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Ho-Chunk Chef Elena Terry, serves up great food with a side of mentoring at Farm Aid 2019

Ho-Chunk Chef Elena Terry, serves up great food with a side of mentoring at Farm Aid 2019

Ho-Chunk tribal member Chef Elena Terry, had a busy day at Farm Aid 2019 held on September 21st, at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. Catering the VIP area in tandem with a food stand in the Homegrown Village, kept her on her toes and busy late into the night.

Terry, owner of Wild Bearies Catering, is an organization committed to blending indigenous ingredients and community education together.

A first-time vendor at Farm Aid, Terry who sits on the Rural Urban Flow Planning from Sauk to Milwaukee counties, also works with the Worm Farm Institute, the Armed to Farm Institute, and is a board member of the Little Eagle Arts Foundation. It was through her work with these organizations that she became involved with bringing her Native American food and culinary skills to the event.

In addition to owning Wild Bearies, Terry also works for the Intertribal Agriculture Council as one of the Great Lakes chef consultants, and for the Indigenous Mobile Farmer’s Market as an advocate for indigenous ingredients mostly in Dane County, Wisconsin.

“I do a lot of community outreach. We did this event to gain enough fundraising money to get our non-profit status filed. We are a community outreach catering company that reconnects people to the community who suffered either a disconnect from AODA or emotional issues. We bring them back to the community through food,” Terry said.

She noted that her company had a few different facets to it. “We are seed savers, we are farmers, and then ultimately chefs. We teach life skills, we teach self-esteem building, building a stronger community. One of the chefs that is here with us tonight actually is from the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance mentorship program. I brought him over to be a part of Wild Bearies for a week. He’s been traveling with me from Lake Michigan. It’s all about building a stronger network. In hopes of doing that, we will be able to continue with our ancestral foods in a positive way,” she said.

With family being important in any culture, Terry said the experience was wonderful working with her daughter one of the original Bearies, her Nani (mother in Ho-Chunk), and two other of her Nanis that jumped in for support.

Working as an extended family, the Wild Bearies were joined by workers Dan Cornelius from the Onieda Nation and Donetta Wanatee of the Meskwaki Nation.

“The Bearies travel with me. I put it out there and it depends who is available when. Based on the number of hours they have contributed to the program, they raise higher up on the list of calls for something like this,” Terry said.

She stressed that involvement is important, saying “It’s rewarding for them to have ownership in something bigger, you can’t help but get positive things from that. Being able to teach communication, leadership, all of those things, it’s something as wonderful as our indigenous food. Being able to educate the public about it as well and at least be able to introduce those flavors into their life again.”

Terry’s brother Jim Terry, a comic book artist that has drawn for a couple series of The Crow, and is currently working on another popular series, rolled up his sleeves to help his sister out. “He’s completely busy all the time.” But when Terry told Jim that she was having a food stand and catering the VIP’s at Farm Aid, she said he stopped everything and drove up to Farm Aid just to support the Bearies.

Although focused on her work, Terry did get to enjoy some of the concert. “I got to see Bonnie Raitt which is like a dream come true. I’ve been a fan forever. It was pretty exciting,” she said with a big smile.

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