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REAP Food Group, Dan Cornelius to host third annual Harvest Dinner and inaugural Harvest Weekend

Dan Cornelius, owner of Yowela?talíh^ Farm and a member of the Oneida Nation, talks about sustainable land practices. (Photo supplied.)

This Sunday, REAP Food Group will be coming together with Dan Cornelius to host the third annual Harvest Dinner with an inaugural Harvest Weekend additionally for Saturday at the Yowela Farms in Stoughton. This event celebrates Wisconsin’s harvest and highlights the diversity of this region’s rich culture and history.

The Saturday community celebration and workshops will take place from 2-5 p.m. and the farm tours and dinner on Sunday will be 3-7 p.m. The events are family-friendly with all proceeds going to the Native Food Network and REAP Food Group.

Yowela?talíh^ is the Oneida word that the Yowela Farms name comes from meaning “gentle wind,” and recognizing ancestry and land history is a crucial aspect of the event for local grower Dan Cornelius. Already active in harvesting corn for the season and collaborating with institutions such as Madison College, Cornelius was happy for an additional opportunity to share the process and important Indigenous history of the food and land.     

“This year, in addition to the Harvest Dinner on Sunday, we’re going to be doing a family day on Saturday. We’ll have a lot of different activities going on, and it will just be a good opportunity for people to learn a bit about Indigenous foods and enjoy some time outside,” Cornelius told Madison365, eager about the expanded opportunities for engagement for the weekend this year.

Chef Francesca Hong of Morris Ramen and the Dane County Food Collective will participate in Harvest Dinner. (Photo supplied.)

“The first part of the day on Saturday is going to be out in the field with the harvesting and seeing that. Then there’s a little bit of a tour talking about soil health and land management practices.”

Cornelius spoke to the importance of spreading awareness on sustainable land practices and connecting the recognition of Indigenous foods and growers to the availability of resources that can be shared when that space is made. Cornelius specifically mentioned the cultural significance of calico corn, known widely as Flint corn, and its significant role in local Indigenous cultures.    

“This is the corn that people would have eaten around here 500 years ago or 200 years ago, and it is what our Indigenous communities still eat today,” said Cornelius. “The general knowledge of it is pretty limited and that’s surprising for Wisconsin with corn being one of our major crops. The general population knows very little about the history and about what this is. That’s a lot of the intention; to be able to show the background of one of our most important crops.”

The crop has a significance across Haudenosaunee (also known as Iroquois) communities historically. As an Oneida Nation member, Cornelius felt it was important that people find ways to appreciate and access the food and land while still respecting sovereignty.

Chef Yusuf Bin-Rella of TradeRoots Farms (Photo supplied.)

From starting a food box program for tribal elders to working through the Wisconsin Local Food Purchase Assistance Program to get food out to underserved communities, the focus for Cornelius lies solely in increasing access to both food and becoming a grower for your community.      

“How do we achieve and promote this idea of food sovereignty?” Cornelius questioned. “How do we really work to feed our communities? From my standpoint, a lot of it is being able to give essentially a guaranteed market at a fair price for food that’s feeding our communities. That right there is what gives the incentive for people to start getting out here and growing…scaling up for those who are interested in scaling up and being able to feed our communities. A lot of it is those types of farm-to-community efforts, so we’re doing that locally, as well.” 

To learn more about the event and to purchase tickets, visit the REAP Food Group website page here