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Nick Hernandez & Makoce Agriculture Development



“We want to create our own opportunities that would benefit our own communities.” - Nick Hernandez


Nick Hernandez, founder, President, and CEO of Makoce Agriculture Development has been forging a dream since tending his grandmother's garden just 100 yards away from where his office now sits. Nick is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and a citizen of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. His connection to the land runs deeper than the soil, “My way of actually getting to this moment and running this organization stemmed from generations back,” Nick said. “When I was younger, visiting my grandparents, up and down the creek … they would have gardens [and] would be harvesting cattle and buffalo and creating meals from the harvest.”


The Makoce Agriculture Development—a member of the Native Farm Bill Coalition (NFBC)—works to develop food systems that create equitable, healthy communities and economies. Founded in 2019, Makoce Agriculture Development focuses on utilizing their lands, people, and traditional practices to uphold the thriving Oglala Lakota Oyate.


Nick’s journey started with 40 acres of ancestral land and a garden. It was around 2007 when the idea for Makoce Agriculture Development was conceived. “My passion to reconnect back to food and land originated in a late spring/early summer [while] harvesting fruits and vegetables with my grandma in her garden,” he shared.  Nick recalled when inspiration sparked during a conversation with his grandma in the garden. Reflecting on lessons learned from listening to his elder, he said, “I looked down and the light bulb kind of popped off. It was the light bulb that came on for me, while I was holding these tomatoes and these peppers and vegetables.”


“This is it. This is what I want to do. This is what I want to learn. This is where I want to take my life to reconnect … back to my foods, back to my community and back to the lands that we live off of, that we live on.” - Nick Hernandez


At that moment, he asked his grandmother if she would teach him. Her response came with a powerful message, encouraging him to get involved and instead learn from first hand experience. From that day forward, it was Nick’s mission to regenerate healthy Oglala Lakota communities, economies, and natural environments. The Makoce Agriculture Development focuses on five specific strategies to drive their scope of work: the development of a food system institute designed for collaborative opportunities and capacity building; the development of a local Makoce Food Hub; the establishment of a regenerative production farm; enhanced support of hemp farming; and the creation of the Oceti Sakowin Food Systems Alliance (OSFSA).


Being a member of NFBC, Nick understands how important it is to be part of a collective with shared goals and a Native focus with insight into the unique issues affecting Indian agriculture. “We have ways to be able to share our ideas, our concerns [and] our plans for developing our own food systems,” Nick said. The Native Farm Bill Coalition creates … the opportunity for accessing funds or for changing policies.” The 2018 Farm Bill enhanced opportunities in hemp production, access to cultural foods, and funding for processing plants, which helped organization’s like Nick’s access resources for growth. “Our relationship to the Native Farm Bill Coalition stems from the work that we're doing because it's about the education that comes with it and about the modern policies that basically operate what ag is not only within the country but also within Indian country,” Nick shared. “I really value the time that is being created [by] the Native Farm Bill Coalition to talk with our legislators and congressional offices … [to] voice what opportunities we're creating and what opportunities we want to see coming down in appropriations under the Farm Bill.”

 

The Makoce Agriculture Development is a nonprofit organization on the Pine Ridge Reservation focused on developing modern food systems from a holistic approach that connects the environment with regenerative agricultural practices. Their initiatives include community education through the Food Systems Institute, development of a food hub, a regenerative production farm, hemp production and the Oceti Sakowin Food Systems Alliance dedicated to the advancement of a community-led regenerative food system on the Pine Ridge Reservation. To learn more about the Makoce Agriculture Development, visit makoceag.org.

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