Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation Chairman Mark N. Fox recently led a tribal delegation to the Netherlands as part of his administration’s food sovereignty initiative. The tribal delegation plans to use the Netherland’s precision farming model to turn the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation into an agricultural powerhouse. The historic diplomatic mission marked the first time a tribal government visited the Netherlands.
Chairman Fox plans to capture flared gas from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation’s numerous oil wells to power greenhouses, which will grow food year-round. The initiative, modeled after sustainable greenhouse agriculture developed in the Netherlands, will allow the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation to produce its own food through compressed natural gas.
“I strongly believe we will see projects like this all over Indian Country,” said Chairman Fox. “This plan will allow our people to become providers.”
Greenhouse agriculture has allowed the Netherlands to become the world’s second-largest exporter of food after the United States, and the largest producer of tomatoes.
The delegation met with greenhouse agriculturalists to learn more about the Netherlands’ groundbreaking sustainable agriculture model. The greenhouse visits provided essential knowledge for the delegation, and included stops at fully-automated greenhouses.
“We learned more about the theory of precision farming,” said Anthony Folden, Chairman Fox’s renewable energy consultant. “Everything is recycled. They don’t waste a drop of water.”
The delegation also witnessed Dutch melding of traditional agriculture and cutting-edge technology.
“They have a strong philosophy of letting nature doing what she does and then helping her along,” said Folden.
A fierce proponent of tribal sovereignty, Chairman Fox’s agriculture-flaring plan is his latest move toward MHA Nation self-sustainability. While in the Netherlands, Chairman Fox fostered important relationships with Dutch officials, allowing for future collaboration between the two nations. The delegation also met with officials from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in the Hague.
“Our focus has been non-renewable energy resources, like oil,” said Chairman Fox. “We can’t be that short-sighted. It would be a tragic mistake to not recommit and invest our resources in renewable energy.”
The project will create numerous jobs for residents of the Fort Berthold Reservation, renewing the tribes’ centuries-old agricultural roots. Chairman Fox also sees the move toward sustainable agriculture as a way to safeguard his nation against the future ravages of climate change.
“We don’t want to wait for cataclysmic events,” said Chairman Fox. “We are working toward renewable energy food production to prevent future starvation.”
Folden, who plays a significant role in the initiative’s development team, felt the trip provided important lessons in energy development.
“We will be a flagship in these renewable energy projects,” said Folden. “We’re investing in ourselves and our environment.
Photo by Native Business Magazine.