American Bison to find permanent home at Ohi:yo’

By Tami Watt, Editor

Big developments are happening for the Seneca Nation Agriculture Department on the Ohi:yo’ and Ga’degesgeo’ Territories! Director Michael Snyder and staff have been busy harvesting last season’s crops and gearing up for new commercial sized projects that will aid in self-sustaining and project future financial gain for the entire Nation and community.

The Agriculture Department’s herd of 51 American Bison will have a permanent home in Ohi:yo’ at the Sunfish flats. In 2018, the Farm acquired a small herd of 14 Bison from a farm in Machias, NY. Since then, the herd as grown to 51 and staff has trained to care for the animals. Project Manager Gordon Brown has been prepping the former John Family Farm for months with anticipation to bring the herd to their permanent home by December 2020. The herd will be enclosed in an electric fence that will encompass 300 acres of rich farm soil against the rolling hills of Ohi:yo’. Bison meat products like ground beef, steak, and breakfast sausage are currently sold at the Seneca Ones Stops and the Taylor Hollow site.

Welcome to Sunfish.

Director Snyder and staff would like all community members, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to know that the bison, although often docile, can be very dangerous animals, when approached by humans. Staff asks that anyone whom might encounter them, please use an extraordinary amount of caution and awareness when in their presence. THE FENCE ENCLOSING THEIR NEW DOMAIN, IS ELECTRIC AND WILL BE “LIVE” AT ALL TIMES. If you have any questions, please call (716) 801-6249.

An addition to Gakwi:yo:h Farms, located at 13594 Taylor Hollow Road, Collins, NY will house a commercial size cannery, kitchen, and multipurpose dining area. The commercial size cannery will allow for crops to be harvested, canned, and packaged on site for resale of various products. Recipes will be developed with precision in the commercial sized kitchen by Project Manager Gerri Fisher. Fisher intends to certify products such as jams, jellies, apple chips, tomato sauce, and baby food. “The possibilities are endless, the new cannery will allow us to create custom products and expand sales to meet wholesale demands,” states Snyder. The multipurpose room will host large events for the community such as the Annual Maple Weekend.

Snyder hopes to get the monopoly to sell products, like maple syrup, to the Seneca Resorts and Casino’s restaurants while also packaging the products for sale in the Nation’s gift shops, Seneca One Stops, and onsite at the farm in Irving.

Gakwi:yo:h Farms currently packages and sells four white corn products; Hull corn, Roast corn, roast flour, and white corn flour in these current venues and also at the Taylor Hollow site. They also supply produce directly to the consumer through their mobile market every Tuesday in Allegany at Seneca Strong and Thursday in Cattaraugus at the Saylor building from 11am-1pm.

Snyder insists there are “plenty of opportunities to get our traditional meals into school settings.” There is a current initiative to introduce white corn products and recipes into the Salamanca City Central School District once a week in an effort to bring both traditional and healthy meal choices to school age children.

Due to the pandemic and social distance guidelines, staff had limited aid from the community in harvesting the 25+ acres of various corn fields between the two main territories. Through limited resources, pandemic issues, and hard work, the growing season was a fruitful with abundant amounts of corn and other produce for the community during the pandemic. Vast amounts of potatoes were planted in the spring for self-sustainability due to the uncertainty of Covid-19. Snyder says, “That was part of the pandemic planning, we wanted to plant some crops we knew that would last over the winter. We have so many potatoes to dig up before the ground freezes.” Snyder sees more distributions of crops and meat in the near future.

The Farm staff has been harvesting corn for the last month and has produced 100 white corn braids. White corn is also being prepped to stuff 55lb poly commercial bags for wholesale. The abundance of sweet corn led to multiple giveaways with more than 300 dozen cobs distributed between Allegany and Cattaraugus. The community and surrounding Hodinosoni’ neighbors were invited to pick and harvest their own corn as groups of families with social distance protocols in place.

Although the Farm could not host their Annual Husking Bee, Seneca Media was able to produce an instructional video on how to braid corn and how to make corn husk flowers. The video will be released through the Seneca Media and Communications Facebook page and YouTube channel. The team at the farm is missing the connection with the community via volunteers and community events.

A full scale commercial maple operation is currently under way as staff cuts wood to prep for the season. The farm recently aquired an 8,000 gallon tank to fill with sap from the various locations they tap trees. They currently have 300 taps at their Forestville location, 1,200 at Gakwi:yo:h Farms, are and developing a new 50 acre site in Ohi:yo’ adjacent to the casino. This site is expected to grow 5,000 maple trees, the most taps so far.

This year, Ira Jones (local beekeeper), aided the farm in their first honey extraction from their 4 hives. Jones gave a demonstration and allowed staff to use his custom tools. Each hive produced 10 frames, half of the frames were extracted for production, the other frames were left for food for the winter. The late season extraction produced a rich thick tasty Golden Rod Honey that is currently for sale at the farm. Snyder encourages relationships with local experts, farmers, and culture experts.

The red angus cow herd in Great Valley is expanding, four females have been artificially inseminated. Brown has added a coral for winter and the cows will go into the barn during the colder months.

Gakwi:yo:h Farms will soon grow an orchard of nut trees donated from a farm in Ithaca. Snyder will reserve 10 acres for hazel nut, chestnut, pawpaw, and black ash trees at the farm.

The Farm will continue to plant, produce crops, and harvest meat for community distribution and sales while expanding services and resources. With cattle and bison on pastures in Ohi:yo’, Snyder has hopes of a meat processing facility on territory.

Stay tuned for more community distributions of produce and meat by following Gakwi:yo:h Farms on Facebook, WGWE, www.sni.org, and the print and online Seneca Nation Official Newsletter at www.sninews.org.