There’s a small clearing of forest on East Gill Road in Carp Lake, Michigan, just south of where the great lakes meet. The skinny trees open to the north, revealing an expanse of farmland anchored by a cranberry-red barn. This isn’t an ordinary farm, but rather a powerful act of advocacy for Indigenous food sovereignty.
Ziibimijwang Farm means “the place where food grows near the river.” That river is Carp River, an almost 22-mile long waterway that weaves through the landscape like kitchen twine. A group of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians founded the 300-acre farm in 2015, responding to the community’s need for access to healthy foods in the wake of widespread diabetes across the tribe.
By growing these foods, Ziibimijwang Farm is developing a reliable food system based on tradition and completely independent from government intervention.
The farm applies ancestral methods of farming, gardening, and cooking. This involves growing vegetables and herbs like dill and cilantro; leafy greens like kale and spinach; and brassicas like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. At the heart of the farm, however, are corn, beans, and squash, otherwise known as the “three sisters” for their symbiotic growing patterns and nutritional profile that make a perfect protein when consumed together.
An ear of red flint corn belonging to the University of Michigan was discovered to have roots with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. Ziibimijwang Farm requested repatriation of the corn and has since used it as seed to grow their crops of corn. Cultivating the land thus cultivates tradition, reconnecting the tribe to their ancestors.
Through workshops geared toward tribal youth including harvesting deer and making lacrosse sticks from scratch, the farm is also a center for sustaining cultural heritage. Programs also provide meals for the tribe’s elders. The farm later opened Minogin Market, a brick-and mortar-storefront in nearby Mackinaw City, a historic trading hub of the Great Lakes region. Here, Ziibimijwang Farm sells produce and goods including their signature maple sugar, maple cream, and wild rice. Now, chefs like Sean Sherman and Crystal Wahpepah source foodstuffs from the farm through the market, widening the reach of the sovereign food system across the country.
Know Before You Go
Call ahead to inquire about upcoming workshops or events.