University of Arkansas holds agricultural summit for Native youth
Thirty-five students from high schools and colleges representing 20 tribes take a group photo at the University of Arkansas’s Native Youth in Food and Agricultural Leadership Summit that took place June 7-14 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Each student conducted an in-depth study in one of four educational tracks: agriculture business and finance, law and policy, nutrition and health, and land use and conservation. COURTESY
University of Arkansas School of Law Dean and Cherokee Nation citizen Stacy Leeds, center, is honored by students Zach Ilbery (Cherokee) and Masewa Mody (Cochiti Pueblo) for support of the Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit after her session on tribal governance. COURTESY
Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit students Zach Ilbery (Cherokee), left, Mackenize Martinez (Choctaw/Apache), Lauren Thompson (Cheyenne River Sioux), and Kiana Haskell (Fort Belknap) learn about the Quapaw Tribe’s dog training operation. COURTESY
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Thirty-five high school and college students attended the University of Arkansas’s Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative fifth annual Native Youth in Food and Agricultural Leadership Summit June 7-14 at the university’s law school.
Representing 20 tribes from across the nation, each student studied in one of four educational tracks pertaining to agricultural business and finance, agricultural law and policy, nutrition and health, and land use and conservation planning.
“What we hope is that young people who are coming here are already leaders in their communities and tribes back home, and we hope what they take away with them are the skills they need to be that next generation of leaders and help develop their tribal food and agricultural systems in their own farms and ranches back home across the country,” Erin Parker, university research director and staff attorney, said.
Parker said the summit started five years ago via a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help youth who go into food and agricultural careers in Indian Country know the problems agricultural producers face, specifically Native American producers, and how to solve those problems.
“We know from our work at the Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative that Indian producers face legal barriers, financial barriers that no other producer in the country faces when it comes to agriculture. Obviously dealing with an additional regulatory system through the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) around land usage and land management, it creates a lot of potential problems,” Parker said.
Cherokee Nation citizen and Oklahoma State University junior Zachary Ilbery attended the summit for the fifth year in a row as a student leader and presenter. He focused on the agricultural business and finance track.
“This year I was asked to apply in the agri-business and finance sector. I currently work as a loan officer/appraiser intern for Oklahoma AgCredit. I know a little bit in the business and credit side of things, so I was asked to apply to come back and dig deep into that sector,” Ilbery said.
Ilbery said he wants to learn more about how agriculture in Indian Country differs.
“Within Indian Country a lot of the times we don’t have the access to credit. We don’t have the access to capital. The way we manage we our natural resources is different from the way the USDA may want to manage our natural resources,” he said. “The Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative really is a groundbreaking opportunity for Native American, Alaskan and Hawaiian youth from all the around the nation to teach about our agricultural business and finance, credit, natural resource use.”
He said he’s obtaining a degree at OSU in agricultural education, minoring in agricultural land real estate and is pre-agricultural law. He said he hopes to become an agricultural lawyer for the CN or the USDA to help improve agricultural laws.
“Within the Cherokee Nation right now we have our bison herd. We have our natural resources division within the Cherokee Nation, and that’s something that the Cherokee Nation does focus a lot on is their agricultural practices. Going back and implementing some of our agricultural practices in a large perspective to better our community, to help us become self-sufficient and food sovereign, and in order to be a sovereign nation, you have to be food sovereign,” Ilbery said.