Espresso Pot Farms proprietor tackles entry to wholesome meals on Navajo Nation

5 min read
Cherilyn Yazzie carries vegetable bins she grew at her farm in Dilkon, Arizona.
Raymond Chee

As a Navajo social employee with a ardour for public well being and vitamin, Cherilyn Yazzie’s objective was to advocate for her neighborhood’s well being by educating them  eat. However she quickly realized one thing was “not clicking.”

“It was additionally the disconnect,” she mentioned. “I’m making an attempt to show them, ‘Be wholesome, eat this sort of meals.’ However then however, of their techniques, of their atmosphere, they don’t have that entry.”

“I’m the one who’s doing this incorrect,” she thought. She knew she needed to discover a solution to get these meals to the households in her neighborhood, however the odds appeared crushing. Rising the meals herself grew to become the objective.

However Yazzie couldn’t entry sufficient water, electrical energy, and he or she barely had an acre of land to work with, so the concept of constructing a farm on the scale she aspired to appeared too distant. 

That didn’t cease her. 

As an alternative, she and her husband, Mike Hester, constructed the infrastructure they lacked and began a enterprise in Yazzie’s hometown in Dilkon, Arizona, in 2018.

4 years later, Yazzie’s enterprise, Espresso Pot Farms, is now a 36-acre operation that grows and sells recent produce together with lettuce, bok choy, brassicas, tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, and beets to households throughout the Navajo Nation and Arizona. 

“What we wanna do is be capable to provide one thing that’s gonna be native, that’s gonna be from the land right here,” she mentioned. “Construct up that neighborhood right here and actually determine handle each other.”

Yazzie mentioned her objective is to ascertain a bridge between current and future generations by constructing a wholesome neighborhood that’s able to specializing in dwelling and studying as a lot as they’ll to move on to their descendants.

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“We wanna be capable to have individuals which are wholesome to ensure that us to hold on our traditions, our tales, our songs, our prayers,” she mentioned. 

Cherilyn Yazzie and Mike Hester's business, Coffee Pot Farms, is a 36-acre operation that grows and sells fresh produce to families across the Navajo Nation and Arizona.
Cherilyn Yazzie and Mike Hester’s enterprise, Espresso Pot Farms, is a 36-acre operation that grows and sells recent produce to households throughout the Navajo Nation and Arizona.
Raymond Chee

Preventing meals insecurity throughout COVID-19

And supporting that connection gained extra which means when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, which took a toll on grocery retailer cabinets throughout the nation. Yazzie’s work provided reduction to Navajo households who got here to her searching for to safe meals for his or her households. 

“It hit us quite a bit more durable as a result of plenty of reservation residents journey to the close by border cities to purchase our groceries and provides, however when the provision chain was interrupted, we had a tough time discovering fundamental meals provides,” mentioned Cara Dukepoo, a Navajo mother of 4 who grew to become an everyday buyer of Yazzie’s originally of 2020.

Dukepoo discovered Yazzie’s enterprise one afternoon by a Fb advert, she mentioned, and he or she didn’t hesitate to enroll. 

“It made me really feel extra snug as a mother understanding that I used to be capable of purchase recent, native, natural produce for my youngsters,” she mentioned. 

By means of Yazzie, Dukepoo was capable of have a assured provide of eggs for her household even by the hardest downturns of the pandemic. 

“What it confirmed to us is that folks had been really seeking out and asking if we had any meals bins,” Yazzie mentioned. “So it helped us to consider what can be most useful as we transfer ahead and that was one of many areas we actually labored at.” 

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Later that 12 months, Yazzie began providing meals field subscriptions and biweekly veggie field pick-ups accessible for her neighborhood at totally different places. 

“We all the time knew that we had been gonna get sufficient greens that final us for 2 weeks, we additionally knew that the greens wouldn’t spoil, so we had been fairly assured that we might be OK,” Dukepoo mentioned. 

Yazzie was dedicated to serving to households in her neighborhood once they most wanted it, she mentioned, even when the pandemic had impacted her on a private degree.

She mentioned shedding her dad to COVID-19 in 2021 was the toughest problem she has confronted since she began her enterprise. 

“That was exhausting. I nonetheless cry every single day. I’m nonetheless emotional,” Yazzie mentioned. “However I do know he’s pleased with what we now have executed.” 

Though she mentioned some days she struggled to search out motivation, that second helped her discover extra which means behind supporting the well being of her neighborhood.

Inspiring a neighborhood 

“It was personally the primary time I’d seen a business farm being run on the reservation, ’trigger you normally solely see residence gardens or conventional fields,” Dukepoo mentioned. “Seeing one thing at her scale, at a really skilled degree — it was surreal.”

Dukepoo mentioned Yazzie’s work impressed her and her household to broaden their very own residence backyard as they realized it was doable to develop many extra issues than they used to assume. 

And Dukepoo isn’t the one one. Yazzie mentioned since she began utilizing social media to inform her story and share extra details about her enterprise, individuals from her neighborhood reached out to her expressing how they felt represented and impressed by her work. 

“It’s part of exhibiting those that it’s doable, even by a lot of these obstacles,” she mentioned. “We are able to determine it out if we now have that function and have that purpose of why we wanna do one thing.” 

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Her efforts to proceed serving to her neighborhood by the pandemic earned her a centerpiece function in a movie by GoDaddy referred to as Huge Water Summer time: A Creation Story, which shall be proven on the SXSW Movie Competition that can happen in March in Austin, Texas.

The movie follows Cherilyn as she tries to develop her crops and exhibits her resilience as she navigates unprecedented challenges, she mentioned. 

“She’s declaring to the world that she sees an issue and that she’s prepared to deal with it,” Dukepoo mentioned. “Even when it’s one thing so simple as meals, however even then meals isn’t easy — meals is important.”

Attain breaking information reporter Laura Daniella Sepulveda at [email protected] or on Twitter @lauradNews.

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