The Bad River Band is growing fresh food with a five-year grant

Ursula’s Garden

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The Duluth Superior Community Foundation is giving the Bad River Band nearly $500,000 through a five-year grant. The tribe in northern Wisconsin is using the money to help support food sovereignty for their reservation.

Legend tells of the search for a place where food grows on the water. Most of the Ojibwe lands can grow wild rice, but the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is making plans to grow fresh produce.

Sean Floerke, president and CEO of the Duluth-Superior Community Foundation, says the money given to the Bad River Band is part of the Transformation grant.

“This is forward moving and this is an investment at a time where it wasn’t coming together yet. We thought, ‘Boy, this is perfect. We can be the right time and the right place’,” Floerke said.

It’s taken several years for the Bad River Band to bring fresh food locally to their reservation. Katie Koch, the Food Sovereignty Coordinator, said Ursula’s Farm was given to the community to help provide food to the tribe.

“Part of the food sovereignty program is providing healthy organic foods for our people. Foods that are grown right here” Koch said. “We share meals together. We feast. Like food is at the core like the most important substance for people. Most important like connecting peace. And as an Anishinaabe, we are hunters and gatherers and a lot of people still do that.”

Koch says Ursula’s farm was a gift to the Bad River Band by Ursula Schramm. She was a survivor of the Holocaust. Katie says Ursula knew how it felt to be hungry. Seeing members of the Bad River Band’s struggles with having fresh food led to her helping them.

“She survived with 15 orphaned children, she lost her entire family. These children lost their families as well. She made it out of Auschwitz surviving with these kids off pulling nettles through the fence,” Koch said. “She particularly connected with the Bad River people because she could relate to the genocide that the Anishinaabe experienced. So she developed meaningful connections with a lot of different tribal members here. And so when she passed she gifted her farm to the Bad River tribe.”

When it comes to finding fresh produce, the Bad River Band tribe resorts to a local Walmart over in Ashland. The trip takes 20 minutes of driving off the reservation. But with the future funds, the tribe will be able to establish their food sovereignty on Ursula’s farm.

Robert Blanchard, the Bad River Band’s tribal chairman, said food sovereignty will help the reservation become more sustainable.

“It’s an important part of our culture, because one of the reasons is we have a high rate of diabetes here. This good food for the people will hopefully help in that. I’m a diabetic, maybe if we had this 50 years ago, I wouldn’t be.”

For more information about the Bad River Band, you can read more here. Also, for more information about the Duluth Superior Community Foundation community grant, you can read that story here.