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Using century-old Native farming techniques helps build soil

Alice Mannette
Pratt Tribune
Grounds of Indigenous Regeneration in California. [Submitted]

TOPEKA—Lacey Cannon has farming in her blood. Generations ago, her German ancestors moved to the Ukraine to farm. From there, they headed to Kansas and settled in Topeka, farming wheat and other grains.

Three generations later, Lacey followed her husband Paul Cannon, a member of Kumeyaay-Ipai from the San Pasqual Indian reservation, back to his home, where they decided to build a large teaching garden for the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians reservation. 

Wanting to use Native practices, the couple founded Indigenous Regeneration, a non-profit organization that consists of a garden, a medicine path and a food forest. Along with growing herbs and produce, the organization teaches Native cultural and farming practices. More than 100 community volunteers take part in farming on this Southern California reservation.

“I wanted to reconnect to the land,” Lacey Cannon said.

By inspiring Native Communities nationwide on regenerative farming practices, Indigenous Regeneration, which began three years ago, hopes to connect people back to the land and reconnect with ancient, proven farming practices. In addition to traditional and contemporary food cultivation, the farm focuses on the environment, traditional plants and cultural awareness. Through regenerative agricultural concepts, like keeping beds covered in living roots and rotation, and sustainable building techniques, the group helps to teach other tribes this ancient wisdom.

“There are challenges living where we live,” Lacey Cannon said. “It’s (the garden) been a real positive thing for the community.”

She said members of the tribe are gathering together and learning from elders about planting and harvesting. The farm gives away whatever they grow to the community.

“We grow all of the traditional medicinal plants, including mugwort, willow and river sage,” Cannon said.

In addition, Indeginous Regeneration raises produce, including lettuce and tomatoes.

Many of the traditions of the native cultures were lost or forgotten, said Kansas-based author Dale Strickler, who wrote “Managing Pasture” and “The Drought Resilient Farm.”

“There were so many brilliant agricultural traditions,” he said. “They had a system of agriculture that completely fit their landscape to a tea – hand in glove.”

Both Cannon and Strickler said what has been done to the soil nationwide is destructive.

“In our arrogance, we completely destroyed very intelligent farming practices that could have been enhanced,” Strickler said. “We took the crops, but we didn’t take the systems.”