Nan Awaya Farm is located within the heart of the Choctaw Nation Reservation in southeastern Oklahoma. We're between the Ouachita Mountains and the Great Plains. The 160 acre parcel that makes up the farm was allotted to a young Choctaw woman at the time of statehood. It has changed hands many times since then, but 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.
Before we set foot on this land, it had been abused for some time: logged, badly overgrazed, and seriously eroded. There was almost no grass on it. Nevertheless, it was a special place. The lowlands of the farm are a sandy seep. This is a rare habitat type specific to our 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, diverse, and threatened ecosystems in the world.
We let the land rest for a year while we built new fences. Then, we re-introduced American bison, and began grazing them in such a manner that they are helping us begin to reverse some of the damage. Within 5 years, over 200 native species of non-woody plants had come up in our pastures just from the seeds and roots that had survived in the soil. Every single one of these native plant species contributes to the web of life around it. To further the restoration process, since 2021, we've hand-planted more than 9,000 patches of native prairie plant seed from species that were still rare or missing out in our pastures. We used nothing but our hands and a garden hoe in order to do no harm to the native plant community that still survived. We've also reintroduced fire and overseeding after fire.
As these changes gain momentum, the pastures are becoming filled with life and color at all seasons. You can sense a spirit out among these increasingly vibrant native landscapes that you just don't sense in a Bermuda grass pasture.