This week, the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) prepares for its annual conference, where we will celebrate our youth scholarship program recipients. Scholarships are awarded based on essays about tribal food sovereignty challenges and solutions. However, beyond its monetary value, awardees receive valuable connections and relationships.
Something you may not know about me is that I was one of the very first scholarship recipients. I grew up on a ranch; my father was a rancher. When I was in college, I remember seeing an announcement about a scholarship opportunity in the IAC newsletter that he received. I applied and won.
At the time, I thought, “Well, at least this will help pay for some books I need for school.” However, it ended up being so much more.
What I didn’t know was that being connected to IAC meant that I had become part of something that would grow to encompass much more than one facet of my life. I became a part of an ecosystem that works to remove barriers and improve the lives and businesses of Native food producers.
Through the scholarship program, I connected to other opportunities and resources IAC and its partners offer. Then, like many of our youth and young professional participants, I came back to work for the organization. After working for the federal government for several years, I became IAC’s Director of Programs. I also became a rancher, just like my dad.
As a cattle rancher, I know firsthand what Native people are up against when they first set out to start an agriculture and food production business. My family and I have experienced setbacks, and we didn’t always have access to the resources that IAC currently offers.
Now, I’m so proud to be IAC’s executive
director and watch as our organization
grows to relieve more barriers for more people. Our unique strength is that we live and work in the communities we serve. We know that the need is greater than we can meet currently. However, it’s our goal to continue growing to support as many Native producers as we can.
Please join me in celebrating our youth and the successes of our organization with a gift to IAC. We could not do this important work without supporters like you. Every little bit makes a difference and is meaningful to us! Even $5 can help us carry out our mission.
Thank you for being an essential part of this resilient community of Native food producers and their supporters. I wish you a lovely holiday season, and I look forward to connecting with you in the new year to share
all of what IAC has in store for the future!
Kari Jo Lawrence
Executive Director, Intertribal Agriculture Council
Kari Jo Lawrence was raised on a cattle ranch on the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in North Dakota near the New Town and Mandaree areas. She attended Dickinson State University, where she earned a degree in Biology. Kari Jo currently serves as the Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. Prior to joining IAC, she enjoyed a 20-year career with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, most of it serving in Indian Country.