Ho-Chunk, Inc.’s agricultural division
September 28, 2022
Ho-Chunk, Inc.’s agricultural division, Ho-Chunk Farms, is advancing a dual mission of increasing Tribal farmland value and promoting food sovereignty on the reservation through major projects.
In 2021, the Winnebago Tribe was able to secure COVID-relief funding from the federal government to address continued food sovereignty efforts and potential food shortages. Those funds were administered to Ho-Chunk Farms and were crucial in expanding operations.
By purchasing their own tractor and planter with the COVID-relief funding, Ho-Chunk Farms manager Aaron LaPointe said they will be able to cut $100,000 in costs in 2022 by not outsourcing. In past years, the planting was contracted.
Ho-Chunk Farms also purchased a 6,000-square foot machine shed with the funds to store the new and existing equipment and implement machinery, ensuring longevity of the investments.
Also, by investing in grain storage, Ho-Chunk Farms can control when they sell their crops based on market cycles. Previously, they were forced to sell a large amount of their crop at harvest when prices were low.
“Now we are storing a majority of our crops and selling during the more profitable spring and summer months,” LaPointe said.
Ho-Chunk Farms was established in 2012 to increase the Winnebago Tribe’s farmland lease values by creating competition on trust land and separately begin buying back non-trust farmland within the reservation.
LaPointe led Ho-Chunk Farms to its first ever profitable year in 2021, catapulting to a 1,200% increase in operational profit from 2020. Additionally, Ho-Chunk Farms returned a record setting $1.4 million farmland lease payout to the Winnebago Tribe and Tribal members in 2021 (and repeated that same impressive payout in 2022).
“When we can promote our Tribe’s food sovereignty and sustainability and still make a profit, that’s a win-win,” he said.