Members of the Delaware Tribe of Indians recently gathered with representatives from McClure Engineering Company (MEC) — in partnership with Travois Design, Groundswell Consulting, and FS Advisors — to review a conceptual business and master plan for 90 acres of land located north of Lawrence, Kansas.
While the approval process is currently ongoing, the Delaware Tribe of Indians Agricultural Heritage Planning Project has made significant progress and continues to build on three years of facilitated conversations among Tribal leaders, Douglas County officials and key community leaders and stakeholders.
The land in question — a longtime sod farm and once a part of the Tribe’s reservation that spanned between Lawrence and Leavenworth in the mid-1800s — is currently proposed to feature sustainable agriculture enterprise with a focus on high-value crops and local marketability.
Areas of focus would include:
- Education and job training for tribal youth and local students
- The conservation of land and seeds with a focus on heritage seed varieties
- The promotion of tribal and community health via access to local, healthy food
- The ability to incubate small business opportunities, with a focus on value-added agriculture enterprises
Large-scale and high-demand specialty crops would be produced on 70 acres of the site. Products listed for harvest would include winter squash, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes and cucumbers.
The remaining 30 acres on the west side of the site would be dedicated to 3-season high tunnel agricultural production, agricultural research plots and a conservation area and walking trail to educate local youth on tribal agricultural practices.
The latter section of land also would include an existing single-family residence that could be converted into a visitor center, seed or gift shop, exhibit area or living quarters for a farm or project manager.
Victor Burks, project manager and team leader, noted that the entire project represents a joint effort among all parties to provide educational opportunities, tribal economic benefit, agricultural conservation and a meaningful contribution to the health of local and regional communities.
“Community means a great deal at MEC,” Burks said. “This project illustrates an example of evolving area resources to expand education on the Tribe’s past and prepare for its future through agriculture opportunity,” he said. “It also allows all involved a chance to shape the landscape in a way that is aesthetically pleasing while stewarding the land’s agricultural capabilities for generations to come.”