By Virginia Manuel, Maine Rural Development State Director
Diabetes, obesity, alcoholism and cancer are health problems that all of America faces, but a study showed that incidents of these problems are higher among Native Americans. The Aroostook Band of Micmacs are taking action to change those statistics.
With the assistance of a USDA Rural Development Rural Business Enterprise Grant of $492,363, a USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Grant of $31,739 and tribal matching funds in the amount of $80,000, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs are constructing two buildings and two greenhouses to create a farmers market and nursery.
Chief Victoria Higgins said, “This is a big day for us. The health of tribal members has grown worse over the past few decades. Health problems such as diabetes, obesity, alcoholism and cancer were not as predominant in tribal ancestors as they are today, and some of those illnesses are attributed to poor eating habits.” The tribe is working with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to also establish a fish hatchery.
Chief Higgins and USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel (with the shovels) were joined by representatives from the state’s congressional delegation and several tribal members for the groundbreaking ceremony. Manuel said during the ceremony that “the project will benefit the health of the tribe and the local economy.” She stressed the importance of knowing where food comes from, and that the farmers’ market and fish hatchery would be a means of encouraging local growth.
The Farmers market will be open to all farmers who want to sell their produce. The public will be able to rent space to sell their goods. Construction is scheduled to begin immediately and completed by fall. The facility will be open year round and will have space for cold storage.