Skya’s Story: Telling the Native Ag Story
A message from our Executive Director.
Over the last couple of months, I have had the opportunity to raise awareness of our work, the success of our finance model, and the great needs that still exist in agriculture in Indian Country. It has been an honor to engage new audiences through various platforms and to tell the story of Akiptan and the Native ag producer. It is so exciting to see growing interest in our field, and I’m glad that Akiptan is part of the awesome change happening in Native agriculture.
At the end of June, I was a guest on the IndigEconomies podcast, “How can we be good relatives? Indigenizing loan funds and the world of Native CDFIs.” I joined Chrystel Cornelius, CEO of Oweesta, to discuss what we do as Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and how they are different from traditional financial institutions. We highlighted the mssion-focused aspect of Native CDFIs as nonprofits with a desire to help our communities. I also advocated for long-term, patient, innovative capital for Native CDFIs in order to create sustainable change in Indian Country. This was really important, because at Akiptan we are creating a new trajectory for financing Native ag projects, and there is a huge need for capital.
Also in June, Pathstone Impact published “Investing in Regenerative Agriculture: Voices from the Field,” a report that discusses how regenerative agriculture is gaining interest among investors. My article titled, “Boots on the Ground: View from a Native Innovator,” was placed in the report among collection of essays from thought leaders in the regenerative ag field from across the country. In it, I explained additional challenges that Native (versus non-Native) ag producers face – mainly trust land and limited access to capital – and how Native CDFIs are helping them overcome those barriers. I highlighted the benefits of abandoning the traditional extractive capital model and embracing an innovative, patient capital approach.
In July, I headed to the Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Las Vegas. For many attendees, this was the first travel they had been on since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. It was quite an experience! During the summit, I was a panelist on the “Farm Lending” discussion with Chad Johnson, Managing Director of The Akana Group, and Toni Stanger-McLaughlin, CEO of Native American Agriculture Fund. This was an opportunity to bring ag lending into the overall discussion of access to capital in Indian Country. For many years, the access to capital dialogue has been focused on developing “Main Street” businesses. It’s great to see that the conversation has expanded to include our entrepreneurs in the country, acknowledging the important part ag plays in Native economies.
As the interest in agriculture grows, and more specifically, Native agriculture, I am glad that Akiptan is leading the way in creating innovative models that lift our people up. I look forward to continuing to work with Native ag producers and to share our story with the rest of the world.