Cowessess First Nation expanding farming operations
Cowessess First Nation is expanding into the crop side of farming with the help of a federal grant.
Cowessess Community Cattle Company, now known as 4C Farms, began back in 2007 with a small number of cattle.
Terry Lerat farmed the land back in the 70s before starting 4C Farms.
“It’s where I come from. I was in agriculture all my life and fortunate to have the chance to bring that back and help our First Nation,” said Lerat, who is the ranch manager at 4C Farms.
Today, 4C is farming wheat, barley, canola and cattle on Cowessess land.
“We got some of the best land in the province of Saskatchewan,” said Lerat. “Saskatchewan’s an ag-based province, we’re right in the middle of it, so let’s make use of it.”
Last year. only a thousand acres of land were farmed by 4C. This year, 4,500 acres are being farmed because of the Indigenous Food Ag Initiative.
Last week, the federal government announced $4 million will be invested in to 16 projects across the country. Cowessess received $922,000 of it for their project.
“Indigenous people were the first agricultural innovators and have a unique connection to the land that continues today,” said Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, in the virtual announcement on June 18.
Chief Cadmus Delorme said Cowessess has a lot of gratitude for every dollar it gets and looks at it as an investment.
“Economic self sustainability is a part of our growth and land is something Cowessess has,“ added Chief Delorme.
The grant will help them with crop inputs, salaries, a contract and equipment over the next three years, said Chief Delorme. At its current capacity the farm can employ six people.
He also said the farm, and this grant, will help encourage youth to go to school and get in to agrology.
“Long term we could be one of the biggest ag business organizations, and First Nations-owned, in Saskatchewan if we can approach this in the right way and that is our goal,” explained Delorme.
Cowessess has 32,000 acres of farmable land, and even though they will never farm it all, Delorme said the farm can grow at the rate it wants to.