Current Projects

Advancing Agribusiness and Ecological Stewardship in the Southwest

Indigenous knowledge systems recognize the interconnectedness of all things, including the link between the production of food and the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. To support Native food producers in ways that are in line with Native values of land stewardship, First Nations is leading the three-year Advancing Agribusiness and Ecological Stewardship in the Southwest project.

Made possible with support through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program of the USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, the project is helping two food-producing organizations increase access to new markets, address soil health, develop business goals, and expand their networks.

Through the project, one Native livestock association and one natural resource department, Tolani Lake Livestock and Water Users Association, Tolani Lake, Arizona, and the Pueblo of Jemez Department of Natural Resources in Jemez, New Mexico, will learn how to start and complete a conservation plan that will contribute to the sustainable management of their rangelands and other natural resources. In addition, they will gain background and support through the USDA to best position themselves for future funding opportunities through the USDA.

Ultimately, this project will benefit Native food producers throughout Arizona and New Mexico.


The majority of farms on the Navajo Reservation and at the Pueblo of Jemez are operated by American Indians/Alaska Natives. Most farms have livestock, and most are located on nine or fewer acres, with farm values less than $4,999. In addition, this reservation land is often held jointly by several family and community members or in concert (or trust) with the tribal government.

With this fractionation of ownership and control, creating a conservation plan often requires input and participation from other tribal members. Unlike private landowners who can individually make conservation and economic decisions for the land, Native producers many times require approval from their communities and neighboring land permittees about how and when the land will be used.

Additionally, many Native food producers have a need for training and technical assistance in order to create conservations plans and uphold their Indigenous knowledge systems that have long sustained and nurtured Native lands.

About the Two Native Food Producers

The Tolani Lake Livestock and Water Users Association works to advance Native livestock producers through technical assistance, partnerships, and education. One of their primary areas of focus is on increasing access to water resources for Navajo producers to assist with the ongoing drought.

The mission of the Pueblo of Jemez’s Department of Natural Resources is to support tribal leaders in managing, monitoring, and protecting lands and resources important to the Pueblo of Jemez in a manner that complements, respects, and defends traditional Jemez culture. The Pueblo of Jemez’s DNR’s services include Rangeland Management; Wildlife Management; Environmental Monitoring and Compliance; Farming Assistance; Irrigation System Management; Renewable Energy Development; and Geographic Information Systems Management.

Check back for updates on this project.

Learn about other projects of First Nations’ Stewarding Native Lands Program.