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Earth Notes: Bidii Baby Foods

A package of baby food is displaced on a bed of yellow corn
Bidii Baby Foods

In far northwest New Mexico, old farming traditions are meeting young appetites—and it’s a meeting where everyone wins.

On a sixteen-acre farm irrigated by water from the San Juan River, the Ben family raises several different kinds of heritage corn. There’s Navajo white, yellow, and red corn, as well as a green variety from Oaxaca and a blue one from Jemez Pueblo.

When the white corn comes ripe in summer, it’s time for roasting. More than two thousand cobs at a time go into a large hole in the ground where a fire has been burning. When the pit is full, it’s covered up, and some water is added through a small hole. Once that’s closed, the corn steams overnight.

After steaming, the corn dries in the sun, and can then be kept for many months. That’s an ancient Navajo tradition. What’s new is that the Ben family—Zachariah, Mary, and baby Yabi—then mill the dried corn and turn it into a ready-to-use product: Bidii Baby Food.

At age one, Yabi is mainly a product tester. He likes his white corn porridge with pureed apple and sweet potato. His example justifies the business name, for “bidii” means “always hungry.”

Bidii Baby Foods is a young business, but its operators are already selling much of their crop online, as well as to schools in Farmington. For Zach Ben, raising traditional food in a Navajo community is a matter of self-reliance and empowerment—a way for community members to rely on one another for good taste, and good nutrition.

Peter Friederici is a writer whose articles, essays, and books focus primarily on connections between humans and their natural surroundings. His most recent book is Beyond Climate Breakdown: Envisioning New Stories of Radical Hope (MIT Press, 2022). He also teaches classes in science communication and sustainable communities at Northern Arizona University.

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