UMN Crookston, WETCC partner to help White Earth Reservation provide food security

Times Report
Crookston Times

    The University of Minnesota Crookston greenhouse grew 1,845 starter plants for White Earth Tribal and Community College (WETCC) Community Extension Service for their community garden program. The program serves more than 30 multi-generational families and the community at large on White Earth Nation. Bob Shimek, WETCC Extension educator, picked up the starter plants recently to take back to WETCC and the White Earth Reservation.

    “The goal of the program is to provide nutritional security for families on the White Earth Reservation,” he said.

    The partnership between the two universities came out of a need for food and nutritional security amidst food shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The WETCC Community Extension Service Department began community distribution of more than 700 plant starts and 2,200 seed packets throughout the entire White Earth Reservation in 2020. WETCC team members Diane McArthur and Tammy Bellanger grew over 700 plant starts in their home. Lisa Brunner, Community Extension Service Director at WETCC, wondered whether the institution could partner with UMN Crookston to grow plant starts and contacted Teresa Spaeth, chair of the Veden Center for Rural Economic Development at UMN Crookston, regarding the proposition.

    “We appreciate strengthening our relationship between two educational institutions serving our communities by demonstrating the importance of our interdependency and being a good neighbor,” Brunner said.

    UMN Crookston and WETCC mapped out what plants could be started for the White Earth Nation community initiative. WETCC applied for a mini-grant through UMN Crookston to be able to get the project off the ground.

    “The photos of the exchange of the plant starts are literally the fruit of this collaboration and our labor to help our community grow their own food to help strengthen food security on White Earth, while still in a global pandemic and in the future,” Brunner said.

Loading plant start-ups for WETCC
Bob Shimek is pictured with members of the UMN Crookston greenhouse staff.