Coffee Pot Farms owner tackles access to healthy food on Navajo Nation

Cherilyn Yazzie carries vegetable boxes she grew at her farm in Dilkon, Arizona.
Cherilyn Yazzie carries vegetable containers she grew at her farm in Dilkon, Arizona.
Raymond Chee

As a Navajo social employee with a enthusiasm for general public wellbeing and nourishment, Cherilyn Yazzie’s target was to advocate for her community’s health and fitness by teaching them how to eat. But she before long realized one thing was “not clicking.”

“It was also the disconnect,” she said. “I’m striving to teach them, ‘Be nutritious, take in this type of foods.’ But then on the other hand, in their methods, in their surroundings, they do not have that entry.”

“I’m the one who’s undertaking this erroneous,” she believed. She realized she had to locate a way to get these meals to the family members in her group, but the odds seemed crushing. Rising the foods herself turned the objective.

But Yazzie could not access enough drinking water, energy, and she hardly had an acre of land to get the job done with, so the thought of constructing a farm at the scale she aspired to seemed far too distant. 

That did not quit her. 

Alternatively, she and her spouse, Mike Hester, built the infrastructure they lacked and commenced a small business in Yazzie’s hometown in Dilkon, Arizona, in 2018.

Four a long time afterwards, Yazzie’s enterprise, Espresso Pot Farms, is now a 36-acre operation that grows and sells fresh generate such as lettuce, bok choy, brassicas, tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, and beets to family members throughout the Navajo Country and Arizona. 

“What we wanna do is be in a position to offer you anything which is gonna be area, that is gonna be from the land right here,” she mentioned. “Build up that group here and definitely determine out how to consider care of a single an additional.”

Yazzie claimed her target is to establish a bridge concerning present and upcoming generations by developing a healthy local community that is capable of concentrating on residing and mastering as considerably as they can to move on to their descendants.

“We wanna be able to have individuals that are balanced in buy for us to have on our traditions, our tales, our songs, our prayers,” she said. 

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 fresh develop to families across the Navajo Country and Arizona.
Raymond Chee

Preventing food stuff insecurity in the course of COVID-19

And supporting that connection gained much more this means when the COVID-19 pandemic initial hit, which took a toll on grocery keep cabinets across the nation. Yazzie’s operate supplied reduction to Navajo family members who came to her trying to get to protected meals for their households. 

“It strike us a whole lot more durable since a large amount of reservation residents travel to the nearby border towns to get our groceries and provides, but when the supply chain was interrupted, we experienced a hard time discovering fundamental foodstuff provides,” mentioned Cara Dukepoo, a Navajo mother of 4 who turned a common shopper of Yazzie’s at the commencing of 2020.

Dukepoo uncovered Yazzie’s business one afternoon by way of a Facebook ad, she mentioned, and she didn’t be reluctant to indication up. 

“It designed me feel a lot more at ease as a mother knowing that I was in a position to get clean, nearby, organic generate for my kids,” she reported. 

Via Yazzie, Dukepoo was capable to have a confirmed provide of eggs for her household even by the toughest downturns of the pandemic. 

“What it confirmed to us is that persons were being really searching out and asking if we experienced any meals containers,” Yazzie claimed. “So it aided us to consider about what would be most beneficial as we transfer forward and that was one particular of the regions we actually worked at.” 

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Later on that yr, Yazzie begun supplying foodstuff box subscriptions and biweekly veggie box choose-ups offered for her community at different locations. 

“We normally realized that we were being gonna get adequate veggies that past us for two months, we also knew that the vegetables wouldn’t spoil, so we were really self-confident that we would be Okay,” Dukepoo said. 

Yazzie was committed to aiding people in her local community when they most required it, she said, even when the pandemic had impacted her on a private amount.

She explained dropping her dad to COVID-19 in 2021 was the hardest obstacle she has faced because she begun her company. 

“That was really hard. I however cry just about every working day. I am still psychological,” Yazzie mentioned. “But I know he’s proud of what we have finished.” 

Even while she explained some times she struggled to obtain drive, that minute served her come across a lot more meaning at the rear of supporting the health and fitness of her community.

Inspiring a community 

“It was individually the initially time I’d seen a professional farm staying operate on the reservation, ’cause you usually only see property gardens or standard fields,” Dukepoo claimed. “Viewing a thing at her scale, at a pretty experienced stage — it was surreal.”

Dukepoo mentioned Yazzie’s get the job done motivated her and her family members to expand their individual home backyard garden as they understood it was feasible to improve a lot of additional items than they applied to consider. 

And Dukepoo is not the only a person. Yazzie stated due to the fact she began employing social media to convey to her tale and share additional info about her business, people today from her local community arrived at out to her expressing how they felt represented and impressed by her work. 

“It’s a portion of showing people that it truly is attainable, even via plenty of these obstacles,” she explained. “We can determine it out if we have that objective and have that rationale of why we wanna do a thing.” 

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Her attempts to proceed helping her neighborhood by the pandemic attained her a centerpiece role in a film by GoDaddy called Large H2o Summertime: A Generation Tale, which will be demonstrated at the SXSW Film Festival that will consider location in March in Austin, Texas.

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

“She’s declaring to the planet that she sees a issue and that she’s eager to tackle it,” Dukepoo mentioned. “Even if it’s anything as uncomplicated as food stuff, but even then food is not simple — meals is important.”

Get to breaking news reporter Laura Daniella Sepulveda at [email protected] or on Twitter @lauradNews.

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