Hoopa Tribe Gets USDA Grant to Bring Farmer’s Market to the Community

Typically, the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Tsemeta Forest Nursery grows trees to reforest the land post logging operations, but a new USDA grant will allow the nursery to help local farmers see their produce from the ground to the market./Photo by Kristan Korns, Two Rivers Tribune.

By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving the Hoopa Valley Tribe $316,000 over the next three years to encourage local folks to farm and sell their produce at a local farmer’s market.

Kim Davis, a botanist who manages the Tribe’s Tsemeta Forest Nursery, wrote the grant.

“I saw an opportunity and wanted to see it happen in our community,” Davis said during an informational and recruitment meeting held on January 22.

Farmers markets are the not-so-new food fad throughout the state and the country, but even well-coordinated attempts to sprout a market in Hoopa and Willow Creek have not succeeded.

During the meeting, some suggested that the market is too small in Hoopa to support local farmers.

Local Raven Surber said people may not know how to prepare various foods making them apprehensive to purchase unfamiliar produce.

Joseph Orozco was interested in any feedback Tsemeta Nursery or the U.C. Agricultural Extension could provide about similar markets in communities as small as Hoopa and Willow Creek.

“We have a limited amount of people here to purchase food,” Orozco said. “Other attempts pulsate for a while as long as the grant is there, but the amount of work it takes to provide the produce here doesn’t make it sustainable for the farmer. I encourage good healthy food, but as far as the market goes, I want to see quality data that supports the opportunity here.”

The USDA grant will fuel growing projects in two ways. First, it will provide a welcomed boost for local farmers, and aspiring farmers by supplying them with seeds, seedlings, or specialty foods plant starts and tractor work.

The money will also be used to coordinate a Hoopa farmer’s market, which will be supplemented by vouchers for low income customers.

“Vouchers will be provided on a match basis; when a qualified applicant spends $10-$30 on specialty crops a voucher will be given for $10-$30 will be given for use on their next purchase,” a project summary reads.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) guidelines will be used to determine a family’s eligibility for supplemental vouchers and Davis said the success of the program isn’t required for the funding as long as they keep detailed and accurate data of their progress toward the goal of putting local food on local tables.

Davis said they are seeking local farmers interested in growing specialty crops. A long list of eligible crops was provided at the meeting—almonds, currents, olives, pears, peaches, strawberries, artichokes, okra, corn, chard, tomatoes and a myriad more vegetables, fruits, herbs and nuts.

A short application was also provided to about 15 farmers who attended the meeting, some of whom operate market farms and homesteads. Others are looking to dig into the agricultural field.

Some in the room expressed concern about water supply infrastructure as well as the ability to accept CalFresh (food stamps) and WIC vouchers at the market.

Dawn Blake said she is genuinely interested in the idea of the local community having the opportunity to access more nutritious food.

“There’s a noticeable increase in obesity here,” Blake said. “It started, as far as I can tell, as soon as Ray’s Food Place began to sell fried food.”

Joe Marshall is working to develop a small farm on three acres of family land in Hoopa. He attended the meeting to explore the opportunities the grant could provide.

Grady Walker owns and operates Green Fire Farm in Hoopa. He is one of Humboldt County’s more successful market farmers, selling to several grocery stores and restarurants throughout the county. He has provided some produce to the Tribe’s Senior Nutrition Program as well as most of the vegetables for the weekly Veggie club.

“I’m always looking for more ways for the food we grow to stay in Hoopa,” Walker said.

There will be additional meetings held throughout the year. For more information contact, Kim Davis at (530) 625-4284 x. 125 or email at kimmerzdawn@live.com

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