CLE - Center for Lifelong Education

IAIA Receives $50,000 USDA Grant for Student Research

Santa Fe, NM | Aug 7, 2012 –

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) has received a $50,000 USDA grant for student research in agriculture and nutrition.


The funding will also host a visiting scholar from New Mexico State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Science Center in Alcalde, N.M., to help students study agriculture. Students will learn about soil preparation, irrigation methods in dry climates, and nutritional benefits of organically produced foods. They will also measure family participation in a farming or gardening and healthy eating program.

Lettuce seedlings in IAIA's greenhouse


In 1994, Congress approved IAIA land grant status, a provision given to tribally-controlled colleges and universities to better help serve their consumers through higher education programs involving teaching, community outreach and research. The 1994 Land Grant Institutions primarily serve Native American populations typically located in remote, underserved communities that lack access to higher education. Relevant culturally sensitive curriculum is included so that Native American students and communities can incorporate their cultural and historical identity. The USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service provides the funds to support the Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program.


In the past two years, IAIA’s Center for Lifelong Education (CLE) has developed a campus demonstration garden, growing peaches, lettuce, onions and other fruits and vegetables to increase awareness of traditional foods production, as well as provide work-study and internships to students interested in learning about or enhancing their knowledge of regional tribal farming and alternative methodologies in agriculture. A greenhouse has been built on campus with a USDA Extension grant to serve as an alternative and experiential classroom.


Although faculty have integrated agricultural curriculum and outreach opportunities in the Indigenous Liberal Studies and Museum Studies departments, student agriculture and scientific research has been lacking. Some students have stated that they want to grow their own foods in IAIA’s garden and monitor their families’ financial and health benefits.


R. Edmund Gomez, NMSU visiting scholar who has worked with tribal communities, will mentor IAIA students in a study of small-scale traditional food crop production and the nutritional benefits and outcomes. The scholar in turn will learn about the tribal college system, including outreach and community-based programs, as well as share his/her knowledge of research in regional small family farming.


The research team will also provide mentoring to Native high school students in agriscience and culinary arts at the Santa Fe Indian School as part of IAIA’s dual-credit and integrated curriculum program in the two-year project starting in September.


Campus demonstration garden

Results of the student research will be presented at the annual CLE Health and Wellness conference, and students will be encouraged to co-write and publish their findings in scholarly journals, such as the Tribal College Journal, and agricultural and health-related publications. The students and families will also generate a cookbook, which will be available for sale to the campus, tribal and Santa Fe communities.


IAIA is one of several tribal colleges across the nation engaging in programs to revitalize traditional food cultivation, harvesting and cooking. According to participants at a previous FALCON (what is FALCON) conference, more work needs to be done in the area of food security and affordability.


“For 50 years, the Institute of American Indian Arts has served as a premier institution whose efforts are critical to protecting the heritage and culture of Native American communities, not only across New Mexico, but across the country, while exploring the latest influences that are reflected in the contemporary work of incredible artists,” said U.S. House Rep. Ben Ray Luj├ín D- N.M., who announced the grant Friday. “IAIA is instrumental in nurturing the next generation of artists in Indian Country, as well as promoting and protecting the work of its students. Federal grants like this one are critical to bolster their efforts and ensure that IAIA has the resources it needs to continue to provide its students with the opportunity to inspire the community with their art work.”


For more information about IAIA’s visiting scholar and student agriculture and nutrition research program, contact Luke Reed at 505-424-5950 or For more information about IAIA’s Center for Lifelong Learning, go to

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