Coffee Pot Farms owner tackles access to healthy food on Navajo Nation

Cherilyn Yazzie carries vegetable boxes she grew at her farm in Dilkon, Arizona.
Cherilyn Yazzie carries vegetable containers she grew at her farm in Dilkon, Arizona.
Raymond Chee

As a Navajo social employee with a passion for general public health and nutrition, Cherilyn Yazzie’s purpose was to advocate for her community’s health and fitness by training them how to eat. But she quickly understood one thing was “not clicking.”

“It was also the disconnect,” she claimed. “I’m seeking to train them, ‘Be nutritious, take in this kind of food stuff.’ But then on the other hand, in their units, in their surroundings, they do not have that accessibility.”

“I’m the 1 who’s executing this wrong,” she considered. She realized she had to come across a way to get these foods to the family members in her local community, but the odds seemed crushing. Escalating the food herself grew to become the target.

But Yazzie could not access enough drinking water, electricity, and she scarcely experienced an acre of land to perform with, so the thought of building a farm at the scale she aspired to seemed far too distant. 

That did not quit her. 

Alternatively, she and her spouse, Mike Hester, built the infrastructure they lacked and started off a business in Yazzie’s hometown in Dilkon, Arizona, in 2018.

Four several years later, Yazzie’s enterprise, Espresso Pot Farms, is now a 36-acre operation that grows and sells fresh create which includes lettuce, bok choy, brassicas, tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, and beets to people across the Navajo Country and Arizona. 

“What we wanna do is be equipped to offer you one thing which is gonna be community, that’s gonna be from the land right here,” she stated. “Build up that neighborhood here and seriously figure out how to consider care of just one another.”

Yazzie reported her aim is to create a bridge involving current and future generations by developing a healthful community that is able of concentrating on dwelling and understanding as much as they can to pass on to their descendants.

“We wanna be equipped to have men and women that are balanced in order for us to carry on our traditions, our stories, our tunes, our prayers,” she said. 

Cherilyn Yazzie and Mike Hester's business, Coffee Pot Farms, is a 36-acre operation that grows and sells fresh produce to families across the Navajo Nation and Arizona.
Cherilyn Yazzie and Mike Hester’s business enterprise, Espresso Pot Farms, is a 36-acre operation that grows and sells fresh deliver to people throughout the Navajo Country and Arizona.
Raymond Chee

Fighting food items insecurity throughout COVID-19

And supporting that connection gained extra which means when the COVID-19 pandemic initially hit, which took a toll on grocery retail outlet shelves across the nation. Yazzie’s work presented reduction to Navajo family members who came to her trying to get to safe food for their households. 

“It hit us a whole lot tougher for the reason that a whole lot of reservation residents travel to the close by border cities to obtain our groceries and provides, but when the offer chain was interrupted, we experienced a really hard time getting basic food items materials,” stated Cara Dukepoo, a Navajo mother of 4 who grew to become a typical consumer of Yazzie’s at the beginning of 2020.

Dukepoo observed Yazzie’s business one afternoon through a Facebook advert, she said, and she didn’t hesitate to indication up. 

“It manufactured me sense much more at ease as a mother recognizing that I was able to purchase clean, community, organic and natural create for my young children,” she explained. 

Through Yazzie, Dukepoo was ready to have a certain provide of eggs for her loved ones even as a result of the toughest downturns of the pandemic. 

“What it confirmed to us is that men and women were in fact exploring out and inquiring if we experienced any food stuff bins,” Yazzie explained. “So it assisted us to feel about what would be most valuable as we transfer forward and that was a person of the areas we genuinely labored at.” 

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Later on that year, Yazzie started supplying foodstuff box subscriptions and biweekly veggie box pick-ups out there for her community at different locations. 

“We usually realized that we have been gonna get sufficient greens that very last us for two weeks, we also realized that the greens would not spoil, so we have been pretty confident that we would be Ok,” Dukepoo stated. 

Yazzie was committed to serving to households in her local community when they most essential it, she explained, even when the pandemic had impacted her on a particular amount.

She said dropping her dad to COVID-19 in 2021 was the hardest challenge she has faced due to the fact she began her organization. 

“That was tricky. I however cry every day. I’m continue to emotional,” Yazzie stated. “But I know he is very pleased of what we have finished.” 

Even however she said some days she struggled to discover enthusiasm, that instant helped her come across extra indicating at the rear of supporting the health and fitness of her community.

Inspiring a community 

“It was personally the first time I’d seen a business farm getting operate on the reservation, ’cause you usually only see property gardens or classic fields,” Dukepoo reported. “Looking at one thing at her scale, at a extremely professional level — it was surreal.”

Dukepoo claimed Yazzie’s perform impressed her and her household to extend their own household backyard garden as they recognized it was probable to mature many more items than they employed to think. 

And Dukepoo is not the only one. Yazzie claimed considering that she began making use of social media to convey to her tale and share a lot more data about her business, people today from her group arrived at out to her expressing how they felt represented and impressed by her do the job. 

“It truly is a aspect of exhibiting persons that it’s achievable, even via tons of these obstacles,” she stated. “We can determine it out if we have that objective and have that purpose of why we wanna do one thing.” 

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Her efforts to proceed serving to her group by the pandemic earned her a centerpiece purpose in a film by GoDaddy called Significant H2o Summer time: A Creation Tale, which will be demonstrated at the SXSW Movie Pageant that will just take put in March in Austin, Texas.

The movie follows Cherilyn as she tries to improve her crops and demonstrates her resilience as she navigates unprecedented troubles, she mentioned. 

“She’s declaring to the globe that she sees a trouble and that she’s inclined to tackle it,” Dukepoo mentioned. “Even if it is something as basic as food stuff, but even then food is not easy — food items is necessary.”

Attain breaking news reporter Laura Daniella Sepulveda at [email protected] or on Twitter @lauradNews.

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