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2 the Outdoors: Gakwi:yo:h Farms

The Seneca Nation farm is helping its community through a healthier diet.

COLLINS, N.Y. — While winter's grip has the land in it's silent hold, inside Gakwi:yo:h Farms in Collins it's a beehive of activity. Corn is drying and construction is humming on a cannery, maple sugaring facility and a brand new kitchen. 

The farm has grown by leaps and bounds since we last visited in 2019. It began as a Seneca Nation initiative to improve the health of the community through better diet.

"We didn't have all of these diseases pre-contact," said the Nation's Agricultural Department Director Michael Snyder. "Obesity wasn't a thing, heart disease wasn't a thing, cancer wasn't a thing. So it was like, why was it like that? And a lot of it had to do with our foods. Our indigenous foods, and our food ways, so we had to look back at those answers that our ancestors had left before us, and try to incorporate them into 2021."

The farm grows hundreds of acres of crops and produces both maple syrup and honey. Snyder says it also trains new farmers to carry on the goal of food sovereignty for the Nation. 

"The only way that we're going to be successful in food sovereignty is if we have multiple farmers growing multiple crops," Snyder said. "It can't just be the Seneca Nation farm that's providing for everybody."

Credit: Terry Belke
The farm raises Bison on 300 acres of land in Sunfish, NY.

They also care for a herd of Bison on 300 acres of land in the Southern Tier. The big animals provide fur and sustenance, and are part of a deep and profound history with the Nation. 

"The Bison are like us, as Native people," Snyder said. "We once shared the same lands together, and now, unfortunately we're both caged, we're both caged into this limited area, and we're not sure of what's going to happen next. So I feel like there's a huge connection when I see these Bison."

Credit: Terry Belke
The herd provide many things for the Nation's people.

Gakwi:yo:h Farms is following a path that is centuries old. 

"The path has already been laid for us. Our ancestors laid a path for us to follow, so that's why I think it's important we have this relationship again with Mother Nature through farming and agriculture," Snyder said.

To see more of the progress the farm has made, click here.

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