Dream of Wild Health

Four Native American children plant seedlings

Building strong Native families through healthy, indigenous foods

Dream of Wild Health believes healthy eating and cultural traditions are at the heart of strong communities. “Our favorite saying on the farm is ‘We grow seeds and we grow leaders’. The leaders are our youth, they are the seeds of our community,” said Diane Wilson, executive co-director of Dream of Wild Health.

With a mission to provide healthy food access for Native families in the Twin Cities, their Indigenous Food Network combines expertise in food production with opportunities for economic and educational growth and vital cultural learnings and context.

A Native family makes dinner together

Healthy food, healthy community

“Diabetes and obesity are epidemic in the Native community. There are so many health issues that relate back to the way we eat. If you look deeper into that, you see an experience of generations of Native people who were moved to reservations; they were moved from their usual diets of healthy indigenous foods,” said Wilson.

What the Native community lost in shared knowledge, the Indigenous Food Network hopes to restore. In addition to farms featuring market-ready produce, restoring seed caches from traditional indigenous foods, CSA-style food distributions and donations to local food shelves, the Indigenous Food Network also addresses the complex socioeconomic and educational factors at play.

“If you produce food, you want people to be able to afford it and to know what to do with it. Employment and education are two essential factors in promoting healthy eating. We employ local youth on our farm, and we’ve recently developed a paid internship program. To educate not just youth, but their parents as well, we started offering cooking classes,” said Wilson.

Dream of Wild Health has seen their participation and production rates soar. In addition to the Dayton’s Bluff farmers market, they’ve added a location in Minneapolis. Their CSA shares have risen from 10 to 23 orders and they produced over five tons of food on their farms in 2015 – the most they’ve ever produced in one year.

“Investments from Mardag Foundation have supported many phases of our programming, but the internship piece has been critical to increasing production. Now that we can employ more youth, we’ve been able to expand production; we added a high tunnel to our farm that works like a green house and expands our growing season. As we produce more food, we’re able to distribute more food directly into the community,” said Wilson.

Dream of Wild Health also brings Native culture back into focus. Working with Native youth and families to learn about agriculture, learn about their relationship to indigenous foods and ways to eat more mindfully link to deeply rooted traditions in working with the land.

“When we work with youth and their families we say, ‘Look at what our ancestors ate. Look at their relationship with food and the land and animals.’ When you eat, you are recovering your identity. We want our kids to see how they can have a healthy, culturally influenced diet. There’s healing that happens when the youth are out working in the soil. The farm is a magical place,” said Wilson.