The farm co-founders, Chief Vincent Mann and Clan Mother Michaeline Picaro
The Ramapough today are instituting their own programs geared at restoring Indigenous environmental knowledge through activities such as waterway community paddles, Munsee language classes, and other elements of a cultural restoration program. An important site for this undertaking is the Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm in Sussex County, New Jersey, founded in May 2020 by Chief Vincent Mann and Clan Mother Michaeline Picaro. The nine-acre site sits adjacent to a protected forest and wildlife habitat at the Muckshaw Ponds Preserve.
The farm is part of a partnership between the Ridge and Valley Conservancy and the Foodshed Alliance, which leases Muckshaw Farm and has launched the Sustainable Agriculture Enterprise Program (SAgE). This program offers long-term affordable leases to farmers. The Muckshaw Farm property includes 201 acres of interconnected ponds, accessible to the public with hiking trails running through rare and endangered plants. This area contains a hatching ground for turtles on the farm itself, which will be protected and enhanced for nesting - a blessing for the Turtle Clan.
In this clip Chief Vincent Mann speaks about the intention behind the Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm.
Through the SAgE program the Foodshed Alliance works with farmers, connecting them to resources, as well as providing business management and marketing training. The Ramapough have also partnered with the Experimental Farm Network, which protects and repatriates seeds to Native people. They received Lenape Blue Pulling Corn seeds, which will be grown to seed on the farm, and then distributed to other farmers, thereby expanding the network. They are also growing Munsee Tobacco that Chief Mann received as a gift in 2015 at the Medicine Garden in the town of Ramapo, another Ford dumping site. One plant became 120, which were gifted to others, and several were planted on the Three Sisters Farm, grown for seed and for use in ceremony.
Working with volunteers to quickly establish a productive landscape, crop rows and three medicine circle gardens were laid out. In the farm’s first season, they were able to harvest from the three sisters - corns, beans, and squashas well as melons and Munsee tobacco. In the second season they installed greenhouses and chicken coops.
Nuturing the land will allow for the life stored in the seeds to sprout into life and grow, resulting in a symbiotic relationship caring for soil, seeds, and plants producing a bountiful harvest for all. The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.
“ At the core of tribal sovereignty is food sovereignty. This is significant because we know that our traditional foods are a pillar of our culture, and that they feed much more than our physical bodies; they feed our spirits…They are living links with our land and our legacy, helping us to remember who we are and where we come from.”
- Valerie Segrest, Director Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project
“ By engaging with community-centered environmental restoration projects, we can restore relationships with each other and with our environments. If we understand genocide as the forcible breaking down of relationships, healing from genocide necessitates the rebuilding and strengthening of relationships Indigenous peoples have had with the natural world since the beginning of time.”
- Kaitlin Reed, Yurok/Hupa/Oneida
In this clip Chief Vincent Mann speaks about one of the connections between people and seeds.
Food sovereignty is a powerful and innovative concept that was coined in 1996 by La Via Campesina, a global movement of farmers, to describe their vision of a better food future.
Food sovereignty is “the right of Peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”