Government , Health

Bird Creek Farm employees to grow produce year-round in new facilities

Photo caption: Osage Nation Bird Creek Farms entrance shows the design of new multi-purpose building that will be located on the farm on July 28. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

Bird Creek Farms will make major changes in how they grow produce and conduct business next year after it received a boost from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The Osage Nation COVID Task Force recently delegated $7.4 million to the farm for the construction of a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse and a 44,000-square-foot general use building that will include an aquaponics operation. Jann Hayman, director for the Nation’s Department of Natural Resources and member of the task force, said that construction of the new facilities will be complete by Dec. 30.

“There will be a variety of produce grown in the greenhouse. The greenhouse structure is still being determined, so specific operational plans have not been developed. The aquaponics facility will grow primarily leafy greens,” she said. “The general-purpose building will contain two aquaponics systems, a water laboratory for continually testing the water quality in the food production systems, and a food processing facility.”

Builders Unlimited, Inc., is in charge of designing the facilities.

Bird Creek Farms is located just off of Lynn Avenue and directly east of the Clarence Tinker Veterans Park along the bank of Bird Creek in Pawhuska. The farm currently has four full-time employees and Hayman said there are no immediate plans to hire additional workers. The farm is 74.22 acres and is currently waiting for approval to place the land into trust status.

The farm currently grows bell peppers, cantaloupe, cucumber, okra, pumpkins, squash, sweet corn, heirloom corn, tomatoes, and watermelons. The harvest is currently distributed among the Nation’s schools and elder programs.

Hayman said there are no plans to sell the produce locally, only to make it available for Osage tribal members.

“The funds for the infrastructure development of the farm can only be used to meet the needs of the Osage people by supporting the security of food systems. There is no immediate plan to sell produce,” she said.

She said she anticipates challenges in learning the new system of farming since the farming will now be performed indoors year-round, but the infrastructure development in process "will be so helpful" to the farm’s efforts.

“This advances the Osage Nation food systems well beyond where we were. It will allow the Nation to provide locally grown, nutritional food for the benefit of the Osage people that are local and beyond throughout the year.” 

For more information on Bird Creek Farm, visit their website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/what-we-do/communities-excellence/bird-creek-farms