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FGCU among recipients of Native American Agriculture Fund’s $15M grant

Florida Gulf Coast University (Courtesy FGCU)

FORT MYERS — Indian Country organizations nationwide are the beneficiaries of a $15 million grant from the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF).

The NAAF investment, which was announced Sept. 14, directly benefits 270 Tribal nations in 28 states and provides access to credit for more than 2,300 Native American farmers and ranchers.

The money, granted to 101 Tribal governments, organizations, community development financial institutions, traditional foods projects and educational organizations, will help facilitate 112 projects with an aim to build a stronger food system in Indian Country.

Florida Gulf Coast University is on the list of grantees in the educational organization category and will receive approximately $400,000, which it will use for its agribusiness program and scholarships for Native Americans. FGCU President Dr. Mike Martin believes there haven’t been enough Native American students in higher education.

FGCU started its Center for Agribusiness in 2018 as a resource for the agriculture industry in Southwest Florida. The agribusiness minor offers students the knowledge to support all the business functions across the industry.

“I hope the students will be the next generation of agriculture managers and leaders,” Martin said. “The Southwest Florida agriculture business is invisible to most people driving along I-75, but it is economically important. Hopefully we can raise awareness and create some future leaders.”

The center’s advisory board includes several current and former leaders in agriculture businesses.

Nearly all of the 101 grant recipients are in states west of the Mississippi River; FGCU is the lone recipient in Florida. In addition to FGCU, 10 other recipients were awarded money in the educational organization category, including the University of Arizona and several Tribal-related colleges, such as Diné College in Arizona, Nebraska Indian Community College, and Sitting Bull College in North Dakota.

The specifics of NAAF’s grant allocation are:
·$4.8 million to Community Development Financial Institutions for 15 projects
· $3.2 million to 501(c)3 Organizations for 40 projects
· $2 million to Tribal Governments for 22 projects
· $2 million to Educational Organizations for 11 projects
· $3 million for 24 Traditional Foods, Advocacy and Agriculture Extension projects.

“[This] investment reflects the values of the Native American Agriculture Fund,” Jim Laducer (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), Chair of the NAAF Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “Through the 112 grants awarded [Sept. 14], we are investing in our producers, our tribes, our communities and our future. The impact of this investment will grow our Native American foodways for generations to come.”

According to NAAF, it is the largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to serving the Native American farming and ranching community. It provides grants to eligible organizations for business assistance, agricultural education, technical support and advocacy services to support Native farmers and ranchers.

“Our mission at the Native American Agriculture Fund is to make grants to sustainably build Tribal food economies. This $15 million investment will not only grow our economies, it will ensure that our Native food systems rebuild stronger than ever through the pandemic,” said Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of NAAF.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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