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R.D. Offutt donates tractor, tiller to tribal college's community garden program

The relationship between the potato growing company and White Earth Tribal and Community College promotes food security on the Ojibwe Nation and sustainable agriculture.

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Acknowledging R.D. Offutt Farms' donation of a tractor and tiller to White Earth Tribal and Community College are, from left, WETCC Extension Cultural Coordinator Jim Uran, Extension Educator Bob Shimek, Extension Supervisor Diane McArthur, Community Extension Service Director Lisa Brunner, RDO Midwest Operations Manager Warren Warmbold and RDO Capital Buyer Shawn Nelson. (Submitted photo, May 14, 2021)
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R.D. Offutt farms has donated a tractor and tiller to White Earth Tribal and Community College to support a growing community garden program.

According to a May 14 press release, WETCC Extension Educator Bob Shimek said the community garden program currently serves more than 35 multi-generational families on White Earth Nation.

Shimek and a team from WETCC prepare family garden plots by tilling the land and providing seeds, starter plants and support during the growing season.

“The goal of the program is to encourage White Earth members to eat nutritious, locally grown food,” Shimek said, noting that the gardens are planted with carrots, beets, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries and more.

While the program spans the entire White Earth Nation, gardens are concentrated in the Pine Point and Rice Lake areas. The extension team also plants gardens on campus and donates their produce to White Earth citizens, the Elderly Nutrition Program or for use at the college. Last year, the extension donated more than 3,000 pounds of food to the community.

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Shimek acknowledged other donations that have helped make the program a success, including the use of a greenhouse at the University of Minnesota-Crookston and local businesses that help distribute seed packets and starter plants.

RDO Farms President Keith McGovern said the community garden program aligns well with RDO’s mission. “As farmers, we appreciate everyone’s efforts to ensure a safe and sustainable food supply,” he said.

The tractor is a 2019 John Deere 303R with a front loader and a new John Deere 665 rotary tiller. It has a hydro transmission, mechanical front-wheel drive and a 33-horsepower engine.

Prior to the donation, Shimek used his older, personal tractor or the WETCC Extension team manually prepared each garden.

Shimek called the donation “a huge cornerstone for nutrition security on the Reservation.”

Lisa Brunner, director of WETCC’s Community Extension Services Department, said the White Earth Nation is a federally designated food desert. She also credited Shimek for working with RDO Farms during the last 20 years as the company implemented sustainable farming practices, such as using less water and pesticides, planting cover crops on early harvest fields, extending the average crop rotation to four years and planting pollinator habitat.

“It is through good relationship building that we will graciously accept this donation and continue to move forward in a good way to be good relatives to each other and Mother Earth,” said Brunner.

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