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Hi-Line Living: Intro to Food Sovereignty

An Intro to Food Sovereignty class brings something different and fairly unique to Stone Child College on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.

The class is more than a class. It is more than an economic initiative that gives credits toward a student's degree.

Bob Quinn, Ph.D., has headed the new class and said the point of the instruction is to create food all the way from seed through processed product on the reservation, for the reservation, using kamut, a wheat developed from the khorasan wheat grain recovered from a pharaoh tomb in Egypt.

"This year, we're planting 20 acres of this ancient wheat at Dry Forks Farm and next fall we'll be using what is planted and raised at Dry Forks at the reservation for food for the people of Rocky Boy," Quinn said. "This class is designed to help not only demonstrate but teach how that can happen."

During the last class of the school year, students took grain that was grown on 20 acres allocated specifically for the use of the class and put it through a small mill to be made into flour.

"We take the flour and we dump it into a pasta machine," Quinn said.

They then took that flour and put it through a pasta-making machine to make fresh spaghetti-sized noodles.

Before the grain is processed in the classroom, though, it is planted, harvested and cleaned at Dry Forks Farm, which is on the reservation.

Quinn said they plan on making several types of food products.

"Once we have the flour, we can make bread, we can make pancakes, we can make many foods through this," Quinn said. "We can make spaghetti, we can make shells for salad, we can make macaroni for soup, and that's what we can do with the pasta machine."

He said the idea of the project is to get students interested in and excited for lessons on nutrition.

"The research that has been done in Europe, it looks like there is a good chance this is a very good type of grain for people with diabetes," he said.

They hope to get a grant for research this summer to compare the health benefits, especially for those who suffer from diabetes, of the ancient grains to modern spring wheat. Quinn said that if the grant works out, they will plant both the types of grains this fall to compare them next summer and add to the research.

Nate St. Pierre, the president of Stone Child College, said he is very excited about the possibilities that the program opened up for the college and the entire reservation.

"Projects like this have a direct impact on a sovereign nation, especially on those with diabetes and maybe cardiovascular problems, weight obesity and things like that," St. Pierre said. "I think that this will have a very big impact on their lifestyle because of their diet. I think this will bring some major changes that will come out of the research."

St. Pierre said he could imagine that some small business opportunities for people on the reservation could come out of this, too, should it expand.

"This is cutting edge stuff," St. Pierre said. " ... But I think the idea now is kind of captured in this notion of food sovereignty. The idea of food sovereignty is that rather than relying on commercial products and grocery stores, ... we can grow our own - we can provide our own food sources and eventually improve our health."

He said that the project is at its very beginning stages now, but he can see this turning into a great thing later on down the line.


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