The Oneida Nation’s Tsyunhehkw^ Farm personnel recently planted 12 acres of sunflowers in a large field located near the intersection of Hwy J and Hwy FF on the Oneida Reservation. This is the first year the Nation has planted in this field whereas in the past it was farmed by non-tribal members using conventional methods. The purpose behind this operation is to heal the land and eventually provide a stable environment for the growing of blue corn.
“We are building soils through green manure, organic matter, and using cover crops,” Kyle Wisneski, Tsyunhehkw^ Supervisor, said. “Our farming methods do not include the use of insecticides, pesticides, and Roundup like conventional farming does. This particular field has experienced really bad erosion due to those conventional methods of farming, so Tsyunhehkw^ is providing a more stable and holistic approach to healing the land. Most sunflowers grown this season will be used for organic matter and we’ll continue to plant them in this field for the next three years.”
Other factors and potential uses for the field have also been considered by the Tsyunhehkw^ staff. “We want to heal the land but also offer safe events and bring the community together,” Wisneski said. “We would like to create events that include viewing the sunflowers, purchasing, hay rides, pumpkin patches, and sunflower mazes. But the overall end goal is to revive the soil and plant blue corn in this area.”
Visitors from surrounding communities have taken notice of the project and are showing support. “I had a family stop in and they said the field was originally supposed to be turned into a housing site with approximately 50 homes,” Wisneski said. “However, the tribe bought it and in its first year planted sunflowers and they said it just makes everybody feel good and helps bring our communities together. Tsyunhehkw^ has had more than 500 people come in for the tours and other events over at the sunflowers so this has been very good.”
For Wisneski and the rest of the Tsyunhehkw^ staff, this project is personal as well as professional. “I want to be able to tell my kids and the communities youth that we work diligently to create a safe ecosystem for them to grow up in,” Wisneski said. “We don’t support Roundup and conventional farming. Our safe practices are for a better environment and healthier membership. I’m proud to say we at Tsyunhehkw^ heal the land instead of taking from it. I can go to bed at night knowing what I am doing is for the greater good of the Oneida Nation.”
The sunflower field is closed to the public at this time.