Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative Names New Interim Director

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After leading the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) as the organization’s executive director since 2020, Erin Parker, J.D., L.L.M., has announced her resignation, effective as of Friday, May 31, 2024. Carly Griffith Hotvedt (Cherokee Nation) J.D., M.P.A., will serve as the organization’s interim executive director. 

Parker became IFAI’s first staff attorney hire under the leadership of founding IFAI director Janie Simms Hipp, helping to provide policy and legal research expertise to Tribes and Tribal citizens across Indian Country. Parker’s dedication and expertise have fueled Tribal economic development and increased food security. 

“Every single person who’s on our staff — whether they are full time, or whether they’re part of our amazing student research cohorts — all of the people who have been here and who are here now have helped us make this place what it is,” Parker said. 

A few highlights of Parker’s career at IFAI include establishing the Model Tribal Food and Agriculture Code project, investing in Native youth through IFAI’s annual Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit, providing pathways for more Native food and agricultural lawyers, and increasing campus support and programming. 

“Because we’ve done so much incredible work in the time that I’ve been here, it’s hard to narrow it all down,” she said. “I think if I had to pick just a few things off the top of my head, I would definitely say the Youth Summit. … It’s been so amazing to see all of those young people who have come through that program, as they’ve learned and grown and just immediately put themselves into leadership positions across Indian Country food and ag.” 

Parker has accepted a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) as a Tribal Affairs Technical Advisor where she will continue to serve Indian Country food and agriculture, helping advise on USDA policies to better meet the needs of Native Nations and Tribal citizens. 

“Erin’s leadership and breadth of knowledge in Indian Country food and agricultural law and policy have helped form the foundation for IFAI’s service and successes across Indian Country,” said Carly Griffith Hotvedt, IFAI interim executive director. 

“Thanks to the unwavering support from Indian Country, our partners, funders, and the University of Arkansas School of Law, IFAI will continue its charge to enhance the health and wellness of Tribal communities by advancing healthy food systems, diversified economic development, and cultural food traditions,” she said. 

Griffith Hotvedt joined IFAI in 2019 as the Director of Tribal Enterprise, working with Tribes and in Tribal policy to advance food security and Tribal agriculture enterprise development. Upon becoming IFAI’s associate executive director in 2021, she began overseeing most of IFAI’s staff and organizational management as well as IFAI’s external outreach. Griffith Hotvedt and Parker’s teamwork and cooperation resulted in tremendous growth and expansion of IFAI’s services and resources. 

Prior to joining IFAI, Griffith Hotvedt facilitated the creation of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and overhauled the Tribe’s agribusiness operations, setting the program on track for long-term stability and success. 

Griffith Hotvedt’s knowledge, experience, and leadership will help guide IFAI through its next chapter. 

“Ultimately, I don’t want to write the story for (IFAI) as I leave. I want to read it,” Parker said. “I’m excited to see where (IFAI) goes.”