Kelp forests are a vital part of the marine ecosystem and food web, absorbing nutrients like nitrogen from the water and making them available to a variety of species that feed on their leaves. This, along with kelp’s role in alleviating the impacts of climate change, nurturing sea and wildlife, and supporting coastal economies, makes kelp protection and restoration vital to the future of our planets’ marine environment.
The Shinnecock Kelp Farmers are a non-profit organization started by a multi-generation collective of six women who are enrolled members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation - and also the first Indigenous owned and operated kelp farm on the East Coast. The women leverage their traditional, 10,000+ year-old relationship with the sea and seaweed to capture carbon and nitrogen that has steadily poisoned the waters of Shinnecock Bay, Long Island, and beyond.
Historically, maintaining these kelp forests hasn’t been easy - harvesting seaweed in New York State is only legal in certain parts of Long Island. Fortunatley colonial settlers in the 1600s made deals that reserved the right for Shinnecock people to harvest seaweed. These "seaweed cases” ultimately became a crucial part of the Shinnecock’s application for federal tribal recognition (finally obtained in 2010), thus allowing them the ability to farm in the waters of Shinnecock Bay.
Thousands of years before European settlers arrived, the Shinnecock were the keepers of this marine ecosystem, with their land stretching largely across the whole of Eastern Long Island, from what now would be Brookhaven to Easthampton. Currently their nation sits at a massively diminished 1,200 acres.
The organization got its’ start last winter after some initial success with growing kelp, with some infrastructural help from the Sisters of St. Joseph. The farmers also get technical assistance from Greenwave, an ocean farming incubator who’s 10-year goal is to provide training, tools, and support to a baseline of 10,000 regenerative ocean farmers to catalyze the planting of 1 million acres and yield meaningful economic and climate impacts. You can learn more about their efforts HERE.
Starting today through next Monday, November 28 will be donating a portion of net online sales to the organization so that they can further the amazing work they are doing with kelp on the East End.
All images courtesy of The Shinnecock Kelp Farmers
Above image: Maintaining sugar kelp that hangs on growing lines throughout Shinnecock Bay. Below, members of the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers working with their hatchery tanks, where the kelp is incubated prior to placing it on growing lines in the bay.
“It really goes back to this concept of reciprocity; Indigenous people know that if we take care of Mother Earth, that Mother Earth will then take care of us.”
Tela Troge, via Mongabay
Checking the waters for suitable placement areas of sugar kelp lines ( above). Below, drying tracks made from re-purposed window screens. Once harvested, the kelp is dried and sold to local farmers to use as an organically rich soil enhancement.
“You can do everything but surrender. Every individual has the power to help this planet, even if it’s just literally in your backyard.”
Becky Genia, via 27east
Meticulous cleaning of existing kelp lines to prepare for the next season of harvesting
The women of Shinnecock Kelp Farmers