2019 Indigenous Communities Fellowship


Coffee Pot Farms

Using food sovereignty to create healthy communities and families

Team Lead

Cherilyn Yazzie

Basic Information

Our Solution

Coffee Pot Farms

Our tagline:

Food sovereignty equals medicine to create healthy communities, healthy families.

Our pitch:

Connection to land and agriculture is a foundation of the Dine people. Despite this foundation, what was once a community deeply connected to healthy cultural food practices, has now been displaced by climate change due to severe drought conditions.  When there is moisture from it comes down quickly and flows down buttes through the wash and can’t be slowed down.  The lands are no longer conducive to growing corn with traditional methods.  Corn fields have gone dormant due to land erosion and the inability to continue flood irrigation methods or dry land farming practices.  These factors indicate a need for implementation of agricultural and healthy food initiatives to revitalize the rural Navajo Nation economy, health of the Dine people and the land.  Every plant serves a purpose to the Navajo.  Native plants for medicine are harder to locate.  They are used in ceremonies, for Navajo arts such as basket making and rug weaving.   The Dine people have limited access to traditional crops: corn, beans, squash, melons, wild onions, carrots, spinach, purslane, apricot and peach trees and the native plants such as: taa’ dii diin (corn pollen), corn meal, sage and various herbs for cleansing ceremonies.  The project we propose is to revitalize a long-abandoned corn field by taking 2 acres of land and amending soils by double digging lasagna beds, hügelkulturs, berms and swells.  The project will dig a holding pond by using permaculture methods to capture and slow down rain water and run-offs.  The pond well be located in the corn field where the deepest land erosion has occurred.  The pond will used for water storage, benefit the plants and other wild life.  By implementing these techniques, we aim to regenerate the soil, increase availability of traditional fruits/vegetables, fruit trees and medicinal plants.  The project will engage medicine people into conversations about how to save/grow medicinal plants.  People have implemented tilling methods to the soils every season and disturbing the soil and the mycelium in the soils.  When seeds are planted, we rely the rains to water the plants.  But since climate change the rains have not been consistent year to year.  Tilling the soils has caused barren lands with no vegetation growth.   Both the tribal and non-profit sectors create and provide workshops on how to improve your skills as a grower however, having access to the information is difficult.  Farmers have limited access to transportation and time to attend workshops, training and demonstrations sites are a barrier.  Our project will document the entire process of how to revitalize a corn field on social media on Face Book, You Tube, Instagram and share with non-profit agencies to post on their websites.  The videos will be made and produced as how-to videos.  This project will show our farmers how to use new technology to amend our soils and grow more food and native plants. 

Our solution's stage of development:


Where our project is located:

Dilkon, AZ, USA
About Your Solution

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Dilkon, AZ, USA

How we use technology in our project:

Amending soils using lasagna bed methods have three components.  It makes healthy soil quickly, you can grow food in it right away, it builds the humus, microbiology and can also build organic matter.  We will be using a product called Soil Secrets by Michael Melendrez.  These include terra pro, protein crumblies, nectar and ambrosia.  The project will use permaculture methods for collecting and storing water.  Lastly, we will use high technology to document the process of the revitalizing a corn field.  We will use video making apps, hardware to capture the story by using phones, cameras and a go-pro camera.  

What makes our project innovative:

Navajo still want to have access to corn and medicinal plants and want to reconnect with the earth and the corn fields.  The techniques we are applying are lasagna beds and permaculture practices such as hügelkulturs.  The project is innovative because we are taking an old-world practice and incorporating a modern technique with new innovative products (soil secrets).  The project is to build up healthy soil in a 2-acre doormat corn field that was traditionally used as flood irrigation.  It includes reconstruction two garden plots with fencing, building healthy soils and a rain harvesting project for water collection. 

How our project will be accessible and affordable to our community:

We will be documenting the process to revitalize the corn field and make them available for free on social media and through Navajo non-profits organizations so that communities will have access to the knowledge and methods.  The food and seeds that come out of the corn fields will be sold through Coffee Pot Farms.  CPF is an approved SNAP vendor and all the products will be sold at local farmers markets and flea markets in the Navajo communities. Making lasagna beds are accessible and affordable because you mostly need a shovel, aged manure/compost, straw, mulch, cardboard and sweat equity.  

CPF serves Dilkon where we sold produce at a local flea market; Teesto Chapter House, we provided garden class and amended ¼ acre in their corn field; Tolani Lake Enterprise, we sold tomato and peppers plant starts for salsa gardens.  There’s been a proliferation of unhealthy convenience foods in communities that has now been designated as a low-income and low-supermarket-access.  Moreover, the socioeconomic conditions on the Navajo Nation are highlighted by limited employment opportunities.  These factors indicate a need for implementation of agricultural and healthy food initiatives to revitalize the rural Navajo Nation economy and health of the Dine people. 

Our future project goals:

Over the next year after the lasagna beds are put in, they will immediately be planted in with corn, beans, squash and other native-medicinal plants.  Through social media more people can implement these methods in their corn fields or start smaller home gardens.  We will be able to expand these projects to other local farmers in Leupp and Greasewood.  These projects will be constructed on the Navajo Reservation, in the communities (2010 census the population) of Greasewood was 547; Dilkon was 1,184; Leupp was 951; Sun Valley was 316; Ganado was 1,210.  

Highlights from our project:

CPF was recently awarded grant from First Nation Keepseagle and Arizona State University Stardust to address food sovereignty issues.  CPF was featured in a Civil Eats article and on Vitalyst Foundation pod cast on food sovereignty on the Navajo Nation.  We created the Green Team on Navajo Nation.  The Green Team consists of local food producers who left the 8-5 work-world to revitalize traditional corn fields, to help tribal chapter houses tackle food sovereignty issues, we’ve provided free garden workshops in our communities, and joined coalitions to write and define food policies that work towards a cultural appropriate food system. 

About Your Team

There are five people.

Partnership Potential

Why we are applying to Solve:

The bureaucracy system of the Navajo Nation’s government system has become so difficult to navigate.  Farmers and small business owners are not supported in ways to help develop the skills necessary to become successful and to help our communities. The local chapter house government relies too much on funding from the tribe and their process takes too long to get approval to move your projects forward.  Getting final approval could take years and even long to get funding takes even longer.  We just want to start amending soils so that we can grow food and traditional plants.

The organizations we are currently working with:

We are currently working with Tolani Lake Enterprise’s where we provide plant starts and garden education workshops; Green Team and Chizzie Farms we've provided grant writing assistance, leadership for capacity building and support for the local farmers, Pinnacle Prevention and Adrienne Udarbe have been our mentor for the incubation of our food system projects, business; and lastly Teesto Chapter has been a place for us to provide garden education workshops to the community. 

Organizations we would like to partner with:

We would love to work with our Medicine people and herbalist to learn the local medicinal plants we need to grow.  We will need to connect with all our local farmers to help them revitalize cornfields.  We will also need to connect with tribal entities such as: Dine’ College Food Policy & Land Review Policy handbook, Land Management Office, Dine’ CARE, Navajo Ethics Committee, Dept of Health Services, Medicine Man Association, Water Resource, Local Grazing Official, Grazing Permittee Holders, to engage them in our projects and how to fund future projects that will improve land and support farmers. 

Solution Team

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