your compost/garden. In order to help your compost break down organic materials, be sure to stir regularly and layer with soil and water as needed.

Everyone may not have access to a large outdoor space, but there are other options.  Mellissa Freiburger of the Sunrise Project in Lawrence, KS offers the following advice to novice gardeners with limited space, “Container gardening makes growing food accessible to almost anyone, so I love that aspect of it! Almost anything can work as a container as long as there is drainage… don’t get too bogged down in thinking that you need special equipment.  And the bigger the container – the better!”

Container Garden with smith peas. Photo by Hayley Wells

HINU Student, Jamie Colvin, has plenty of experience working with plants at home. She says, “Pay attention to water runoff. Water the souls, not the plant.” She explains that this will prevent the plant from burning in the sun. And Colvin’s final gardening tip was, “Make sure your plant has plenty of bubble room so the roots can grow in its own area and not compete for space with others.”

The benefits of gardening don’t have to end each season.  Seeds can be preserved to be planted the next year. Many crops can also be stored for long periods of time to come in handy during the winter months. With patience, a successful garden will bring you one step closer to food sovereignty!

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