Nan Awaya Farm is located within the heart of the Choctaw Nation Reservation in southeastern Oklahoma. We're between the Ouachita Mountains and Great Plains. The 160 acre parcel that makes up the farm was allotted to a young Choctaw woman at the time of statehood, and although it has changed hands many times since then, it has never been subdivided. Not withstanding the loans that we're paying on it, we've never really seen this land as our "property". Instead, we feel more like we belong to the land. Our time on this land connects us with the buffalo hunters who left their stone tools here 7,000 years ago and with the waves of monarch butterflies that will hopefully still be visiting this land's wildflowers 10,000 years from now.
For occupying only 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile, we find ourselves on a diverse landscape. The lowlands of the farm are sandy seep. This is a rare habitat type specific to the local area. Rising 120 ft in elevation, the farm's uplands are dry. They were once covered in oak savanna and tallgrass prairie. These are two of the most productive and diverse ecosystems in the world. Sadly, 98 % of the tallgrass prairie and an even higher percentage of the oak savanna have been destroyed across America. When we purchased this farm, it had been seriously overgrazed for years, badly eroded, and logged. There was almost no grass on it. The most basic goal of our farm is to restore this land into a functioning native ecosystem, one that can provide healthy food and raw materials for Choctaw cultural projects, while also proving the ecosystem services and habitats of a native landscape.
The American bison was one of the keystone species of this region. We have reintroduced a small herd of them to this farm, along with a couple of Choctaw ponies from the herd that Amy's grandfather once cared for. Monitoring regularly, we match the herd size to the land's carrying capacity. We've divided the farm into 23 pastures. As we rotate our herd between them, each pasture gets substantial rest time, allowing it to rebuild from years of abuse. Over the past couple of years, we've documented 35 species of native grasses and 171 species of native wildflowers and forbs in our pastures. These remnant plants have come up from seeds and roots surviving in the ground, which has never been plowed. Here since time immemorial, they are as much a part of this land as the soil and sunlight. In some pastures, we've also begun doing non-invasive planting of the native species that are rare or still missing. When the prairie grasses recover across the land, we'll start implementing more range fire.
As these changes gain momentum, the pastures are becoming increasingly filled with life and color at all seasons. If you want to see Eastern Gammagrass (a plant that was one common on the Southeastern Oklahoma landscape but has been grazed into oblivion), if you want to see Slender Indiangrass (critically threatened in Oklahoma), if you want to see Blueflower Eryngo (a native wildflower not before documented for our county), you can on this working farm.