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Dakota College Horticulture Collaborates with TMBCI

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In late 2020, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians (TMBCI) approached Dakota College at Bottineau with a proposal to work together regarding NRCS practices. Keith Knudson, Horticulture Department Chair, Sheldon Thomas, TMBCI Grant Project Manager, and Zoee St. Claire, Food Sovereignty Program Coordinator met to discuss what practices could be covered and what field days for participants were appropriate to gain an understanding. The participants included tribal farmers and other tribal members who are interested in Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practices.

In May 2021, Dakota College demonstrated soil sampling on two field locations. These samples were submitted to a lab for results and once the results came back, Keith gave Zoee provided recommendations on how to meet the nutrient needs of these locations. In July 2021, a field day was held for the participants regarding different practices such as raising vegetables in open fields and high tunnels, different types of irrigation and water issues, different types of mulches, cover crop practices, food safety practices, and how to cover a high tunnel.

This year, TMBCI is planning a few field days in conjunction with Dakota College. These will take place at two separate locations. One will be based on sustainable practices and the second will be a community-based garden that would include high tunnels. Both of these locations will be education-based and available for all tribal members. The study will be based on hemp production and growth. There will be three separate studies; one based on CBD, one based on carbon sequestering, and one on commercial-based hemp fiber.

Keith Knudson, who has been participating in hemp trials for the past two years, will provide TMBCI firsthand knowledge of hemp production & practices, issues that can arise, and solutions on how to fix said issues. Dakota College will discuss fertilizer rates, weed protection, hemp transplanting methods, hemp cannabinoid cultivars and their resistance to pests, flowering periods, plant structure, THC testing, flower maturity, and plant morphology in these field days, harvesting methods, cannabinoid levels, CO2 extraction, and the decarboxylation process. These are practices that Keith has been working on at his farm as well as on the Dakota College campus.

“I really think this collaboration has been a huge help! I really like working with Keith and Apryl. They have been amazing answering any questions we come up with.” Apryl Mawby, Specialty Crop Technician for Dakota College, will be working closely with Zoee in the upcoming months regarding planting practices and preparing soil and pest management. “A lot of people on the reservation have not heard of other alternative ways to grow, they only know to put a seed into the ground, water it and that’s it. This partnership can help bridge that lack of knowledge” states Zoee. Apryl will also be helping Zoee with growing natural medicines such as cedar, tobacco, sweetgrass, and sage which will be planted in a garden inside a geodome that the tribe has purchased. According to Keith, “I’m really excited to be working with Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. This is a great time to collaborate with each other and to give the tribal members more resources that they may not have had access to before.”