Over this season of Future of Food, we’ve talked about becoming more aware of how your food is grown, where it comes from, and why you might want to plant your own garden — even if just on your porch.
Rebecca Webster is a member of the Oneida Nation in the eastern part of Wisconsin. Along with her husband and two teenaged daughters, she farms 10 acres of land. They grow heirloom indigenous seeds — focusing on the “three sisters” — corn, beans, and squash.
In these pandemic times, she has helped members of her tribal community reconnect with their past. The philosophy behind her work is that every time an indigenous person plants a seed, it is an act of resistance and an assertion of sovereignty.
Ivy Joeva (00:14):
I’m Ivy Joeva and this is Future of Food. Over this season of Future of Food we’ve talked about becoming more aware of how your food is grown, where it comes from, and why you might want to plant your own garden, even if just on your porch. Rebecca Webster is a member of the Oneida nation in the Eastern part of Wisconsin, along with her husband and two teenage daughters, she farms 10 acres of land. They grow heirloom indigenous seeds focusing on the three sisters, corn, beans, and squash. In these pandemic times, she’s helped members of her tribal community reconnect with their past. The philosophy behind her work is that every time an indigenous person plants a seed, it’s an act of resistance and an assertion of sovereignty. Here’s my conversation with Becky. Becky, thanks so much for being with us today on Future of Food. It’s great to have you.
Thanks for having me.
So you and your husband, own 10 acres of land on the reservation. Tell me how to pronounce this because I’ve read the word, but I want to make sure we’re getting it right.
Rebecca Webster (01:21):
[Native American name.] It means our foods where we plant things.
Ivy Joeva (01:28):
Wow, that is so powerful. Tell us a little bit about the meaning behind that.
Rebecca Webster (01:34):
So our goal for this, for our property is to be able to continue to grow our traditional heirloom indigenous seeds with a focus on Shawnee varieties of corn, beans, squash, and also growing sunflowers and tobacco here. So we want to be able to be another resource for individuals to be able to come to learn how to do that, to learn about our seeds, to reconnect with our past, and also so that they can take those seeds and they can garden at home. We want them to be able to grow their own foods at their own home. And then once they do that, to be able to understand how to harvest and how to process, how to preserve, how to do all of those things. So when we were getting ready to get our, our operation up and running, we had met with one of the Oneida faith keepers and told him about our plan.
Rebecca Webster (02:27):
And he in turn gave us the name [Native American name] because it’s about more than just putting a seed in the ground and planting something. It’s about planting an idea about planting a way of life in a way to reconnect with our history. So the philosophy is that every time an indigenous person plants a seed, that is an act of resistance and an assertion of sovereignty. So we want to be able to assert ourselves that we’re still here and that we’re going to continue to be here in a way that we can celebrate our and our ways.
Ivy Joeva (03:00):
Oh, wow. So powerful. I’m almost speechless. That’s really powerful. So how many people are involved in your co-op currently?
Rebecca Webster (03:12):
So in our co-op, we’re also part of a club that’s called [Native American name], which means among the cornstalks. So there’s about 10 families in there and we have all generations in there. We have kids, we have adults, we have grandparents in there. So it’s a way for us all to come together, to be able to plant our corn together. We hand weed the fields, we hand harvest the heel fields and we get together during that harvest time to harvest our corn this year. We’re also growing beans and squash together. So that’ll be a whole other experience to see how that goes. It’s going to be a little bit tricky with the current pandemic, because the way that we do our harvest is we come together as groups of families to share stories and to share food and to share in the work of the harvest. So we’re going to have to try to get creative on how to do that safely.
Ivy Joeva (04:05):
Yeah. That’s exactly what I was going to ask. How is COVID affecting this process because so many people are afraid to even gather at all, right? Yeah,
Rebecca Webster (04:14):
Yeah, yeah. So COVID started to impact us this spring when we were wanting to get together with people, to be able to share our seeds with them. We had planned on helping people with their gardens and offering a little bit more one on one support with people. But since the pandemic happened and we, especially early on, we really didn’t know what was happening, but there was a lot of people in our community who had never grown our foods before that were becoming really interested in growing our heirloom traditional indigenous seeds. So we packaged up some of our harvest from last year. We had packets of different varieties of corn beans, squash, and sunflowers, and we had social distance porch traits. So what we did is if people contacted us saying, Hey, I’d like to have, you know, a pack of each, for the three sisters to grow them together.
Rebecca Webster (05:12):
They would come and if they had, you know, a jar of jam or some honey, or we even whatever was really excellent, they brought over an elk roast. So we did these. Yeah. So we did these trades with people where we left the seeds out on the porch and they would come up and drop off their goods and pick up the seeds and go. So I know a lot of other people say that there shouldn’t be a cost to the seeds, but we think that it’s not quite appropriate to sell them for a dollar amount, but yet by asking for something in trade, even if they don’t have anything, we ask that they commit to share their seeds with somebody else in the future. And the reason is that we think that our seeds have value. They have a huge, especially in these times to be able to carry us through into the future.
Rebecca Webster (06:02):
So we want them to know that, that they are very important and also to recognize that work that goes into seed saving and growing our foods in the first place to be able to make these seeds available. One of the other great things that we like is that people say, well, I don’t have anything to trade. And it it’s kind of, I think disempowering when people say that, well, how much is it? Can I just buy it $5, $10 it’s by putting that dollar amount on it, that really isn’t compatible with our way of thinking and said, we say, well, what, what can you do? We can, we can think of different ways that you have value to other than the dollar. So we’ve traded for things like cutting hair, singing lessons, helping find medicines out in the woods. So I think that’s a way to empower those people, to let them know that they have value. And it’s not just something that you’re going to measure in a dollar. So then they take those seeds and they grow them at home. And it’s really exciting to see them grow. So I’ve had some people send me messages, send me videos, and it’s pretty exciting to see the updates that, that they’re having at their homes, even though we can’t physically go out there and visit with them.
Ivy Joeva (07:19):
Yeah. I can see how empowering that would be. Especially since they’re making that contribution. It’s, you’re really facilitating a real exchange because if we can just pull money out, there’s like a M it’s, it’s less personal, it’s less of a community kind of feel yeah. A relationship that you’re cultivating. You mentioned the three sisters and just for listeners who might not be familiar with the three sisters as being corns and squash, what is the significance behind this? Maybe both nutritionally and from the perspective of native American traditions.
Rebecca Webster (07:55):
Sure. So by eating the corn and beans together, it forms a complex protein. And also by adding the squash in there, it has a lot of flavor and the, the, the fats that are in that. So eating those three foods together is a really healthy combination. And they also go back all the way to our creation story. So there’s lots of examples of the importance of the three sisters throughout our story and our history. If you look at when you plant them together, we plant them in mountains and the corn grows tall and strong and forms the basis for our sustenance, that beans are used the corn as, as to climb up the stock and the beans provide nitrogen to the soil. The squash, which I happen to think is one of the most underrated of the three sisters really does a triple duty. I think she covers the ground to keep the moisture in the soil. She also keeps the weeds down and she keeps the animals out because of her stems and leaves. So the animals don’t like to come into the field to snack on our food. Wow.
Ivy Joeva (09:02):
What a cool design it’s like, we couldn’t have, even, we couldn’t have thought of that. Humans couldn’t have come up with that. Yeah.
Rebecca Webster (09:07):
Yeah. Every time when we’re out in our, our three sisters fields we’re just amazed that our ancestors were geniuses. It’s pretty exciting to see that.
Ivy Joeva (09:18):
So cool. So speaking of your ancestors, your ancestors from the Oneida nation originally migrated to the Wisconsin area from New York, is that right?
Rebecca Webster (09:31):
Okay. Yeah. So we’re part of the [word] Shawnee Confederacy. So we have the Seneca Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and the Tuscarora. We historically lived in what is now the state of New York and in the early 1800s, after the devastating losses that our whole Confederacy suffered through the revolutionary war and the land losses from illegal treaties with the state of New York. And also the influence of alcoholism. We had decided that we really didn’t have any other choice because we were landless essentially in what’s now the state of New York. So we followed some Christian missionaries here to the state of Wisconsin. The original understanding was that the rest of the Confederacy was going to come with us, but some, we were the first to come and along the way it’s, it’s a whole other side story, but there were some unscrupulous deals going on. And the rest of the Confederacy decided that they weren’t going to come with us. So now the Oneida people were kind of alone here in Wisconsin separated from the rest of our, our, our sister tribes out in New York. So we try to maintain the ties as close as we can, but it’s pretty difficult when they’re so far away. Yeah.
Ivy Joeva (10:47):
Yeah. That makes total sense. Especially in a time, like right now, when nobody’s really, it’s not a great idea to be traveling, right.
Rebecca Webster (10:56):
So within the past few years, we’ve made a number of trips out there and form some really great relationships with some growers out East who have been very generous with sharing seeds with us. And we’ve been growing them for a number of years here in Oneida at home. And we’re able to share those with the community.
Ivy Joeva (11:13):
Is that how seed saving in your community actually began was from bringing it from the tribes who are living in the New York?
Rebecca Webster (11:23):
Sure. When we migrated here from what was to become the state of New York, we did carry seeds with us because when we landed here in in our current Homeland, we did plant seeds right away. We were able to take work up some of the land and be able to resume our agricultural ways that we had in the state of New York. But we don’t know what seeds we brought with us. That’s something I’m still trying to research and trying to find out, but we did grow our foods and we had our seeds and we saved those seeds and pass them down from generation to generation. But as time went on and as assimilation efforts from the federal government kept going with the boarding school era, and then our lands were taken again, once we were here in Wisconsin we didn’t have a whole lot of those seeds anymore.
Rebecca Webster (12:15):
So I’d say starting in the seventies some people here from Oneida started to go back out East with the express purpose of bringing some seeds back. There were always families. And this is something that we can’t overlook and make it sound like it went away. Is there were families here that continued to grow our foods since we came here, it’s just that it wasn’t as common as it was before. And not everybody knew how to get those seeds, or sometimes people didn’t tell each other about them because of the shame that went along with their identities. So right now I think we’re in a time where being indigenous is pretty cool where it’s a good, it’s a good day to be indigenous. So we’re able to celebrate our culture the way that we weren’t able to even just a generation ago. So with that, we’re being able to be more open about our ceremonies, our language, and our seed keeping in seed sharing. So we’ve been able to take some of those seeds from out East and bring them back here to create a vibrant community of seeds in a diversity of seeds that we may not have seen since we’ve moved here.
Ivy Joeva (13:26):
Well, that is really great to hear that you feel like it’s a good time to be celebrating. I would love to hear about what you think, what you see as the contributing factors to that. Cause that’s, that’s really great. Yeah.
Rebecca Webster (13:40):
News. Yeah. I think it, it, you know, in the sixties and seventies with aim folks just diff there was a different movement about wanting to reconnect to our culture. There was, there was a movement throughout the United States of different tribes in different communities. Again, being able to practice their cultures and their ceremonies without having to be underground with, with it. And I think we’re still riding the waves of that. And even I’m not quite that old I’m in my forties. But growing up here, there weren’t the same opportunities that there are today. I grew up right down the road from the long house and I wasn’t allowed to go there. A long house is a place where we practice our ceremonies. So we come together and celebrate all of creation and give thanks for all of creation. So that was a bit a bit hard because I wanted to learn more about our culture.
Rebecca Webster (14:38):
I want to learn more about that, but there was still some residual shame I would say in our family about our culture and the idea that you’re going to get punished, or it’s not okay, or just any of the different things that may have been left over from my grandparents’ generation. So, but now my husband and I have two daughters, they’re teenagers and they’ve grown up learning our songs, learning our language, going to ceremonies and also out in the garden, helping with the plants being, being a big part of the harvest time and cooking and preserving our foods. So that’s, those are experiences that are now a normal way of life for them that we didn’t have when we were growing up.
Ivy Joeva (15:24):
Beautiful. I can really hear how re this kind of revival of reclaiming your identity has gone hand in hand with seed saving and, and really becoming food sovereign in that way.
Rebecca Webster (15:38):
Yeah. And we’re pretty excited about it. So we don’t live on a very busy road, but our, we plant most of our foods upfront in the road, right by the road in in the front yard. So as people are driving by my daughters are so embarrassed by it though, but cars will drive by really, really slow to be able to see our three sisters gardens out there and our other hybrid type gardens that we have out in the front. So we have a lot of people in the community that just drive by on purpose so that they could check out the progress. So I think it’s pretty exciting we’re doing that because we’re asserting that we’re still here and we’re proud of these foods, and we’re excited that these foods are being able to be celebrated. Especially during these times.
Ivy Joeva (16:27):
Absolutely. I’m surprised your daughters, aren’t proud. I’m surprised. They don’t feel like they live on the house.
Rebecca Webster (16:33):
They are. They’re just embarrassing when people drive by. I don’t know why.
Ivy Joeva (16:40):
That’ll be interesting to see if that changes as they get older and they realize how cool it really is to have a fan club driving by. Right. Yeah. So for listeners who might not be familiar with the concept of seed saving, can, can you talk about just what that exactly means and how people
Rebecca Webster (17:01):
Well can do it? Sure. So we save the seeds from the foods that we grow. Like, so for example, the corn, we would go out there in the fields when it’s getting close to harvest time and we would keep an eye on those stocks that have the qualities that we would like, and we can Mark them or just make note of them. And then when it comes time for harvest time we will go out there and select those cops that we think are going to be the most suitable for the next generations. And then we bring those inside and we pull the husks off and then we kind of rate them to see whether or not they really are really good seed quality cops. So like for our [inaudible] corn they want eight straight rows preferably uniform color, unless it’s a Calico type of corn.
Rebecca Webster (17:50):
We don’t want it to have any dents in it if it’s not supposed to, because these are all signs that they’ve been crossed with some GMO corn from the neighboring fields, which is something that we have to be very careful of because once that’s in your corn, it’s not going to come out. So we have to be very careful about selecting our seed that way. And then when we do have a cob of corn, that’s suitable we take those and we break them up separately into a seat braid and we hang that to dry. And then when it comes time that it has dried out enough. We only take the corn from the very middle. Like if you put your hand over the cob of corn in the middle, those seeds that are underneath your hand are the ones that will keep for seed. So those are the best pieces of best kernels out of that cob. So it’s not just when somebody hands you a packet of seed grade corn, it’s not just some random corn from somewhere, a lot of thought and effort went into making sure that that seed is going to produce the best corn for the following generations.
Ivy Joeva (18:55):
And that’s so revolutionary right now, too, because we’re learning about farmers all across the country that have been subject to these patent laws that Monsanto has taken advantage of where if GMO seeds get crossed with a farmers corn, then Monsanto can basically Sue a farmer and claim ownership of that crop.
Rebecca Webster (19:23):
Yeah. I think the whole practice is actually kind of disgusting because it really take something that we believe is so sacred and commodifies it, and manipulates it and claims ownership of it. And these are all things that are just not culturally appropriate for us to be doing. And then also it’s extra frustrating when literally across the street from us, there’s a farmer that’s growing this kind of corn, I suppose. Fortunately he’s East of us and the wind blows from West to East, but still, we have to be very careful about that corn coming into our corn, the pollen from there growing GMO corn. Yeah.
Ivy Joeva (20:07):
Yeah. Well, and as, as an attorney, I am, I’m curious your thoughts. I mean, obviously it’s, it is disgusting from a social perspective, but from a legal perspective, it just blows my mind that that could even be allowed that you could claim ownership because of something that nature does. Right.
Rebecca Webster (20:27):
And, and also too there’s in the indigenous seed, keeping community. There’s always concerns that they’re going to come and patent our seeds, which how do we demonstrate that we have been growing these seeds since creation. It’s just very frustrating to think that we would even have to prove that or that somebody would be to do that and come in and claim ownership over something that has been so sacred to us since time immemorial. Yeah. It’s, it’s a very disturbing notion. And it, it, it feels hopeful that more and more people in your community are, it sounds like COVID has kind of increased the prevalence of people jumping on this train. Yeah, yeah. It really has. And I think we’ve shared with over 20 families in the community, a seed packets, and most of them never grew our foods before. So they were first time growers, which is really exciting because they’re realizing that, you know, they kind of mentioned, I kind of always wanted to do it, but it seems like now’s the time to figure this out.
Rebecca Webster (21:36):
So it’s really exciting to see that they’re wanting to get into this and wanting to reestablish that relationship with our three sisters. That is so exciting. I mean, for, for everyone’s health, for everyone sovereignty, and like you said, for identity, that’s really huge. What are some of the stories you’ve heard people come back and share about their successes with this? Well, it’s changed their life. It’s still the, both the middle of the season. So right now it’s all just a learning experience. So I have one friend in particular who will send me videos of his beans growing. So it’s,
Speaker 3 (22:16):
That makes great television.
Rebecca Webster (22:19):
His commentary is pretty hilarious. Like, Whoa, look at these.
Rebecca Webster (22:25):
So he’s pretty excited that that they’re, they’re doing really well in his yard. So that was pretty exciting. And another another friend is giving me updates and progress reports. But it was sad sometimes to hear, Oh my gosh, the wind storm came by and knocked all my corn down. What do I do? And then it was kinda neat to be able to be in a position where I could respond with it’s. Okay. Don’t worry. Here’s some options, you know, in general, the corn will stand back up again. But if you’re a little nervous about it, here’s what you can do to help her along. So it was nice to be able to be in a position to help people when I feel like I’m still learning so much and I have so much to learn yet. Well, you’re the best kind of leader with that attitude.
Rebecca Webster (23:10):
And they’re so lucky to have you as a guide in this process. Yeah. And at the same time, it’s funny. So I have some seed mentors myself, and it’s funny that like, just a few hours before she sent me that email and I go out into one of my gardens and I see something funny going on with the bean leaves and I send them a message right away. Oh my gosh, something’s happening with my beans? What’s going on? And they were replied it’s okay. Don’t worry. So, so it’s this whole network of people being able to help each other in this learning process to reconnect and know, it’s so
Ivy Joeva (23:46):
Good for we’re learning on future food, how important this is for the actual land as well, because so many of our growing practices today have actually stripped the soil of nutrients. And the kind of farming that you’re talking about is actually putting nutrients back into the soil.
Rebecca Webster (24:03):
Yeah. So the land that we purchased a few years ago had been cash cropped before and the soil was depleted and damaged. So we had a couple of different soil tests and the results were pretty much your soil is terrible. It was really low in, in all of the different nutrients that you wanted to see in the soil. So we’re doing some things like using our fish. We put the whole fish into the moans and that restores a lot of the nutrients to the plants, but also growing the beans themselves helps the soil. And we’re doing a lot of composting and we’re using fish emulsion. So even though our soil is very poor and our plants aren’t as luscious as they probably would be with healthier soil, the, the idea that they’re still producing it all for us is pretty exciting. And at this point we’re not necessarily growing for volumes of food. We’re growing for a variety of seed. And the land is being able to do that for us, knowing that we’re going to take those seats and share them with people
Ivy Joeva (25:04):
Beautiful. And over time, it sounds like the soil will regenerate because just what you’re doing is so beneficial.
Rebecca Webster (25:10):
Yeah. And there’s historical records show that our mounts that we use, if we take care of them properly, by putting fish in them in the spring, and also composting on top of them after harvest, that you can use the same mounds for 20 years or more. So it’s not depleting the soil at all. It’s actually a very beneficial to the soil.
Ivy Joeva (25:30):
And so when you harvest, typically, there’s, there’s more than you can eat at that time. Right. So what are the, what are some of the ways, how do you handle this when the, when I believe where you are in Wisconsin, when it’s not growing season, there’s not really much you can do.
Rebecca Webster (25:49):
Yeah. Historically most of our food was dried. So like our corn at harvest time, we do wait till she dries out in the field quite a bit. And the cobs themselves will tip over and that’ll let us know that they’re ready to be picked. We’ll peel off all husks except for maybe three. And then we’ll lap off the end. And then we’ll braid it like, like hair, like a French braid into long braids. And then we hang them up for a few months, either in a barn or a garage or somewhere until they’re dried out. And then you can keep them for years and years after that point, the same thing with the beans, we’ll let the beans dry out in the field, on the plants, and then we’ll harvest them when their outsides are papery. And then those beans also years and years, you can keep those beans.
Rebecca Webster (26:35):
The squash this is something pretty cool that we’re starting to learn how different ways, how to dry our squash. So last year we took some of our, and we cut the squash into slight long slices and we dried them a bit. And then we made braids out of those sliced slices of squash and then dried that even more. So historically our ancestors dried all kinds of fruits, nuts and berries, and even fish and meats. So a lot of that would be, you know, throughout the house in the winter time stored there so that you could have that food at any time without having to worry about, you know, it being the middle of winter, you can still have these foods all year round.
Ivy Joeva (27:20):
So cool. So it’s pretty self explanatory with like corn and beans, how we know how you cook dried beans, you can make flour out of corn and do various things with it. What about drying, squash? What do you do when the squash is dried? How do you then make that something that you can consume?
Rebecca Webster (27:37):
So you can, one of the most common ways is to put it in soup. It’s just like a regular dried vegetable. One of the ways that we’ve been experimenting with at home is in a a casserole dish, I suppose, made of wild rice and like Venice and hamburger and some, maybe some cream of mushroom soup or something like that, maybe some mushrooms and then we’ll throw in the dried squash and it will soak up those flavors. And it’ll, it’ll, it just gives a nice contrast to that, that dish.
Ivy Joeva (28:08):
So cool. It’s like, it’s, it reminds me of art, what you’re talking about. It’s like really culinary. Yeah,
Rebecca Webster (28:14):
Yeah, yeah. It’s fun stuff to experiment with with our foods and they just give us a flavor that you weren’t really expecting, but you’re glad it’s there.
Ivy Joeva (28:23):
I’d love to hear a little bit just about life on the reservation in general, in the community. I know you said there is a revival going on, which is so great to hear, but I guess I’m curious, like both pre pandemic and then now with the threat of the pandemic, what, what is it like there?
Rebecca Webster (28:41):
I guess it’s kind of quiet. I don’t, we don’t really leave that much. So even before the pandemic, so I’m a professor at the university of Wisconsin or university of Minnesota Duluth, and I teach primarily online. So I work from home quite a bit, and my husband homeschools our daughters and works on the farm here. So we didn’t have to leave as much as other people do with, with office jobs or different places that they have to go to work. But I think this pandemic, even though it’s forcing us to stay at home and not be a socialist, we want it to be, I think it’s allowing people to really reflect on what’s important to them and get maybe reestablish their priorities. So but that’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of families in our community that have lost their jobs and are really stressed out during these times.
Rebecca Webster (29:40):
So I do have friends and family who are in that situation, and I can’t imagine what that must be like for them to be in a situation where they don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t know if they’re going to be called back to work or when they’re going to get their a different job. They don’t know whether or not they should look for a different job or hope that the other job calls them back eventually. So there’s a lot of uncertainty right now in the community. So it’s, it’s, it can be a time for reflection for some people who are privileged enough to not have to have those worries. But for those people that have those worries, it’s a very serious life changing event that’s happening to them.
Ivy Joeva (30:23):
Yeah. That really reflects, it sounds like just kind of the state of Americans in general, in this country of just, you know, the, it has provided this pause for us to reflect. And at the same time for people who are having their livelihoods threatened, it’s a really scary time. Yeah. Well, is there anything else I didn’t ask that you’d like to share?
Rebecca Webster (30:47):
I think one of the cool things that we do here in our community is we have what’s it’s called a rites of passage program for kids. It’s another one of the things that it wasn’t as readily available when I was a younger or when my husband was younger. So our daughters are going through this rites of passage where they learn more about their roles as young women. And of course the boys will learn their roles as, as young men. And in the spring time of their program, they plant what’s called a mother earth garden. And that’s part it’s. They, they do that in recreating part of the creation story. And so as part of the creation story, we have sky woman who was pregnant falls through a hole from the sky world and eventually falls on to turtles back and different animals.
Rebecca Webster (31:41):
Try to get dirt from the bottom. Muskrat ends up coming up and giving her some dirt. And she includes some seeds and ruts that she grabbed while she was falling and combines that with the dirt and spreads out the dirt on the turtle’s back. And that eventually becomes the earth. Well, she eventually has a daughter and time passes, and then the daughter becomes pregnant with twins. And then it’s the left handed and the right handed twin, the right handed twin is born the natural way. The left-handed twin is in a hurry, comes out her side and kills her. So what ends up happening with this with her body is they, they, they bury her and they, they mound up the dirt around her body and by her passing, she activates those seeds. And those roots that were her mother had pulled from the sky world when she was on her way down.
Rebecca Webster (32:34):
So the kids, the boys form the shape of a woman’s body and the girls sing seed songs and plant seeds in her, the way that they came up during the creation story. So out of her mind comes tobacco out of her breasts comes, the corn out of her fingers comes, the beans out of her stomach comes to squash out of her heart comes the strawberries and out of her feet comes the potatoes. So there’s different variations in different communities about different plants and where they come from, but that’s how, how we do it here. So, and it’s interesting to see the kids come back and check on the mother earth garden over the course of the summer to see how, how she’s progressing. So we do that here at our property, and we host that for the kids to be able to do that and create a place where we know that she’ll be watched over.
Rebecca Webster (33:27):
So this year we didn’t get to do that because of the pandemic. So it was pretty sad. We hope to be able to do that next spring, but I think it’s a really great way to teach people in our, especially our kids about our connection and our current connection to our history in our culture. And also a way to remember the different parts of the creation story and how our foods are coming from earth. And they’re a gift to us and they have a responsibility to sustain us, but that we also have a responsibility to care for them.
Ivy Joeva (34:03):
I can really see how that would foster a real joy and excitement over planting and harvesting in kids. That’s something they’ll remember their whole lives. Yeah. What advice would you have for just your average person out there? Who’s curious about the idea of seed saving and starting to grow their own food.
Rebecca Webster (34:25):
I’d say, I’d say, just go for it, just try it. Because I think our plants are very forgiving. They recognize that we’re still learning and we’re a pitiful people and we don’t really know necessarily everything that we should, but if you give your plants time and attention and the care, I think that they really do respond to us and, and just you’ll learn so much year after year of trying this. And it’s okay to not know what you’re doing. I think the, that the plants understand and are forgiving.
Ivy Joeva (34:58):
It kind of reminds me of, you know, I work with families for a living as a doula. I support families through the childbearing year and it kind of reminds me of parenting advice. Like, you know, you’re not going to know everything, do your best. They’re going to be okay. Right. Pretty much. Yes. Yeah. How have you, how have, like, what impact have you seen this had on your health and your family’s health, just growing more of your own food and eating from your own garden?
Rebecca Webster (35:25):
Well, I think we those foods that we prepare with things that we grow the biggest things we know what’s in it. So we know that there are herbicides or pesticides or preservatives, or of these other unnatural things in our food. And you just feel better after you eat a meal of something that you’ve grown or harvested yourself. So it’s, it’s an experience. And at the same time, you kind of wonder then how come I don’t eat all of my food this way? You know, every once in a while that frozen pizza sure does taste good. But then after you eat it, you feel kind of gross. So I think it’s a work in progress. We’re trying to incorporate more of our indigenous foods into our daily diet because of the way it does make us feel. So we’re working on it.
Ivy Joeva (36:15):
It’s so true. I even find the more, I just eat local, like at the farmer’s market, I, it actually starts to taste better to me. Yeah. Then if I have something that’s been imported or processed in any way, it doesn’t, it doesn’t quite taste the same. So I guess the key would be being in a community where different people are growing different things, and then you can get that variety going on too.
Rebecca Webster (36:36):
Yeah. And when you start to eat those more natural foods, your palette changes. So then it does become more appealing over time. And then, like you said, when you go eat some of that other stuff, like go through a McDonald’s drive through, it’s just, you know, it doesn’t really taste good anymore. Like why I can’t believe that I used to just go crazy for this stuff.
Ivy Joeva (36:58):
Yeah. Yeah. And what an incredible impact on longterm health to make a change like that. Well, thank you so much, Becky, this has been so illuminating and powerful to hear about your journey and how you’re supporting both your family and your community. Thank you for being with us today on future food.
Rebecca Webster (37:18):
Thanks for having me.
Ivy Joeva (37:25):
Thanks for listening. Everyone. Visit us online at futurefood.fm. Subscribe on Apple podcasts, or listen to us wherever you get your podcasts and put the power to save the planet on your plate and on your playlist. I’m Ivy Joeva. Future of Food is produced by Lee Schneider. Music by Epidemic Sound. We’re part of the FutureX Podcast Network.