Hopi to get new foodhub with $250K USDA grant

Students pose from the Hopi Tutskwa Summer Youth and Permaculture Apprenticeship. (Photo/ Jacobo Marcus)

Students pose from the Hopi Tutskwa Summer Youth and Permaculture Apprenticeship. (Photo/ Jacobo Marcus)

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. — The Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute in the village of Kykotsmovi recently received a $250K rural business development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are using it to help expand their current headquarters into a regional food hub and learning center for the community, that will include co-working meeting spaces, a community kitchen, feasting space, outdoor meeting space and a greenhouse.

HTPI works to address numerous issues impacting the Hopi reservation, including creating culturally-significant food growth, stewarding traditional seeds, restoring local food and watersheds and creating sustainable construction and home-ownership programs.

“We’re really happy about the grant,” said HTPI’s Strategic Advisor Lilian Hill, who started the nonprofit in 2004 with her husband, Operations Director Jacobo Marcus. “We secured a 25-year lease of our current office and gathering space in the Village of Hopi and we’ve begun extensive remodeling of the building of the space to develop a small-scale – what we’re calling a Hopi-Regional Hub.”

The building they had been working out of used to be a mechanical garage, and has been getting a much-needed makeover, including removal and remediation of hazardous waste from its shop days.

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Lilian Hill and Jacobo Marcus at their home and demonstration garden in Kykotsmovi Village, Ariz. on Hopi. (Photo/ Andy Laub)

“It just went totally in disrepair,” Hill said. “We hired an all-Hopi construction crew who’s leading the renovation. Our crew consists of eight individuals who are focused on executing our building construction plan.”

So far they’ve replaced the roof and started some exterior hardscaping as well as the interior cleaning.

“We’re looking forward to completing Phase 1 of our projects by November of next year,” Hill said.

Phase 1 projects include adding exterior ADA-compliant pathways, a wrap-around porch, electrical plumbing and installation of a passive solar greenhouse.

Hill said it has been difficult not having a proper space for the Institute because they were decentralized around the reservation.

“We had to work with families and individuals to create learning sites throughout the reservation and one of the learning sites is actually the home I live and my family lives,” Hill said. “We were inviting people to take part in workshops at our place or our family’s place or different individual’s homes and this facility will be more of a communal collective organizing space. A space so people can learn together.”

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Construction has begun on the remodel of HTPI with an all-Hopi construction team of eight workers. (Photo/HTPI)

Hill said this will mean a common space for the community with more opportunities. The institute was already working with the community on sustainable food projects including a farmer’s market and veggie share, as well as giving training and practical experience opportunities for the Hopi youth.

“The organization has developed a community-supported agriculture project where we source fresh food from local farmers and then we create shares for the community,” Hill said. “So it will be a place where we continue that work to aggregate food from local farmers to bring food in and then to distribute that… and then we’ll have a large space for feasting for sponsoring dinners and meals here.”

Hill envisions the team leading free workshops on preparing healthy foods, eating local foods and sharing the food together in the community feasting space.

“This facility will be more of a communal collective organizing space. A space so people can learn together,” she said.

Great Need on Hopi

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The HTPI was headquartered in an old mechanics garage before, which fell into disrepair. (submitted photo)

The grant team put together a package listing the health and food crises on the Hopi reservation and outlining ways that the new hub would potentially help the community.

They said the Hopi reservation is a food desert, where Hopi people “face a health crisis due to limited access to fresh and healthy food products resulting in high rates of diet-related illness.”

They explained how the closure of the Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Coal Mine in 2019 and COVID-19 in 2020 exacerbated problems with employment on the reservation, citing a huge difference in Hopi unemployment and poverty rates versus those throughout Arizona and the U.S.

“Infrastructure on the Hopi reservation is limited, so creating a collaborative community space where individuals can gather, access computers, connect to the internet, attend educational events, learn how to prepare healthy nutritious foods, enjoy delicious meals together, and process the harvest will greatly improve the capacity of local businesses, individuals, and our community,” the organization said.

The space is supported through fundraising, crowd-raising, and active partnerships with other foundations, Hill said. The hub is free to the community but there may be small fees for the co-working space in the future.

More Opportunities

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Hopi Tutskwa Summer Youth Program at the HTPI Permaculture Learning Center in Kykotsmovi Village (Photo/ HTPI)

“Part of the grant that we received is not only for the renovation of the facility but we’re also developing a business plan that will enable us to integrate what we call sustainable-earned income strategy to generate financial resources locally to support the operation of our community’s food hub and learning center,” Hill said.

The hub will help to connect emergent and small businesses with the tools they need to operate sustainably.

“This goes beyond education and includes resources such as computer and internet access, meeting and office spaces and the certified community kitchen,” they said.

The learning center will be a place for educational and business development workshops, access to computers and internet. Job and business training will be provided, as well as direct technical assistance to help community members aquire financial assistance programs.

All the activities at the new center are designed to promote local food production and distribution, consumption, create and save jobs, and stimulate economic development.

“The proposed project will help support a variety of jobs in the Hopi Tribe. There are local food vendors and producers who will not only source ingredients from HTPI, but also utilize the facility to further develop their business,” they said.

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Hopi Tutskwa Summer Youth Program at the HTPI Permaculture Learning Center in Kykotsmovi Village (Photo/HTPI)

Growers, processors, vendors and other small businesses will all be able to use the community kitchen, which will mean a greater amount of locally-sourced products, increasing the overall access to healthy food in the area.

Hill said hands-on work at the Institute slowed down during the pandemic while the team focused on mutual aid work. Hill is grateful the institute can work directly with the Hopi people again.

“I think part of this grant and part of our work is to do more outreach to share what we’re doing and how our programming has evolved,” Hill said.

In time, the institute hopes to expand the learning center to include a farmer’s market, retail areas for local businesses, carpentry workshops and communal tools, daycare programs and more.

Find out more about Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture at hopitutskwa.org.

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