RALEIGH, N.C. — Native American students and youth in North Carolina are extremely under-represented in agricultural careers despite the fact that agriculture is North Carolina’s number one industry, contributing $75 billion to the state’s economy and providing 17% of all jobs.
To build the next generation of local food and agricultural leaders in Robeson County, NC, the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) has awarded $200,587 to the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) to provide economic opportunities and career mobility for Lumbee youth while also building capacity in the local agricultural community. With this funding, CEFS will recruit Lumbee community college students to participate in the Agroecology Scholars Program in Research and Extension (ASPIRE) Internship and develop a new Native American Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Apprenticeship program that partners Lumbee producers, agricultural businesses, and food system nonprofits with Lumbee youth (ages 15-30) in a year-long paid mentorship program.
CEFS will partner with Robeson Community College (RCC) and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP). This unique partnership leverages each institution’s specific expertise. CEFS brings 25 years of sustainable agriculture and education experience; RCC has been a community institution in Robeson County for over 50 years and has 46% enrollment of Native Americans; and UNCP is the nation’s only 4-year public institution founded by American Indians for American Indians.
Angel Cruz, CEFS Academic and Extension Initiatives Manager, highlights the opportunity for shared learning and for bringing positive change to the local food system in Robeson County and in North Carolina. “I am really excited to strengthen our partnerships with UNCP, RCC, and the Lumbee tribe.”
NAAF’s historic investment to uplift Native American farmers, ranchers, communities, and tribes will directly benefit 270 unique Tribal Nations in 28 different states. Jim Laducer, Chair of the NAAF Board of Trustees, said NAAF aims to “grow our Native American foodways for generations to come.”
The ASPIRE internship program is also supported by the Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) Internship Program, [grant no. 2020-67037-30673], from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Applications will be accepted for ASPIRE until February 19, 2021 here.
–Janie Hynson, Center for Environmental Farming Systems