First Nations Brings Together Native Farmers and Ranchers to Strengthen Local and Regional Food Supply Chain in Indian Country

Apprenticeship Network Launches to Provide Support to 30 Native American Beginning Farmers and Ranchers 

LONGMONT, Colorado (February 15, 2023) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) today announced the 30 Native American beginning farmers and ranchers selected to participate in First Nations’ Native Farmer and Rancher Apprenticeship Network. Through the network, the Native farmers and ranchers will be supported in building their business capacity and strengthening their land management strategies, with a goal to increase local food production and food access and conservation stewardship.

The network launched in February 2022 with the support of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Ronald W. Naito MD Foundation.

“This investment will benefit a rising generation of beginning farmers and ranchers who truly reflect the tapestry of American agriculture and the many diverse communities we serve,” said NIFA Acting Director Dr. Dionne Toombs.

The 2022 network participants were chosen from a pool of diverse applicants representing beginning farmers and ranchers from Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The network will receive technical assistance and networking opportunities through a series of regional in-person trainings, virtual webinars, coaching support for their Business Plans and fieldwork over a two-year period.

Leiloni Begaye, First Nations program officer, said the new network was developed based on First Nations’ success with the “Community of Practice” model, which convenes Native leaders for trainings and workshops and provides a collaborative approach to sharing best practices.

“Through the network, this cohort of farmers and ranchers will learn first-hand from knowledgeable community members about Native farm and ranch management practices,” said Begaye. “At the same time, they will find guidance, partnerships, and inspiration from each other that can advance their work in marketing, agriculture, conservation planning, and natural resource management to create an even greater impact.”

The Native American Farmer and Rancher Apprenticeship Network is part of First Nations’ Stewarding Native Lands program, which recognizes that Native American communities have sustainably managed their lands for thousands of years, cultivating, adapting, and transferring traditional ecological knowledge over many generations. The program cultivates this expansive reservoir of knowledge by providing financial and technical assistance to support Native ecological stewardship and improve Native control of and access to ancestral lands and resources.

Through the 30-month apprenticeship, which runs February 1, 2022, to July 31, 2024, the following individuals will receive a stipend, as well as individualized technical assistance to deepen their work:

  • Aaron Warren, Santa Clara Pueblo
  • Alexandera Houchin, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
  • Amber Zapata, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
  • Beulah Blackrock, Navajo Nation
  • Bryan Chavez, Kewa Pueblo
  • Carnell Chosa, Pueblo of Jemez
  • Christina White, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
  • Dana Eldridge, Navajo Nation
  • David Cepeda, Mescalero Apache
  • David Wise, Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Direct Descendant
  • Diana Wilson, San Carlos Apache Tribe of the San Carlos Reservation
  • EdMiles Harvey, Navajo Nation
  • Erin Thomas, Navajo Nation
  • Gerard White, Navajo Nation
  • Jarom Prows, Navajo Nation
  • Jennifer Falck, Oneida Nation
  • Jerilyn Graves, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
  • Jonathan Romero, Pueblo of Jemez
  • Kira Loretto, Pueblo of Jemez
  • Lisa Brunner, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
  • Manuela Maldonado, Oglala Sioux Tribe
  • Matthew Gachupin, Pueblo of Jemez
  • Melanie Stacey, Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin
  • Michael Fox Gachupin, Pueblo of Jemez
  • Micheal Montoya, Navajo Nation
  • Regina Bitloy, Navajo Nation
  • Roberto Nutlouis, Navajo Nation
  • Tiarra Little, Oglala Lakota
  • Tierra Blacksheep, Navajo Nation
  • Trey Blackhawk, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

More information about the Native Farmer and Rancher Apprenticeship Network can be found here

About First Nations Development Institute
For over 42 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit