Student Rejuvenates Garden with Indigenous Crops

La Monica Everett-Haynes
Aug. 29, 2013

Loren B. Dick has vivid memories growing up on the Navajo Nation where he would race through rows upon rows of corn fields and, at other parts in the season, enjoy juicy watermelon with his family.

Recently during his studies at the UA, Dick came upon a dormant garden and decided he would work to rejuvenate it.

Dick, a Native Nations Institute (NNI) undergraduate student assistant, had observed that the One Tree Garden, which is located at 803 E. First St. between two buildings of the UA Udall Center, required some attention.

Earlier this year, he made a visit to Tucson's Native Seeds/SEARCH, which offers limited quantity of free seeds to Native peoples in the greater Southwest region under the Native American Free Seed Program. Dick planted Navajo watermelon, squash, pinto beans and two types of corn – Tohono O'odham corn and Mayo Tuxedo corn – all of which are well-suited to grow in the desert.

This week, Dick and his colleagues completed the first harvest and held a tasting Aug. 29.

In addition to the plump, juicy watermelon, the corn was distinctive; not at all like the corn found in common grocery stores. Instead, the corn had a texture similar to rice with a distinguished flavor.

"I found that it was an open opportunity to practice my culture and grow indigenous foods in an urban area," said Dick, a sociology senior who also is taking a minor in American Indian studies.

Pulling the corn and watermelon from the ground, Dick was surprised.

"I didn't think they would grow that big. I was really amazed," Dick said, adding that the corn and melon thrived together. "Seeing them grow and continue to grow, that's what motivated me. Everything paid off."

Dick said he would allow the soil to rest this fall, but that he and his colleagues will continue nurturing the garden in the spring.

Photography credit: Herminia Frias (Pascua Yaqui)

Contact: Akenabah Begay (Navajo), administrative associate for the NNI/Bush Foundation partnership, at begay2@email.arizona.edu and 520-626-4635.

 

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