NOFA-VT: Abenaki Land Link Project

2020 Grant Amount: $8,924.00

Through the Abenaki Land Link Project, the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation has partnered with ​NOFA-VT​ and the Vermont Farm to Plate Network’s​ ​Rooted in Vermont project​ ​to provide indigenous seeds to gardeners, homesteaders, and farmers around Vermont who are dedicating land to grow and harvest food for Abenaki citizens. All of the seeds are being graciously provided by the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation and cannot be used for any other purpose outside of the project. This project seeks to build a more resilient food system that doesn’t discriminate or leave folks behind. This project is working to ensure that citizens of the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation have access to healthy, culturally sensitive food of their choosing. At the end of the growing season, these crops will be harvested and processed through community processing days, stored in cold and dry storage, and then distributed throughout the fall and early winter to citizens of the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation. In addition, we will host a Harvest Celebration so more Vermonters are able to share in eating foods native to the Abenaki people and learn from the cultural history that the Abenaki ancestors used. Further details are below:

Growing:​ This project is currently being piloted in the 2020 growing season, with 15 sites throughout the state made up of mostly home gardeners growing corn, squash and beans. In 2021, we plan to do more targeted outreach to five to eight additional commercial growers interested in participating to produce one acre or more of crops, while continuing to also offer the opportunity to individual home gardeners. The goal for the 2021 season is to partner with 30 total sites around the state.

Processing: ​In 2021, we plan to host three community processing days at participating farms in northern, central and southern parts of the state, where participating growers can come together to process the season’s harvest. We have access to corn and bean processing equipment through a partnership with Joe Bossen of Vermont Bean Crafters and All Souls Tortilleria. We will also rent commercial kitchen space to process winter squash for ease of use and storage. Adam Wilson of Running Stone Bread and Jim Williams of Backdoor Bread are both offering milling services to the project, turning the harvested corn into cornmeal and flour.

Storage & Distribution:​ We will rent dry and refrigerated storage space from Vermont Bean Crafters and All Souls Tortilleria in Warren, VT as a centralized storage area for crops post-harvest. Crops will be distributed as needed to Nulhegan tribal citizens through Chief Don Stevens, tribal food shelves and community volunteers.

Celebration:​ (Pandemic permitting), In late September/early October 2021, we will host a Harvest Celebration at the Farm at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps in Richmond, a participating site since 2020. This event will be open to the public and will include harvesting and processing demonstrations, a shared meal of seasonal foods and Abenaki crops, a welcome speech from Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation, and traditional harvest dance, song and storytelling from Alnôbaiwi, a group of Abenaki community members working to preserve their cultural heritage. If it is not possible to gather in person, we will develop an alternative plan for this Celebration including a live streamed welcome speech from Chief Don Stevens, pre-recorded harvesting and processing demonstrations and recipes for traditional foods and dishes for attendees to try making at home.

Education & Engagement:​ NOFA-VT will host a 2021 Celebrate Your Farmer Social at an Abenaki Land Link participating site, hosting speakers from the Nulhegan Abenaki community and a farm tour to highlight this project to NOFA-VT members and other attendees. The 2022 NOFA-VT Winter Conference will feature a workshop focused on growing native crops, including a panel with participating growers and representatives from the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation, NOFA-VT and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. If it is not possible to gather in person, we will develop an alternative plan for these education and engagement gatherings. Additionally, in conjunction with our partners like Rooted in Vermont, we aim to share this project of resilience out into the greater community through social media, blog posts, e-newsletters, press releases and local newspapers.

The project's partners and growers are coming together to recognize the racist and horrific historical relationship between European settlers and Indigenous people in Vermont and the United States and committing to work on repairing that relationship. This project is an opportunity for the growers, as current stewards of the land that once was stewarded by Indigenous people, to recognize that they are afforded an opportunity to grow food; a privilege which is not currently available for many Abenaki citizens in Vermont. By participating in the project, they are doing so in solidarity with the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation.

However, this isn’t charity, this is resiliency. The Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation,

NOFA-VT, Rooted in Vermont and the growers are coming together as equals and partners for this project to build a more resilient food system that doesn’t discriminate or leave folks behind. As partners, we are working together to ensure that citizens of the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk - Abenaki Nation have access to healthy, culturally sensitive food of their choosing. In addition, growers, who are able to keep some of the harvest, are able to share in eating foods native to the Abenaki people and learning from the cultural history that the Abenaki ancestors used.

We firmly believe that we are all more resilient when everyone has their needs met and food is one of the most basic needs. Yet, we know that many people continue to face disenfranchisement and active measures must be taken to rectify those injustices. The Abenaki Land Link Project is a small but powerful step towards that goal.