Cooperative extension is a century-old government program that places agricultural agents in counties to educate and work with farmers. But for years, agents failed to show up for Native American communities. In 1990, the Farm Bill created a new extension program designed specifically to work with tribal farmers. Nancy and Harold Long collaborated with the Cherokee tribe’s extension agent to grow their heirloom seed business as well as on other projects. But tribal extension agents serve just a fraction of tribes who compete for funding through competitive grants, making the program precarious on many reservations. For the Longs, that’s meant unsteady help on their growing farm.  

You can read a version of this story on Southerly, an independent, nonprofit media organization that covers ecology, justice, and culture in the American South.

Harold and Nancy Long run a 40-acre farm in Murphy, North Carolina. They’ve worked with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ extension agent for various projects and lament that they don’t have steadier help.

We thank Irina Zhorov for this episode.  Irina is a writer and producer, focusing on the natural world and how we live in it. She’s working on a novel set in Soviet Siberia.   

We thank Blue Dot Sessions for the music in this episode, which includes the following tracks: 
Matamoscas by Flatlands
Headlights/Mountain Road by The Contessa
Lakkalia by Banana Cream 
Marquetry by Little Rock 
Kalsted by Lillehammer
Home Home at Last by Warmbody  

Additional resources for this story include:
Long Family Farm:
NC State Extension:
Cherokee extension: