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Chantel Harrison: Promoting Sustainable Food Production

Chantel Harrison: Promoting Sustainable Food Production

is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Hi, I’m Spiffy, the only interplanetary journalist stationed on Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Chantel Harrison, the founder of Indigeponics. Let’s learn what’s happening at Indigeponics and how Chantel is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Chantel! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Indigeponics?

Chantel: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Indigeponics provides educational resources for communities to grow their own food using sustainable growing systems, like hydroponic systems. In the past, we had a demonstrational greenhouse that encouraged communities to interact with plants in a unique space that combines science, technology, and culture from an indigenous perspective. Currently, we provide free resources for communities about the basics of hydroponics, plant needs like light, nutrition, and water, and different types of hydroponic systems. Overall, our goal is to continue help others grow tasty food that is easily accessible and culturally relevant to bring communities together through food and kindness.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Chantel: Food! Food brings people together in unique ways, starting from seeds all the way to our tables. Our motivation lies in helping others reconnect to food in meaningful ways. We’re also dreaming big and including ways to use technology, like sensors, automation, and programming to increase food production. Lastly, our motivation is to share these concepts relating to biology, engineering, and plant physiology with others, so everyone has an opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Chantel: In our short time, we have hosted over 52 participants from our communities in our workshops and distributed over 35 hydroponic kits. Our six partnerships with local organizations have provided fresh herbs, lettuce, and microgreens stretching from Tucson to Phoenix, Arizona. The free hydroponic resources were shared with participants and online learners through our website, and continues to be shared with indigenous communities from Arizona to Alaska.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Chantel: A new project we are in the process of developing is an educational resource guide designed for indigenous youth in grades seven to twelve. Our goal for this project is to expose students to multiple fields of science and career paths relating to agriculture, engineering, and biology. Additionally, we plan to include components of art, culture, and storytelling to further enhance the learning experience for students to bridge the gap of creativity and innovation from an indigenous perspective. This project is part of our broader initiative of developing equitable solutions and resources that increase access to STEM opportunities in urban and rural settings.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Chantel—it’s been an honor!

Chantel Harrison (Diné) is a MIT Solve Indigenous Fellow. Her work focuses on developing sustainable food systems in indigenous communities utilizing controlled environment agriculture. Additionally, her work aims to empower communities to reconnect with plant relatives through agricultural education, indigenizing STEM curriculum and contributing solutions that empower food sovereignty and food accessibility efforts. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 29, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.