Diné College to Play a Role in the Agricultural Challenges Around the Navajo Nation

The Diné College Land Grant Office recently received $1 million from the New Mexico Legislature for the establishment of agrihubs around the Navajo Nation. Students at the college will participate in the initiative.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 13, 2019

TSAILE, Ariz. — Diné College is gearing up to play a big role in the agricultural challenges around the Navajo Nation.

Benita Litson, director at the Diné College Land Grant Office, said the college plans to put into place four agricultural hubs for infrastructure support for Navajo farmers and ranchers. Each hub would support local crop production, Litson said.

“Our role is to support farmers and ranchers to improve production of their product whether it be vegetable and crop production or livestock production,” Litson explained. “Production in the sense of improving yields, access to markets, direct sales, group sales, cooperative sales, and so forth.”

Litson said Diné College recently received a little more than $1 million from the New Mexico Legislature toward the initiative. She said the Shiprock Business Center for Horticulture and Tribal Agriculture was awarded $400,000 for architectural, design and construction purposes. And, the Navajo Nation Livestock Research and Extension Center received $620,000 for facility design at the college’s Crownpoint Center.

Operationally, researchers would work out of the hubs and help push agricultural initiatives. They would help with such things as improving herd health and rangelands, ram and bull sales, heifer and steer sales and assisting vegetable growers in becoming vendors, not to mention helping farmers get food safety certification, Litson said.

The Student Component

Litson said there are on average about 20 student interns to support projects and work at the new proposed facilities. “We are currently establishing an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in agriculture that would support hands-on learning,” Litson said.

“An advantage with the students is that they will learn the importance of the agricultural challenges on the Navajo Nation and become more prepared if they inherit their families land use permit or grazing permit, Litson said.

The multi-purpose agricultural and Horticultural building would serve many purposes: It would have the sufficient space to host workshops, seminars and classes for agricultural-related disciplines. “In Shiprock we anticipate having a commercial kitchen that will support food safety guidelines,” Litson said.

The sponsors of the New Mexico Legislative bill were the state Higher Education and Indian Education departments.

“We are really working to build new partnerships to expand economic development,” Diné College President Charles Monty Roessel said.