Sheila Redhouse (She/Her)

Sheila started farming last year. She currently works at a farm in Vanderwagen, New Mexico learning Indigenous Regenerative farming.

I’ve just started farming halfway through last year. 

Currently I have been working at the La Montañita Gallup food coop. From there I was working full time and now have switched over to part-time.

I’m also working at Spirit Farms in Vanderwagen and they are teaching Indigenous Regenerative farming.

That is part of the reason that I’m working with them.

They are working with Eship, another organization, and trying to team me up with Eship to see what more I can do with them in our area, visiting more farms, seeing what the farmers need, if they are needing certain supplies. That is currently what I’m working on right now.  I’m also learning to be a farm food safety trainer and the end goal with the farm food safety training is that I will be able to go to some farms and assist them in setting up and becoming food safe if that’s their goal.

Just to start the day at the farm:

We come in, we begin to tend to the animals, feed them, see if they need more water, checking to see if they are doing okay. We just introduced a new pig. He is tinier than the rest of them, so we have to keep an eye to make sure he’s not being bullied too much and eating ok or we will have to separate them. 

We are prepping for the garden portion for the farming. We are starting seedlings right now.

The great thing is that the people who are at the top of the farm are really passionate about teaching us so we can get started with our own farms and gardens if we want to. They really are passionate about us starting our own projects.

I’ve started a project on pigs. We also have other farm hands who have come on. They have their own animals and are trying to start their own gardens as well. We help with the animals and then work on other projects for the rest of the day. 

I had to start the feed today. They are actually fermenting food – corn and beans and wheat so that animals are getting probiotics in their diet. They try to diversify the diet instead of growing just hay or one single thing. They are trying to see how they can round out their diet.

They are also working on solar dehydrators. They try as hard as they can to find out what is available in our area – what classes, so if any of us want to hone up on more skills we can. They have teamed up with a solar company in Gallup and we can go and learn there.

We are hoping to move everything that we are doing into truly Indigenous Regenerative, sort of stepping back and making and sourcing and doing everything on our own as much as we can instead of having to bring in different sources of power.

Even trying to see how we can make our own potting soil. 

We are sticking to the basics for now, but it’ll be great once we can start doing that. 

I would want to say that farming has always been a dream of mine, I guess I didn’t fully see how it could happen.

Recently things started to fall into place where it’s becoming more and more possible. I’ve been working on it every day as much as I can.

I think the reason I chose to farm for these guys is because they really do want to teach everyone who works for them all the things that they have learned so far.

They haven’t been generationally in the business of farming. They both started themselves – they cared about the earth, they’ve cared about this whole system that we have been living off of, they have been feeling that passionately, they wanted to see what they could do, and now they want to teach others – with solar dehydrators, with the gardening, they even went as far as testing – they are working with the microbes in the soil.

When they are talking about regenerative agriculture, they are Talking About working with the system that was in place. They really want to teach about how to have healthy soil and that balance with plants and animals. 

They really want to teach you and also assist you. On days that I’m really needing help, I won’t work that day/get paid for that day, but the whole group that is working on the farm will come to my property and help me, and vice versa, if they need a fence put up or a barn put up…they want people to feel comfortable to hop on these projects. 

I’m trying to acquire more area around me to farm. I live in a checkerboard area – half county and half tribal land.  

I’m Navajo, and the reason that system was created was to help us Indigenous people become ranchers if we wanted to.

The system is faulted since it was created. It’s gotten very muddled. I’m waiting to hear back from someone about land. I showed them what I’m interested in, it’s not a whole lot but it’s just enough for what I’m needing to do. 

My hope is also to create that farm to table experience for my family and other people who haven’t experienced that before. 

We do have a pretty good situation on the farm, but as time is going to go on, as soon as we get into the busy season come springtime, we are all going to be busy because we are also trying to get our own gardens going plus the main garden going at the farm.

That balance between home and work…we are trying to not to see it as just work because we are all pretty passionate about what we are doing on the farm, but we are also pretty passionate on our own land.

When you clock off, you’re pooped but you still have more to do. Right now I’m at the Home Depot parking lot talking to you because I have to get more buckets. 

Once everything is where we need it to be, that’s my dream, how we can make things efficient so we can work smarter not harder. 

The model that we are working on right now is working out pretty good. I didn’t know very much going in, but they are working with us every day and teaching us more things, resource things for us and give us flexibility to build our own farms.

I kind of hope this for everybody.

This is as best of a situation as I can think of. We have our own opinions and ideas but somehow we make it work together.

This is the first time I’ve ever felt comfortable working at a place and not feeling that weird I’m your boss/you’re the worker – type energy. 

Communication overall for any worker is key, just feeling like what they are feeling is validated at least by somebody.

I love food so I am always learning and connecting – if you can learn where your food comes from, you actually are face to face with it and hand to hand with it, you become more appreciative of it.

I already appreciate my food, but there is something different to have that farm to table experience and truly be the person who has worked on it. I’ve worked with food before and I’ve always loved working from the raw produce to the end product. There is so much of our food that is heavily processed and we can’t even recognize where it came from.

I love that aspect of farming and just everything else…being outside, being with animals, learning things constantly because you’re always having to stay on your toes when something happens – what do we have to do next?

I’m always trying to improve and figure out what I can do for my community, my family and myself.

Just diving into this, I’m really passionate about combating global warming.

Within our area, there is so much mining and disruption of land, with the population expanding, more land gets torn up.

We don’t have that appreciation for what our land can do for us if we work on it.

Just to tie it all together, that is why I’m really hoping what we are doing will show people that there is another way instead of constantly running up resources or needing to feed into this whole thing where we feel helpless.

What we are seeing with the pandemic, supplies not coming in like we are used to from food to building supplies to everything, we are starting to see that it’s not as sustainable as we thought it was.

I’m hoping to educate others that people can empower themselves with educating themselves with their food, where it comes from, how it’s grown and possibly that they can do something for themselves or seek out local farms that are willing to help, they really are.