Land Grant Office of Sustainability


To improve and enhance the lives of individuals, families, and communities of the Tohono O’odham Nation through holistic and culturally based formal and non-formal educational programming that is community based


Empowering the Tohono O’odham Nation’s citizens to reconnect to the Land, Language, and culture by embracing core values, preserving natural resources, and recognizing how our agricultural heritage informs our health and values.

Goals and Guidelines

  • Initiate, develop, organize, and coordinate local community-based projects that improve economic development, natural resources, agriculture, and livestock.
  • Ensure the health and well-being of O’odham land, water, natural resources, economy, community, and lifeways by promoting culturally relevant approaches to restoration, renewal, and sustainability in every endeavor and to disseminate this information.
  • Collaborate with Tohono O’odham Community College Departments to develop academic curricula that will prepare students for careers and provide professional advancement opportunities.
  • Establish partnerships at all levels with governments, public agencies, educational institutions, nonprofits organizations, and private entities in order to pursue funding, conduct and implement projects, present educational events, and engage in other activities that serve the Tohono O’odham Nation. 


  • Disseminate agricultural practices that are sustainable, environmentally responsible, and culturally relevant.
  • Provide technical assistance related to O’odham traditional agronomic practices, crop production methods, harvesting, post-harvest handling, and food preparation.
  • Advise on potential irrigation systems, traditional irrigation methods, conservation practices, and water harvesting.
  • Educate policymakers, producers and consumers regarding healthy, sustainable agriculture and food.
  • Collaborate with individuals, communities, organizations, and schools in conducting extension and outreach activities promoting sustainable topics and values.
  • Partner with academic departments in developing curricula and educational materials related to traditional crop and livestock practices, implementing sustainable practices, agribusiness planning, and youth programming (4-H)
  • Network with producers, gardeners, and Agriculture enterprises (FFWG, CSA, etc.

Measurable Objectives

  • Determine and measure all changes for participants involved in formal and nonformal educational programming.
  • Include Elders as primary resources, instructors, advisors, and counselors as a means of determining programming direction.
  • Ensure the integration of appropriate Tohono O’odham Himdag in the physical environment, curriculum, and processes of all educational programs.
  • Establish an appropriate technology component that will enable the students, individuals, and the broader community to meet the challenges of the future.

Sustainability Grants

USDA / NIFA Equity Grant

Though once a flourishing agricultural society with a healthy and stable population, the Tohono O’odham today are in a critical situation with limited access to healthy foods and one of the highest diabetes rates in the world. To address these complicated issues, the Land Grant Office of Sustainability has developed a multifaceted re-education program.

The core of the Equity Grant is building a foundation with keystone courses including Agroecology and Crop Production, Ethnobotany, and an Introductory course on Sustainable Agriculture. Within the laboratory portions of these courses, fact sheets, how-to-articles, and instructional videos are being developed for use by community members and students in hybrid courses.

A New Beginning Farmer program will allow both students and community members to participate in these courses and activities and encourage them to produce traditional crops to sell through local Farmers Markets as well as through a future College restaurant. Food safety and business skills training will be included so that potential beginning farmers will have the appropriate hands-on experience to grow and sell healthy foods and live more sustainably.

USDA / NIFA Extension Grant

Tohono O’odham Community College is continuing to build on previous projects that have been well established and yielded measurable success. In close partnership with our Equity-funded agriculture education program, our Extension program has both created a demonstration site at our College’s West Campus as well as a network of connections with the many far flung schools, communities, and other entities of the vast 2.8 million acre Tohono O’odham Nation.

The Extension work is done in close and constant collaboration with all interested parties including the Farm and Food Working Group, which functions as a central nexus for the variety of stakeholders in agricultural development. Mr. Clifford Pablo, one of the last storehouses of knowledge of the traditional methods, has been central to this program and has now trained over 30 student interns, who in turn help disseminate this critical expertise further among the potential future Native farmers.

However, our program is still new and fragile; it is imperative that we strengthen this base quickly and thoroughly. Specifically, this will be done through the acquisition of seed cleaning equipment, increasing the number of students involved, and implementing appropriate outreach programs that transfer the knowledge and skills to community participants working to develop productive gardens and farms.

USDA / NIFA Special Emphasis Grant

The Special Emphasis Grant was originally established to help meet the agriculture development issues faced by the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON). This Grant is critical for implementing solutions to address the precipitous collapse of traditional farming techniques that are central to this agrarian society. It closely overlaps with the Extension grant also funded by NIFA.

The loss of traditional framing techniques has led to a soaring type II diabetes rate among the Tohono O’odham (Desert People) whose ancestors were masterful builders of a vast irrigation canal network. Efforts have begun to re-educate the community on traditional agricultural methods and the re-establishment of “Oidag” or gardens and small farm plots. The Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC) has begun teaching keystone courses within the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program. TOCC has begun an effective program of demonstration sites on our existing Student Learning Garden and the newly established school farm.

Through collaborative programs with the Farm and Food Working Group, traditional crop production techniques are being introduced to students and community members. Future plans include establishing a farmer’s markets as well as a small restaurant run by the Culinary Arts program featuring traditional foods and dishes.