On August 16, I visited the Dream of Wild Health Farm in Hugo, MN with the CSJ Native American Awareness Working Group. I met up with a group of other volunteers and we drove to the farm together. When we got there, we worked on a number of things including harvesting cucumbers and onions, weeding, washing potting trays, and mowing. There wasn’t a ton of opportunities to speak with the people who actually ran the farm, but I was able to pick up on some information from the drive there, at lunch, and on their website.
Dream of Wild Health is an intertribal, Native American run farm that works to “restore the mental, physical, and emotional health of the Native American Community.” The farm’s mission says that it does this “by recovering knowledge of and access to healthy Indigenous foods, medicines and lifeways.” One of their main focuses is their Garden Warrior Program, which is a three to four week program for teens age 13-18. In each session, the kids learn about gardening, nutrition, healthy cooking, organic agriculture, farmers markets, hand pollination and seed saving. Along with this, they often get the chance to do outings that help teach about cultural practices like wild ricing. One interesting thing to note is that the kids get paid a stipend for their work on the farm and at the farmers market.
Another important part of the farm is their seed saving operation. In 2000, a woman named Cora Baker entrusted them with her large collection of native seeds and ever since then people have been sending their seeds to the farm to take care of them. This requires a lot of effort as these plants need to be grown and taken care of each year, plus a number of them need to be hand pollinated to ensure that cross-pollination does not happen from the fields nearby. They put these plants in a separate part of their 10-acre property and surround them with a wall of sunflowers in order to protect them–it’s a very beautiful part of the farm. The other, larger part of the farm is filled with traditional produce that they use for their CSA program.
Along with those two main activities, Dream of Wild Health does volunteer Fridays (like the day I visited), CSA, community programming (cooking classes, indigenous food demonstrations & sacred medicine workshops), participates in a farmers market, and has another community garden location on the east side of St. Paul.
I really enjoyed my visit there and the people were incredibly kind and welcoming. It was so cool to see how healthy all of the produce looked and how well kept the whole farm was—I could tell that it was being managed very well. It was wonderful to witness the hands-on work they do in passing on their traditional farming practices to the next generation.
— Catherine Putzier is an intern for Catholic Rural Life. She is currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Science from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.