Dinè-owned Tumbleweed Nutrition and Bidii Baby Foods team up to bring better access and education on local food systems to the Navajo people
‘Nurturing the land and nurturing our children’

Zachariah Ben gives harvesting tips to attendees. (Photo/ Alexander Simpson)

Zachariah Ben gives harvesting tips to attendees. (Photo/ Alexander Simpson)

Celebrating and sharing Diné food systems with the community is a mission shared by both Tumbleweed Nutrition and Bidii Baby Foods. The two Diné owned businesses are teaming up to bring better access and education on local food systems to those it impacts the most, the Navajo people.

Denee Bex, a registered dietitian and owner of Tumbleweed Nutrition, and Zachariah Ben, owner of Bidii Baby Foods, kicked off their collaboration by holding a breakfast cooking class and corn pollen collection event at Bidii Baby Farms.

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Denee Bex speaks at Biddi Baby Farms. (Photo/ Alexander Simpson)

“We have a similar mission--We believe that there is a direct connection between nurturing the land and nurturing our children; by understanding how to grow traditional crops and preparing them for young children we are actively dismantling systems of oppression and rebuilding indigenous food ways,” Ben said of the collaboration.

About 50 participants attended the event, according to Ben and the cooking class, led by Tumbleweed Nutrition, consisted of local produce such as eggs, squash and Neeshjhizhii Bi’taa’nil, from the Bidii Baby Foods farm. The class learned how to cook a spam, egg and vegetable scramble with neeshjhizhii tortillas. They also collected corn pollen from the farm.

“The collaboration is about celebrating those local food systems that we have here now and also encouraging families to eat healthier,” Bex said.

She added that this type of event allows access for families to see where food comes from, how it’s grown and how to identify it. The collaboration is also a showcase on how to honor the land and to deliver culturally appropriate nutrition education, along with the history of local food systems.

“I feel like part of building that healthy relationship to food is understanding where food comes from and understanding that we had a really strong history of having control over our own food systems,” Bex said.

Before grocery stores, food was grown from the land and both businesses hope to teach families that it’s still a viable option when thinking about where their food comes from.

“Because of colonization and western mobilization, we’ve decreased our self reliance. So, part of this collaboration is to bring awareness to the fact that no matter how big or small, families can still contribute to the local food system,” Bex said.

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Bidii Baby Foods farm. (Photo/Alexander Simpson)

Having access to the education is important but it’s also critical to have access to traditional foods, as well as fresh and local foods, Ben said.

“We feel it is important to combine our expertise--as farmers and dietitians--to empower our community to incorporate more traditional foods and local produce into their diets. We feel this is the best way to reduce and prevent diabetes and obesity in our communities,” he said.

While the businesses have only held one event, they are planning future events and plan to include more organizations.

“In the future, we want to invite other local food producers in the area,” Bex said. “So, I think this is just the start of building relationships with local food producers.”

As they build relationships with the community, the two business owners are also helping lift each other up.

Through Tumbleweed Nutrition, Bidii Baby Foods has been connected to local IHS facilities and hope to incorporate their products onto menus, Ben said. The business owners also hope to partner and develop a farm-to-school curriculum and policy for the Navajo Nation.

“We want to see the food environment on the Navajo Nation change completely, where there is sufficient access to fresh produce and traditional foods, and nutrition knowledge imbedded into schools, medical institutions and family units,” Ben said.

Anyone interested in attending future workshops can find more information at https://www.tumbleweednutrition.com/ or https://www.bidiibabyfoods.org/.

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