By Nicole Oliver
If you roll along the curves of 6th line following the flow of the Grand River you will come across two of the three sites where the Six Nations Farmers Association (SNFA) has planted community white corn that is ready for harvest.
Arthur Porter of the Oneida Nation and head of the SNFA shares, “the field, that’s down on River Range Road is the one that was planted later, and it’s actually good right now for ceremony. It’s good if somebody’s going to make green corn”.
The SNFA invite all Six Nations community members to visit any of the three growing sites and pick your own white corn that’s ready for harvest.
The sites are located at:
- West of physical locator # 3202 on River Range Road
- South side on 6th Line West of Chiefs Wood Road near physical locator # 1593
- North side on 6th Line West of Chiefs Wood Road near physical locator # 1593
Porter explains, “we’ve been growing white corn consistently for a few years to help our community and the elected system has been kind enough to fund the projects, and we try to grow around 20 – 25-acres. So we have quite an anchorage there”. In speaking to the Two Row Times, Porter muses that, “we get a lot of good reports, people stop and compliment us on what we are doing. Sort of helps us to know that we are doing something good for the community. It takes a little bit of work, a little bit of time and land, but it’s good. We want to give back to the community, that’s the goal here”.
Fellow member of the SNFA, Ralph Sowden of the Mohawk Nation adds that “we didn’t just start it a few years ago, us guys [SNFA] have been doing it for quite a few years. It’s been 10-15 years that AJ Farm’s has been doing it. And the Band Council has just pitched in the last two/three years to help us to do the buying of the corn, [mostly] the seeds [because] the seeds are expensive”.
In exploring the reasons behind why this project was started and taken up by the SNFA, Mohawk and Turtle clan member Ruby Jacobs, who is the SNFA’s Secretary and Treasurer explains, “a couple of years ago there was no white corn; a shortage that stimulated a concern across the community and the farmers felt it and wanted to do something”. Further, Porter iterates, “in one of our meetings it was discussed how we could start to put something back and we started farming it [white corn] as a group in the Farmers Association. And it just kept going from there and we want to keep it going. We want to have corn available as long as we are farming. It’s a staple for our community and to give back that way is great”.
When asked about what are some of the challenges about getting the community white corn project off the ground, Porter shares “weather is the biggest part in growing anything on the farm…and we’ve had children ride through our crops, like ride through the corn. There’s been quite a bit of damage down there where they went through. It’s sort of picked up this year for some reason. We have worked with the police to get into the schools to tell the children, DON’T RIDE IN THE FIELDS!”
Farming along with stewardship of the land and care for community for each Porter, Sowden, and Jacobs has deep cultural and family roots. Porter emphasizes, “I think when you’re a farmer, an old school farmer I’d say, you want to help your neighbor, you want to make sure they have enough. If it’s white corn or extra potatoes you pass it on”. To that Sowden highlights, “I guess it’s just a community thing…There aren’t many people who want to help as it’s dollars that you see today, and there’s isn’t dollars at the end of the row I’ll tell ya…It’s got to be a community thing, help one another out.” Jacobs reflects, “because I came from a farm, I really understand the importance of that way of life, in order to sustain your family, community, yourself and the Haudenosaunee culture, the way of life of the Haudenosauee people”.
The SNFA, along with the community white corn project has plans of expanding their work and impacts in the community. Porter divulges, “we’ve been working on plans to get land to store our own grain, which would be better than taking her off the territory, plus a cold storage facility. Somebody would raise eggs; raise chickens, so we would have our own chickens, either way. There’s no reason in the world why we shouldn’t have our own….we’ve got some plans in the works. It’s just going to take a little time to get it, but hopefully before Ralph and I hang up our pitchforks. We want to have something in place for the next generation to carry on.”