Sometimes “Resiliency in Action” is simply a willingness to take an action when asked.
Mackenize Martinez is an example of willingness to do just that. This is a story about her
journey – one that began with saying, “yes” to opportunities that led her to Washington D.C.
“I am originally from rural Louisiana, very rural – I went to a pre-K through 12 school and
graduated with 23 people in my class. There were 300 kids on a good day attending the entire school,” Martinez began.
During her formative years in Northwest Louisiana, Martinez said she did not live on a farm or ranch, but she did have agricultural experiences, “My dad, Chris, works in natural gas production. If you don’t work in the ‘woods’ (timber industry) back home, you work in the oil and gas field. But we did have pigs, chickens and turkeys and I did a lot of activities with 4-H, FFA and youth development programs. These involvements really helped me find out that ag is the path I wanted to pursue.”
“Also, at our school, even though it was public, they really acknowledged our native culture
because most of the kids came from the local tribes and were of Choctaw and Apache descent. We held two pow-wows a year and the school district facilitated a handful of educational programs about our culture,” she added, regarding her Tribal roots.
Currently, Martinez is a senior at McNeese University earning her degree in Agricultural Science with a concentration in Animal Science. She said the connection with IAC all started with a great FFA advisor and ag teacher, Benny Bell, “Mr. Bell received an email about the
Southeastern Regional Youth Summit that IAC was putting on in April of 2016 in Florida. He
thought it would be a good idea to go out there and see what it was all about. So, we drove from Louisiana to Florida and went to the summit. There they talked about how fun it is in Arkansas at the Native Youth Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit. So, I applied to attend that and headed to Fayetteville, Ark.”
“It has been a matter of staying involved ever since,” Martinez said about her journey of saying, “yes” to IAC opportunities. “The next step was applying for the IAC Essay Contest for the annual event they put on in December in Las Vegas.”
“I just kept jumping on opportunities,” she went on. “One thing led to another and I was invited to be a youth delegate at the National Congress of American Indians conference in Wisconsin in September of 2017. IAC sponsored a group of youth to go out there and we did a lot of work with the 2018 Farm Bill. That was a really good networking experience.”
After this, Martinez was invited to D.C. during the Native Farm Bill Coalition Fly-In, “We went
to a lot of meetings with different representatives and senators and did a lot of ‘Farm Bill’ talk. Whenever and wherever I got invited, I never told them, ‘no.’”
Martinez said one of her most compelling experiences with IAC was an internship that started at this time last year through December of 2019, “Every year the National Farm to School Network chooses a partner. In 2019, they chose IAC. They came up with an internship that was paid through IAC that would promote Farm to School opportunities happening in Indian Country.”
Sharing Native Farm to School Champions stories was a key role during her internship service, “For the most part, it was sharing the story of increasing local access to healthy and nutritious food for school children.”
Her next internship was with the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. In the
course of the House Ag Committee’s 200-year history, she is the first Native American to serve as an intern. That opportunity led her to D.C., a place she enjoys and where she plans to stay in her current position serving as the communications intern for the Native American Agriculture Fund, “This internship is in Fayetteville, Ark., but currently I am working at it from D.C. due to the COVID situation. Because of my experience working remotely for IAC, in many ways, I was prepared for what is going on now.”
What is her dream? Martinez said, “I am still trying to figure that out. I was never one to be
like, ‘Oh, this is for sure what I want to be when I grow up. When I decided to go to school for agriculture, I did so because I wanted to go for something I enjoy and that helps people. I would like to stay in D.C. I like the pace of it here and there is a lot of diversity and different ideas compared to where I grew up.”
When it comes to encouraging others, Martinez shared these words of wisdom, “Definitely in
life, you regret the chances you didn’t take. Taking advantage of all the opportunities I could
along the way, led me to D.C. I am here and enjoying it. We’ll see what comes next.”
Learn more about the Native American Agriculture Fund at:
https://nativeamericanagriculturefund.org/ or follow at:
Follow the future at: www.indianag.org/youth