Courtesy Cherokee Nation
Backwoods Food owner Danielle Coursey, second from left, and her employees jar salsa at their current facility at 13722 North 470 Road in Tahlequah. On Oct. 29, Backwoods readied 420 cases of salsa for distribution.

Cherokee Helps Backwoods Food—Maker of Salsa, Pickles and More—Expand


Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center aids with $350,000

Cherokee citizen Mike Coursey and his wife, Danielle, started out making gift bags of homemade products at the 1998 Cherokee National Holiday to raise money for Christmas gifts, thinking it was a one-time deal.

On Wednesday the couple celebrated with the Cherokee Nation, City of Tahlequah, Tahlequah Industrial Authority, Northeastern State University and many others that over the last decade have contributed to the success of their company, Backwoods Food.

They employ 12, package products for 50 small companies and make their own salsa, pickles, spreads and barbecue sauce, which was picked up and now used at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

“Our partnership with Backwoods Food began about 10 years ago, just as Mike and Danielle Coursey were making the leap from a small, home-based business to what is today a major food packager here in Cherokee County,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Backwoods Food is a shining example of what one Cherokee family’s entrepreneurial spirit can do when it gets the right support.”

Backwoods Food’s demand now warrants moving from an 8,400-square-foot kitchen and warehouse in the Courseys’ yard to building a 24,000-square-foot facility in the Tahlequah Industrial Park to manufacture 1,000 cases of products per day. 

The Courseys’ accessed a $350,000 Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center loan for the current expansion and had some seed money from the SBAC loan meant for Cherokee entrepreneurs when they first started out.

“I would never have expected when we first started that this company would be what it is today,” said Mike Coursey, a construction foreman at Lake Region Electric Cooperative. “It’s not just handed to you; you’ve got to work for it and meet the right people, like at Cherokee Nation, BancFirst, Tahlequah Industrial Park and NSU. All of those have been instrumental in getting us to this point.”

Backwoods Food products are sold in stores in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and as far away as New York. Their new $2 million facility will house two kitchens, including one with a high speed automated line to fill large orders. The company is expected to employ up to 50.

For more information on Backwoods Food, visit or call 918-458-9300.

Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center issued 30 small business loans in fiscal year 2013, totaling $1.5 million, resulting in the creation or retention of 163 jobs. For more information, visit or call 918-453-5536.