Transcript for Episode 406 with Ramona Farms – Sacaton, AZ

July 5, 2023

transcript to accompany the interview with Terry Button on growing traditional Indian corn, tepary beans etc on the Gila River Indian Community, transcript created via AI using (affiliate link)

41 minutes


Janice Person [00:00:02]:

Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice Person, your host on Grounded by the Farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love.

This is the second part in our talks with people on the Gila River Indian Reservation, and and this conversation is a bit different. So we’ve heard about the irrigation and the projects that have been going on from, like, an archaeological standpoint, and we heard about the new water reinstatement. Now we’re going to talk to Terry Button. Terry, thank you for coming on the show.

Terry Button [00:00:40]:

Oh, you’re welcome, Janice. I enjoy the opportunity.

Janice Person [00:00:44]:

I’ve had a great time riding around with him. He was teaching me foraging techniques for Arizona, which is not a usual thing for me. So what all were we eating out there, Terry?

Terry Button [00:00:55]:

We were eating what’s known by the pimas as a qua. It’s the desert wolfberry.

Janice Person [00:01:01]:

It’s a very small berry. There was a seed in it, I could see. But you didn’t have to worry about the seed, I hope, because I didn’t spit them out or anything. But it really changed the sweetness level based on the plants that we were getting it off of and how ripe they were versus whether they had been there a while and trying a little bit. Right?

Terry Button [00:01:20]:

Yeah. They’re actually a very slightly astringent, sweet little berry that’s in the Solen ACA family, which is related to a tomato. So the seeds are very similar to tomato seeds.

Janice Person [00:01:33]:

Yeah. So part of why I wanted to talk to Terry is because his family so it’s him, his wife, Ramona, and daughters and niece and plenty of other people helping out. But they have a really unique farms in that they’re doing heritage things in one track and they’re doing commercial things on another track, and they’re able to balance those two things as they honor the cultures of Ramona’s people. Ramona is from this area, and you’re not correct, but you moved here 50 years ago, so you’re part of the land at this point, I guess. The land is part of you kind.

Terry Button [00:02:20]:

Of adapted, I guess.

Janice Person [00:02:23]:

So what are some of the heritage things? I’m sitting here and I’m looking at pink corn, so I kind of want you to tell me about it because, wow, it’s neat. Most people haven’t heard of pink corn, but what all corns are you doing? What kinds of corns, and what are they used for?

Terry Button [00:02:40]:

Well, the corns that we grow here, we have four different types that we grow every year, are flower type corn. They’re not flints, they’re not dense, they’re not popcorn, they’re not flint dense, and they’re not flower flints, but they’re flower corn. So that when you dissect the kernel with a knife, it has a very thin paracarp. And then the kernel itself is white endosperm, and it’s a soft mostly flour. All flour, very little starch. And the Pima 60 day corn that we grow has a little bit more of a hard starch layer. But none of these corns dent when they dry down.

Janice Person [00:03:21]:

That’s a really important thing for people who’ve never learned about corn. Sweet corn is always nice and round. You don’t want it to dent. That means it’s getting too old, shrivels like a raisin. Yeah. But corn that’s grown for most of the feed and food, kind of, yeah. The bigger corn in the Midwest, obviously. But this still looks pretty plump, even though it was harvested last year. And you’re already planting it, right?

Terry Button [00:03:50]:

Correct. This was harvested last June. Actually, this was harvested in August because we allowed it to mature fully and dry down on the stalk. These corns are native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. These are grown by indigenous communities here. We originally obtained this seed for the pink corn from a Monkope village, actually a sister village to the Monkope Village. It was Houghton Villa. A friend of ours allowed me to grow some corn for him, and I grew it out here because they didn’t have enough water up there. And the name was Kenny Quinn Nimptoa. And when Kenny brought the seed down, I said, I’m going to plant about three acres of it. You all come down and pick everything you want. So they showed up with about five or six pickups, and they had a crew of people that went out and picked corn, and it was hot.

Janice Person [00:04:55]:

They were thrilled to fill up those.

Terry Button [00:04:57]:

Pickups, and they were and they took them home. And the way they pick them and cook them back there, they make ovens under the earth. They make us, and they steam them and they cook them in there, and then they hang them up to dry. And once they dry out, eat them. Sometimes they prepare these and eat them like sweet corn as well, because it is pretty sweet. We kept whatever they didn’t have, which they left quite a bit, actually.

Janice Person [00:05:23]:

Taking corn takes a lot more time and effort than people want to think.

Terry Button [00:05:27]:

It’s a lot of work.

Janice Person [00:05:28]:

It’s a lot of work. I’ve done it for some sweet corn.

Terry Button [00:05:33]:

We used to grow sweet corn quite a bit, actually. We were a grower shipper packer for fresh market sweet corn for many years here. But that’s where the pink corn came from. And then we have the Pima 60 Day, which is actually from here.

Janice Person [00:05:50]:


Terry Button [00:05:51]:

And it’s probably, if not the most it’s one of the most quickest and earliest corns in the world.

Janice Person [00:06:00]:

It’s really well adapted to here.

Terry Button [00:06:02]:

Yeah. When planted in the summertime, in probably early or mid July till about the 15 August at the latest, you can actually be eating that corn in October, mid October.

Janice Person [00:06:20]:

That’s fast.

Terry Button [00:06:21]:

That’s pretty quick. And then it takes a little longer to fully mature out and dry down. And where we use it also to make the guy of suffering that I spoke about, or to make corn meal. We take the corn in this stage, fully mature, and we will roast it and parch it. We call it parching. Some people in the native communities will parch it in hot sand.

Janice Person [00:06:49]:

I don’t know how that works.

Terry Button [00:06:50]:

Very fine sand. Yeah. And it’s really a good way to do it. And it almost pops it. And then we roast it over coals and parch it. And then we dry it down. Then we mill it and make cornmeal out of it.

Janice Person [00:07:07]:


Terry Button [00:07:08]:

Or pinoli. The pima is called Hak Chewy.

Janice Person [00:07:12]:

I did not say the name of your farm is Ramona Farms. And that’s what your products are then marketed as.

Terry Button [00:07:19]:


Janice Person [00:07:20]:

How many different kinds of corn do you think you grow?

Terry Button [00:07:22]:


Janice Person [00:07:23]:

Four pima, 60 day. Okay.

Terry Button [00:07:27]:

The pink, the blue, and the red, which is a red and white. Sometimes we select for an all red corn, which we call Ramona Red. So that could be actually five.

Janice Person [00:07:40]:

I love it. And out of that corn, most of it. Do you use it here in this community commercially? Right.

Terry Button [00:07:49]:

We use it at home. We use it the people in the community buy it from a lot of our different products. It’s really well received by a lot of restaurants around the nation. We have a lot of native chefs that buy our corn products.

Janice Person [00:08:03]:


Terry Button [00:08:03]:

And then we have several mills. Matter of fact, we just got an order from a mill in Orange County, California, for several hundred pounds of blue and red corn.

Janice Person [00:08:15]:

Oh, nice.

Terry Button [00:08:16]:

Along with the whites and or wheat berries that we sell.

Janice Person [00:08:18]:

Yeah. So another one of the things so you mentioned wheat berries. A lot of people probably never heard of wheat berries. Tell me more.

Terry Button [00:08:27]:

Well, it’s just the way we describe the wheat as the grain. The grain itself is the whole kernel, and some in the foodie industry often called it berries. So we said, well, we’ll just call it what they call it because they know what it is. And so they use it a lot in their salad preparations, for instance, or adding to certain dishes we like.

Janice Person [00:08:50]:

It’s almost like a tabooli kind of salad or something. Right, right.

Terry Button [00:08:54]:

And we like to use it added into beans, soups and stews, and it goes well that way.

Janice Person [00:09:01]:

And now another one that’s on the heritage side is tepary beans. And you have multiple varieties of those, too. Help me first. Tepary beans, as far as I can tell from you, is maybe part of the same family as lentils and peas because it’s so high in fiber and protein. Are they related or not?

Terry Button [00:09:23]:

They’re a legume.

Janice Person [00:09:24]:


Terry Button [00:09:25]:

But they’re not related. They’re native to North America, as most beans are, but Southwestern, the Sonoran Desert and south somewhat into Mexico. Now, what is now Mexico, back when these beans were first utilized and grown out, they came from wild stock. The wild tepary beans grew as far south as the Copper Canyon down in Mexico. The tepary beans were grown out by native peoples, especially the Akimel Oodham or the Pima. And they’re grown because they’re the world’s most drought adapted bean. Interesting, they can grow on the least amount of water of any bean variety. They’re resistant to a lot of diseases.

Janice Person [00:10:17]:

But that’s very cool. And it’s a high protein, high fiber, as I was discussing earlier, they’re small, like a lentil.

Terry Button [00:10:26]:

They’re smaller than your comb. They’re about the size of a small white or what’s otherwise known as a navy bean, except they have a more flatter profile.

Janice Person [00:10:38]:


Terry Button [00:10:38]:

And they’re a little bit truncated at the top where they crowd into the pod. So especially the brown, more so than the white. They’re nutrient dense. Actually, the name for them in pima is they call them bavi which is the white bean. Suambaf is the brown bean, and Stuuk of is the black bean.

Janice Person [00:11:06]:


Terry Button [00:11:07]:

And then the beans are grown traditionally by the people to the south of us in the desert. They’re grown planted in the summertime, in summer rainstorm, runoff areas where the water collects and little washes, and it kind of irrigates the soil in those areas, and they can plant them in those areas. Those areas sometimes are called charcoals. They’re little royals run together and there’s a little floodplain, and they’ll plant them in there and they’ll survive on just the rainfall and make fruit, whereas other beans would die.

Janice Person [00:11:44]:


Terry Button [00:11:45]:

And here the Pimas have always used the diverted flows of the Gila to irrigate them.

Janice Person [00:11:52]:


Terry Button [00:11:52]:

And so they can be grown in either area. And they’re so well adapted genetically that you can take the same bean that was raised on irrigated agriculture and plant it in the desert environment, and it will do equally well.

Janice Person [00:12:09]:

Wow, that’s really cool. And these beans, you told me, are pretty hard. So cooking them is a long time endeavor.

Terry Button [00:12:19]:

It takes longer to cook than other.

Janice Person [00:12:22]:

Bean varieties or more like a chicken stock or does it matter?

Terry Button [00:12:29]:

I guess it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t put salt in the water. If you salt your water, you’re going to keep your beans will get hard.

Janice Person [00:12:36]:

They won’t cook.

Terry Button [00:12:37]:

So you don’t want to put salt in the water.

Janice Person [00:12:39]:

It’s a good note for me when I start cooking some. Okay. Because most time people put salt in the water for a lot of things, like pastas.

Terry Button [00:12:46]:

Yeah. Well, you don’t want to do it when you’re cooking beans.

Janice Person [00:12:49]:

Okay. And so tell me about the flavors or whatever it is that differentiates white, brown and black other than the colors, which are very clear on the package.

Terry Button [00:13:00]:

Maria probably gave you the best description of the flavors, and I’ll try to recall what she said, but the white tepary, which usually cooks the fastest, is a milder, almost a sweet taste to it. It’s a buttery sweetness, and cooked plain by themselves are just excellent. Matter of fact, all beans are. I just happen to be a bean connoisseur. I’m a connoisseur of beans. I’ve always loved them all my life, so I like every kind of bean. But these are among my very favorites. And if you ask me what my favorite bean is, it’s always the one I’m eating right now. But the white bean has a buttery sweet flavor, relatively mild compared to the brown. Yeah, the brown is a kind of a more nutty flavor. It’s kind of sweet, but a little bit nutty.

Janice Person [00:14:02]:


Terry Button [00:14:03]:

And then the black bean has a kind of a rich, more robust and little bit, like Maria says, a little bit of a chocolatey finish.

Janice Person [00:14:12]:


Terry Button [00:14:13]:

So they have their different advantages. They all really work well in a lot of different dishes, and they’re good. I just like a big bowl of beans. I just eat them like soup, bean soup. You can mash them up and use them other dishes or on bread and.

Janice Person [00:14:34]:

Make a sandwich almost like salad dressings and stuff.

Terry Button [00:14:37]:

Yeah. As a matter of fact, Maria makes I call it a bean dip, some people call it a hummus. And they cook the beans and blend them out and make it into a paste. And that makes a really good dip or a hummus. And depending on how you flavor it, you can add chilies, you can add garlic, whatever.

Janice Person [00:14:57]:

I’m a huge fan of hummus.

Terry Button [00:14:59]:

And then you can take and thin it out a little bit, and it makes a good salad dressing.

Janice Person [00:15:07]:

Yeah. Okay, so we’re going to all have to try temporary beans, and Maria will be shipping them out for us. So you’re growing those are different seasons than the corn, and some of the corn is different season from other corn. How many crops, like, you’re farming all year long, how many different things are you planting? Like, at different times?

Terry Button [00:15:34]:

Anywhere from nine to 14 crops a year.

Janice Person [00:15:36]:


Terry Button [00:15:37]:

And so we’ll grow four different varieties of Indian corn. We’ll grow three different varieties of terry bean. We grow chickpeas or garbanzos. We also grow white sonoran and Pima club and Durham wheat. We also grow some other soft white wheats that we’re growing commercially, organically, or another buyer. We do also raise alfalfa hay and Bermuda grass hay on our commercial side of our farming operation under Button Farms. And so we grow cotton.

Janice Person [00:16:15]:

Cotton is my favorite.

Terry Button [00:16:17]:

Yeah. We grow upland cotton and pima cotton. And our Pima Button is organic pima cotton grown by Ramona Farms and another sister company called Dart Organics.

Janice Person [00:16:28]:


Terry Button [00:16:29]:

Which is my brother Dale and myself.

Janice Person [00:16:31]:


Terry Button [00:16:32]:

So we grow quite a variety of crops. We also grow trudeau.

Janice Person [00:16:37]:

Kyle what is that?

Terry Button [00:16:39]:

Well, that’s a hybrid between red wheat and rye grain. It’s a grain that’s grown for cutting as silage when it’s in the soft dough stage, and then it’s in siled for dairy feed.

Janice Person [00:16:54]:

For dairy, yeah.

Terry Button [00:16:57]:

And we also grow oats for hay, oats for silage. We grow TEF for horse feed.

Janice Person [00:17:05]:


Terry Button [00:17:05]:

Bermuda grass, hay and alfalfa for both horse hay and for export and for dairy cattle feed.

Janice Person [00:17:13]:

So do you happen to know much about the background of pima cotton? Because a lot of times people talk about Egyptian cotton, they talk about Peruvian cotton, and I keep telling them about pima cotton, and I buy so many things made of pima because it’s just so high quality, it just feels good.

Terry Button [00:17:36]:

Well, American pima cotton was developed here in Sacatone, and it earned its name, pima cotton, because it was developed here on the Pima Reservation by the United States Department of Agriculture. At that time, it was under the direction of Carl Feaster, dr. Carl Feaster. And it was originally a cross of native cottons and Egyptian cotton and introduction of different strains that they developed over time. And when Ramona and I first got involved in growing pima cotton that’s been a few years. Yeah, it was a few decades. We started growing pima cotton about 40 years ago. And at that time, the variety that was prevalent then was a variety that had just come in, was called S Six.

Janice Person [00:18:35]:

Oh, yeah.

Terry Button [00:18:36]:

And S Six was the best we have ever raised. We did really well. Then I went to S Seven. We didn’t like the growing characteristics of S Seven as well as S Six, but our climate changed here and we started getting the heat island effect, which we called it, where our nighttime temperatures weren’t cooling enough.

Janice Person [00:19:02]:

And that’s important for pima.

Terry Button [00:19:04]:

Yeah. Our early morning temperatures, Janice, need to be in the sunrise to get the pollination that you need during the peak bloom period. And we seldom see nights where the temperature drops out of the 90s.

Janice Person [00:19:20]:


Terry Button [00:19:21]:

And so our pima stopped producing. Our yields dropped from three bales to the acre, 1500 pounds, down to less than 1000 pounds. And it got really difficult to make it work, especially when pima prices came down to where, at a buck and a quarter, in less than two bales against $75 to $0.80, but way higher. Three and a half or four, it wasn’t working.

Janice Person [00:19:48]:

Yeah. The difference with pima, just so people understand, so there are different sections and species of cotton, not just varieties. Right. Because we were talking about varieties like S Six and S Seven, but pima is a different like they’re all justipium but it’s a different jusipium. There’s a barbadance, right, rather than her Pseudum, than her pseudom, which is more upland. It’s what’s grown in Georgia and Mississippi and most of Texas.

Terry Button [00:20:22]:

There’s some Sea Island cotton that’s been introduced into the beam of strain.

Janice Person [00:20:27]:

Those barbadants is what, like, the Egyptian cotton is from that. It’s a very long, strong fiber and it’s fine. So you can make your fabrics a lot smoother silkier, because you’re not going to have yeah. And they last a lot longer. That’s why men’s shirts right. Doesn’t show the wear around your collar or around your wrist.

Terry Button [00:20:54]:


Janice Person [00:20:54]:

Makes a big difference.

Terry Button [00:20:57]:

They’re a little bit more difficult to grow. They’re quite a bit more challenging to harvest. And gin, it requires separate different ginning equipment. Upland cotton is otherwise known as short staple cotton because relative to pima, they’re shorter. They are ginned on a saw. Gin, where the lint is pulled away from the seed by rotating saw blades, circular saw blades, a whole rack of sawblades, and they’re spun on a roll.

Janice Person [00:21:31]:

I can put some pictures with this because I got a lot of pictures and video. I’ll make sure people can see it on the website. Definitely different.

Terry Button [00:21:39]:

Whereas pima is not a fuzzy seed, and it doesn’t cling to the seed as tightly and requires saw to pull it away. Pima is a smooth seed, and the fiber comes away from the seed more readily. So it’s ginned on what’s known as a roller gin, which are rubber covered rolls, and it does less damage to the lint.

Janice Person [00:22:00]:

Yeah, exactly. And part of that. So people who have never thought about how cotton grows and where it grows in Texas, if you’re growing pima cotton in the wrong place because it doesn’t hold on so tightly to the bowl, to the seed, you may have more that disappears with the wind and things like that, but it really does require those cool nights. And that’s why you find it mostly in Arizona and California, places where the temperatures drop at night, not in places with lots of humidity, where the temperatures stay up high all night long.

Terry Button [00:22:37]:


Janice Person [00:22:38]:

And it makes a big difference. So it is interesting to me, it’s called pima cotton, but it’s not like, historically a pima crop. Right. Like, I mean, cotton was native.

Terry Button [00:22:49]:

The pimas grew cotton here.

Janice Person [00:22:50]:


Terry Button [00:22:51]:

And it was an aboriginal it was also called pima aboriginal.

Janice Person [00:22:54]:


Terry Button [00:22:55]:

And that strain is still maintained, actually, in USDAC bank.

Janice Person [00:23:00]:


Terry Button [00:23:01]:

And it’s being grown out by certain.

Janice Person [00:23:03]:

Parties around to make sure you replenish the seeds. Right.

Terry Button [00:23:07]:

And there are some people here that are actually growing it and using it and spinning it for traditional products, traditional fabric.

Janice Person [00:23:17]:

Oh, that’s fantastic. I didn’t realize that was going on. I may have to be back.

Terry Button [00:23:23]:

Yeah. And so it’s an interesting product, but the reason they called it pima was because the research station was established here at the old school farms just north of Sacroton.

Janice Person [00:23:36]:

Okay. I love it. So help me understand how you approached this. Like, you and Ramona have been farming together and stuff for, like, 50 years, but how do you get to a place where you have such a reasonably well balanced kind of honoring the culture and the land and participating in current markets, which might have a different financial profile and things like that. How does something like that happen? Do both of you actively farms?

Terry Button [00:24:12]:

We do, as a matter of fact, for many, many years. Ramona ran our field cruise until she decided she’s had enough of it.

Janice Person [00:24:22]:

It gets really hot out there.

Terry Button [00:24:24]:

And she was running the weeding cruise and the thinning cruise on our cotton, our pima. We used to plant our pima and thin it back by hand, and we did all our hand weeding back before we had selective herbicides or resistant plants that we could use. Non selective herbicides over. So we have got a lot of experience in that. And Ramona has devoted her time to establishing this farm, but her focus was to be able to bring back her traditional crops, the foods that her people used to insisted on. These were staple foods of the Pima people. These were the actual staple foods that they used the corn, the beans.

Janice Person [00:25:12]:

This was the way her ancestors were able to continue living. It wasn’t.

Terry Button [00:25:17]:

And she thought that part of the problems that we are having here and elsewhere in the world today are due to the fact that our diet has deteriorated. They’re not so good for us.

Janice Person [00:25:30]:

Yeah, like introducing more temporary beans and things like that to our diets. I know. At least according to news reports, we’ve had issues with diabetes with a lot of our native people. We’ve got it definitely in a lot of other people in the US. And stuff. So some of those things that are heavy on nutrients and stuff seem like a good way to go. So that was part of Ramona’s commitment on the front end?

Terry Button [00:25:59]:

Well, she was raised. Her dad emphasized to her as she was growing up in her formative years and while she farmed and worked with him on his farms as she was growing up. She remembered back in her years when she became an adult. Some of the things that he taught her that were so important to him and that was treasure your heritage, treasure what you grew up with, treasure the foods that you were eating and share it with your family. Remember, this is where you’re from, and this is what you should continue with and be able to grow that and share it with other people. He says, don’t be keeping it to yourself.

Janice Person [00:26:45]:

Yeah. And she has a health background, having been a nurse and things like that. So it all kind of comes together. She does share it a lot. So you joked with me about I’m getting, like, the B team or something by having an interview with you instead of Ramona. I’m like, Well, I think I’ll be fine. But she’s very active on behalf of the Pima people in getting their history better understood by other people, which includes such a large part the foods that are part of the heritage. I mean, it’s a central part of understanding who you are is understanding the foods that your people came up with. Right.

Terry Button [00:27:25]:

It really is. It’s very important. And then you got to also take into consideration the importance of the background of how people river in the days that they were subsisting on their own native crops that they raised here before they lost their water.

Janice Person [00:27:45]:


Terry Button [00:27:45]:

But these communities, people went out and they got exercise. They worked their land. They worked their garden plots. They had not only small doryard farms, they had family acreage plots, and they farmed a variety of crops some watermelons.

Janice Person [00:28:09]:

Some that you eat, fresh corn and.

Terry Button [00:28:11]:

Sugar cane and lots of different things so that they had a variety of things. And they were very adept and skilled and knowledgeable about foraging the desert.

Janice Person [00:28:24]:

You’ve learned some of that since you got here.

Terry Button [00:28:26]:

Important foods out there, really important to.

Janice Person [00:28:32]:

The overall diet, and hopefully more come back with the water availability shifting again.

Terry Button [00:28:39]:

And if people start to focus on pay attention and pay attention and learn about it, that’s what’s so important, is getting involved, going out and doing it, getting the exercise, growing your garden. Even if you’re not a farmer on a large scale, get out there and do something and grow some crops.

Janice Person [00:29:03]:

Even if it’s in your backyard, even if it’s in containers, it’s fine because.

Terry Button [00:29:07]:

A lot of people in these communities did that. That’s what they did. That’s how they lived. They farmed their little plots, and it’s healthy, and that keeps you active all the time. You got to also remember that back in those days, nobody got paid for working. There was not a cash economy.

Janice Person [00:29:27]:

Yeah. Barter.

Terry Button [00:29:28]:

It was all barter. So somebody was really good at raising cattle and beef. Somebody was really good at making butter. Somebody else was good at making cheese. Somebody else was good at growing different.

Janice Person [00:29:41]:

Types of crops, maybe weaving and spinning. Oh, yes, all those things come together.

Terry Button [00:29:48]:

When I first got here back in 1972, there was a lady that used to travel up and down. Several different ladies would sell different things that they made. A lot of people sold tamales.

Janice Person [00:30:02]:

Well, I saw several different trucks around town, and I had tamales for lunch with Wes. And then when we were going back, he said something about temporary beans. And I went, oh, my God, I’ve never had them. And he goes, we should have gone to a different truck.

Terry Button [00:30:18]:

Yeah. Red feather. But, you know, that’s the thing. Ramona used to make the tamales when we first got married, and that’s how she would make enough money to pay our electric because that’s the only thing they had. It was electric, was a light bulb hanging in Adobe house. So it was a light bill, you know. But she would take the corn and make her own masa by externalizing it with wood ashes, and then she would work it with her hands and get the skins off the paracarp and then float that off. And then she would grind it into the masa. And then she would cook her chilies. Her dad raised the chili. He was a chili. He raised the corn and he raised the chili. And everything was made there. And then the beef would be raised, or dad raised beef. And then they would take a little wagon and go through the neighborhood selling it out of a little red wagon. That was part of what people did there. And I met several. There was one lady named Molly Murado that I remember that used to go up and down, and she used to sell this really delicious stuff. And I never had it before from where I came from, and it was what they called hak chewy. And I learned later that it was also called Pinole.

Janice Person [00:31:43]:


Terry Button [00:31:43]:

And it was made with wheat, and they made the wheat, and they parched the wheat, and then they ground it into a fine flour, and you would mix that with water or milk. And Myles, it really satisfying drink. Or you can eat it and then drink water behind it. So this lady would go around and sell it in little brown bags. Yeah, and it was neat. And the way that she made it, ramona had another relative that the children called Grandma Annie. And she would make that and showed them how to do it. She would take one of her baskets and she would dampen the basket with water. And then she would take live coals out of her mosquito fire in her wood stove and put them in the basket. And then she would take the wheat that was already winnowed, and she would put it in the basket, and she would shake it around the live coals, and then she would winnow it and separate the coals and the wheat. Then she would take the wheat and then grind it.

Janice Person [00:32:41]:

Oh, my gosh.

Terry Button [00:32:42]:

So it had that wonderful mesquite coal roasted flavor.

Janice Person [00:32:46]:

I’m going to guess your Pinoli does not have that, because that sounds like a safety issue of great proportion in today’s world. But you do a good Pinoli, we do a mesquite. Okay.

Terry Button [00:32:59]:

A little bit more mechanized.

Janice Person [00:33:01]:

We’re not using a basket. A little bit differently produced, but still honors the traditions. Right? I love it. Thanks so much. What else did you want to tell me that I forgot to ask you?

Terry Button [00:33:16]:

Well, I just really want to share with you some of the really neat things about being around people that are from here. Everywhere in the country is unique, and we all have our origins, and we want to hearken back to a lot of us in our elder years. We want to hearken back to the old days and old ways.

Janice Person [00:33:37]:


Terry Button [00:33:37]:

Well, I was schooled back east, so I learned about shade grown tobacco and tobacco farming. I learned about corn and blade pulling, putting up. Pole fodder and stover and that kind of stuff, that my relatives down in maryland and my dad’s folks up in connecticut river valley. But when I came here, I also started to listen and learn, and I’ve known lots of people that farmed here and that are no longer with us and a few that still are. And they’ve told me wonderful things about how the very beans that we grow today were harvested and prepared back when they were and their grandparents were farming them. And I got to learn about. Okay. For one example, our former governor, donald antone, who’s still with us, he’s now farming in district five. Okay. And he’s also ranching the tribal governor.

Janice Person [00:34:36]:

Not the arizona, in case anybody’s confused.

Terry Button [00:34:40]:

Yeah. And he told me how his grandfather and his grandparents harvested the teppery beans. They grew temporary beans, and when it was time for them to harvest, they would go through the field and with a team and wagon, and they would lift the beans with pitchforks, plants, pods and all, and put them in the wagon. They would take the wagon full of beans to an area. They made a threshing floor.

Janice Person [00:35:13]:


Terry Button [00:35:13]:

And they would take the earth and smooth it out and dampen it down and walk it down smooth until it was almost polished in a large area and probably 50ft in diameter. And they would put a central pole in the middle of that, and then they would lay a canvas. And I hope I’m doing an honor to donnie and sharing his story, and I hope I’m being accurate the way.

Janice Person [00:35:41]:

He can correct us if not.

Terry Button [00:35:44]:

Yeah, he can correct you if I’ve misled you. But they would keep their horses off of feed and water for it. They would take them out, exercise them, and bring them in, and they would cover that threshing floor with cannabis. And then they would throw the beans off of the wagons onto the threshing floor. They would hitch the horses by lead rope up to that pole with a swivel around it, and then they would wrap gunny sacks, burlap sacks around their hooves with sizzle torn.

Janice Person [00:36:22]:


Terry Button [00:36:23]:

They would have the horses walk on the bean pots and the bean brush.

Janice Person [00:36:27]:

Until they to separate it out, thresh it out.

Terry Button [00:36:30]:

Then they would pick the cannabis up and scoop it all off, and they would winnow it. And the ladies would finally take it down to the stage where they would take the beans that were roughly cleaned into their baskets. Big, large I’ve seen those baskets. The flat baskets are round, and they’re very shallow.

Janice Person [00:36:49]:

They have a slight I know what you’re talking about.

Terry Button [00:36:51]:

And they would flip it up and was a great skill.

Janice Person [00:36:56]:

Like leave matter and all the shaft and stuff will just blow through almost right. Or they know how to do it, so they create a little bit of wind to separate it.

Terry Button [00:37:08]:

But that was called the way that they thrashed him.

Janice Person [00:37:11]:

That’s beautiful story, and I love the idea. More people now are trying to get back in touch with some of those things. Like, we started doing different things because it was convenient. And quite frankly, it really benefited some women like me who otherwise would be doing some of this work all day, every day. And now I’m able to have a professional job and travel and all that kind of stuff. But there’s somewhere a balance where we can honor some of that and do some of the modern. And that’s what I think your farms has figured out, is you can honor your heritage. You can do these things as well as do some of the commercial things like the pimas and the wheats and things. So we don’t have to choose whether to honor our past or move towards the future. We could and should bring our past with us. And if we hadn’t got it with us now, we can go back and find our elders and start digging that stuff back up so we know better.

Terry Button [00:38:11]:

Well, we need to we need to know where we came from, how we did things, why we do things the way we do, what it might be that we’re missing in the way that we do things today that probably we should be paying attention to. But at the same time, we have to stay efficient and we have to be able to be competitive to be able to produce crops in a cash economy for what people can afford to pay. Because you got to remember one thing. If people have to pay too much for food, they won’t have enough discretionary income to buy anything else or to.

Janice Person [00:38:47]:

Send their kids to school or whatever it is. We still see that happening in other countries. We’re lucky enough that public school is a thing, but even going to school still costs money in terms of getting your kids clothed and shoes and all that stuff.

Terry Button [00:39:05]:

That’s right.

Janice Person [00:39:07]:

What a note to end on. Thank you so much. I so appreciate the day that I’ve spent with you this afternoon, I’ve spent with you. We’ve got video of going around and looking at some of the crops in the field. We did not get to see temporary beans because I’m not here during season. I’m going to have to come back. I will come back when Ramona is here too. And maybe one of your daughters, two of your daughters, get them to show me the different things they do. I do want to encourage people to check you guys out. It’s It’s a simple website to find. You’ve got recipes, you’ve got products up there. There’s a lot of things going on, and I’ll make sure I put all those things in the show notes so people can find it easily. I’m also going to share some other stories because Ramona was featured. You guys were featured in a story recently from the Smithsonian, and I want people to see that that’s going on. And that’s why she’s not here, right? She’s in DC. Doing important work. So thank you again, Terry. I really appreciate your time.

Terry Button [00:40:06]:

Oh, thank you, Janice. I enjoyed it.

Janice Person [00:40:10]:

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Gila River Indian Community. The visit with Terry was so enjoyable. I hope you have a chance to go to and check out some of the photos and video that we have there, because I think you’ll get a better sense of Terry as well as pink corn. Who would have thought? Please, go ahead, check it out. Share it with friends if you think there are others that might be interested in hearing about some of these farming traditions and some of the heritage that people are trying to maintain in different communities that we may not always learn about. Also, wanted to just give you a heads up if you currently use Stitcher, I understand that app is going away, so I hope you find a new place to listen to us, and we’ll look forward to talking to you again in two weeks.

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