Student sees bright future in Gila River Indian Community agriculture

Student sees bright future in Gila River Indian Community agriculture


July 10, 2017


Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


Agriculture has been the livelihood of Akimel O’otham’s for decades, with their knowledge of the land and water to grow crops under harsh conditions.


The passing down of knowledge about farming has been a tradition in and of itself, being given from one generation to the next.

For one GRIC member, the passing of knowledge is just one step of her educational journey to maintain the agricultural traditions of the Community.


Yasmine Quiroz is a agriculture business major at Central Arizona College, who will be transferring to Arizona State University this fall.

She said that agriculture has been a part of her families’ life and that it has become a tradition passed on from generation to generation.


Quiroz said when it came to going to college the decision to choose what field she wanted to study didn’t take too long to figure out.

“And then when I went to CAC it was just in general business and I kind of missed taking all those Ag classes like I did in high school, so then I just switched my major into Ag business,” she said.


Her mentor and supervisor Santos “Sonny” Nieto said after 17 years in the agriculture business, a lot knowledge is required with managing large scale farming operations.


“It takes a lot…You have to know your staff, you have to build your list of contacts to refer to and give a lot of advice and encourage community gardens,” said Nieto.


Quiroz said she is impressed at the amount of knowledge Nieto has about agriculture and that he has provided hands-on training on how to care for plants and how water is brought to the fields for farmer’s to use.


“Working with Sonny I do a lot of watering for the green house located nearby and we are going to be transplanting some plants soon…basically I’m working [here] for GRIDD” said Quiroz.


Sonny said part of the responsibilities of his position that he is showing Quiroz is how it helps farmers take up good farming practices and help them select what farmers will plant at a specific time of the year to get the most of their investment.


When it comes to her own interest, Quiroz said that she is interested in the livestock sector of agriculture.

She and her younger sister participated in the Coolidge High School 4H program and Future Farmers of American organization. Raising swine and veal for the Pinal County Fair for six years, has taught her about the commitment it takes to be successful in raising animals.


Quiroz said that mentors at CAC have given her guidance on how to develop the right college program that fits her field of interest.

She said one such professor and mentor Kristen Benedict advised her on what program would provide her with the most return on knowledge gained.


“Kristen has been a real help ever since I started going to CAC, just helping me and encouraging me and making sure I am on track to pass all my classes,” said Quiroz, “Bob, he graduated from ASU with a degree in Ag business, so I go to him to ask if I’m taking the right classes as well and basically asking him on his perspective on the program there.”


Nieto said, “I think it is very important there are young students that are interested in getting into the agriculture field and Ag business, but we need somebody, not just one person, but many of them to get into these fields, so they can continue to help manage the Community’s agriculture.”


He said he would like to have other aspiring Ag business or minded individuals to mentor and teach, so that when the time comes to pass the torch, the Community’s future in agriculture is in good hands.


Quiroz said having an open mind and knowledge for the Community’s agricultural heritage and how it is a part of the agriculture industry in GRIC, builds a good relationship among farmers, who still practice the “old ways.”