Halito (Hello) from Dr. Evan Whitley, Executive Director of Agriculture.
The primary intent of this newsletter always has been (and always will be) grounded in the requisite to share practical observations and information to hopefully assist producers in meeting their operational, financial and/or quality-of-life goals. As I visit with the agricultural community at various conventions, trade meetings and in face-to-face conversations, sometimes I hear a mention that Choctaw Agriculture is “financially backed” by our extensive casino properties.
Although the Choctaw Nation is very proud of – and rather successful in – their gaming endeavors, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Choctaw Agricultural and Natural Resources Department is expected to operationally manage their agricultural assets in a way that will ultimately result in financial solvency and complement the many positive contributions the Choctaw Nation provides in such areas as Healthcare, Education, Outreach and Cultural Awareness. This is important. Not because it allows us to brag about “how big our hat is,” or how many cattle we own, but rather, because – without this realization – our message is not as effective.
Case in point: within the last two months, the Choctaw Nation has been approached by two separate entities to participate and represent production agriculture in research to benefit the future of natural resource-applied management. The most exciting aspect of both these opportunities is the importance of linking proper land stewardship practices with the vigor and sustainability of the overall citizenry. In other words – educating the general consuming public that what we do out on the land has obvious impacts on air/water/soil quality, as well as sometimes not-quite-so-obvious impacts on the overall health and vitality of the rural community.
I often describe the approach we take here at the Choctaw Nation in managing our agricultural program as being something between that of a university land-grant institute and a private, for-profit individual/organization. The biggest differences being – we can and will collaborate on applied, cutting-edge research, but aren’t beholden to grant funding; and we will share information, even if it could be viewed as proprietary.
Although our ranching legacy may not be considered as traditional or conventional by some, our approach is consistent with those who want viable and sustainable natural resources and rural communities. As the challenges those in agriculture face are formidable, we will need everyone pulling together in order to meet them.