Navajo Nation Sells Produce to Whole Foods



Organic melons and green chili are just some of the many fresh products grown and sold by the Navajo Nation on 80,000 acres of irrigated farmland six miles south of Farmington. You’re watching the Local News Network, brought to you by Sunray Park and Casino and The Big Idea Makerspace at San Juan College. I’m Hayley Opsal. Navajo Agricultural Products Industry, better known as NAPI, is a multimillion dollar environmentally sensitive agribusiness that grows forage, feed, and food products under the brand name, Navajo Pride.

We promote the Navajo Pride brand. It’s going to be local, national and international as well too. So we have several products that have gone across from state, all the way up into New York, Pennsylvania, into the California areas and also into Mexico. Right now we’re working with some companies also to go export into the Canada market as well.

Large seedless, watermelons, a variety called Fascination, are being harvested for Whole Foods Market, which voted Navajo Pride Organic, Supplier of the Year in 2021. Watermelons are difficult to grow and need lots of warm weather days.

This year we had 48 acres, and in the years past we’ve been around hovering 40, 42 acres. But this, we added about another 10 acres this year. We’re looking to yield about 700 cartons an acre. Yeah, it’s a lot of melons.

NAPI is one of the largest tracks of contiguous farmland in the nation with more than 1,000 employees, 98% of whom are Navajo. Rather than going to school for grain and cereal science, 20-something Jacob Cleveland has worked his way up to become alfalfa crop foreman.

I basically started from the bottom about a little over six years ago. I started loading hay in the yard and was fascinated by that and was moved into the fields and just made this farm my school, and just started picking up from there. Learned from everybody else around me that had more experience than I did, and just still learning to this day.

NAPI boasts nearly $60 million in annual sales nationally, yet it also operates a small grocery store on the reservation, where locals can buy fresh and dried produce.

Our region two store carries beans, flour, and lot of our traditional food products, the blue, white and yellow corn. So whether it’s the grinded corn, whole corn, or anything that’s made into a pre-mix such as our blue corn pancakes. Then as well, we have a lot of smaller items as well that go into our traditional food such as the sumac, juniper ash, Navajo tea. And then as well, we have our bean plant where a lot of customers do purchase some beans as well.

There’s one product the Dine grows just for themselves, unsweet winter corn, used to enrich and flavor mutton stew.

Well, you’re looking into a field right now, this is one of our native corn, which is the white corn that we have. We have three different colors of corn that’s part of our native corn, which is the white, blue and yellow. But right now we’re looking at the white corn. So I could open it up for you guys, let’s just check it out. And it’s almost ready within a month or two we’ll start to see some corns be ready, and then it’ll be ready to harvest in the winter months. So if you can see the kernel here, which we have. So again, everybody will be looking at the fullness just to make sure it’s mature when it’s ready. Right now it’s in the mounting stage.

To buy Navajo Pride products and for directions to its region two store, go to napi.navajopride.com/products. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I’m Hayley Opsal.

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