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Growing Relationships: Biochar applications to address health disparities in the urban Native American community

James Doten
Minneapolis Health Department
Presentation file: 
PDF icon 1.4.1 Doten, James.pdf8.69 MB

The urban Native American population faces many health disparities. Many of these can be traced back to nutrition. Traditional native foods are difficult to obtain. It is a challenge to grow these traditional crops in an urban environment. The Minneapolis Health Department and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community partnered with the Little Earth of United Tribes housing community to address these challenges Little Earth is the only native-preference HUD community in the nation. The Minneapolis Health Department and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community sponsored a biochar/compost trial at Little Earth to evaluate whether it was effective in growing more food in a limited space. Using traditional pre-contact seed lines and traditional planting methods the Little Earth Community conducted the trial in the 2015 growing season. Squash, corn, and beans were grown using the Three Sisters method. Weekly results of the biochar compost plot were compared with the results on a compost-only control plot.  The study showed a significant improvement in color, health, size, and yield. Additionally, the biochar side showed increased drought resistance. While additional study is needed the project at Little Earth shows promise in increasing yields from urban agriculture and increasing access to culturally appropriate foods.

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