Courtesy Quapaw Tribe
The Quapaw Tribe has four greenhouses.

Quapaw Tribe Adds Mercantile, Coffee Roasting to Business Ventures

Kristi Eaton

The Quapaw Tribe based in northeastern Oklahoma is growing its agricultural ventures with a new mercantile store, beehive program and coffee roasting endeavor.

The 4,800-member tribe recently opened Quapaw Mercantile in the town of Quapaw to sell beef and bison products from the Quapaw Cattle Company, which focuses on providing grass-fed, hormone-free beef. The tribe plans to build its own USDA-inspected meat processing plant in the future.

“We want to have it accessible to tribal members and the local community,” Quapaw Tribal Chairman John Berrey said of the store. “As we grow and get more proficient with what we do, we just think this is a step in the right direction.”

In the future, the tribe plans to sell its own honey and coffee at the mercantile as well, which is operated by three employees who already worked with the Quapaw Cattle Company, according to tribal spokesman Sean Harrison.  The tribe currently has 100 beehives that each produce about 6 pounds of honey per year, according to Berrey.

The honey production, which adds one new full-time job, complements the tribe’s cattle production, Berrey said. “The bees help feed the cattle, basically. The beneficial product is the honey. But really, we got them mainly to promote good forage on our pastures,” he added.

The honey produced is being used in the tribe’s various restaurants, and this fall, the tribe should be able to produce enough honey for retail, he said.

The Quapaw Tribe runs the Downstream Casino Resort, a Las Vegas-style entertainment complex that features several dining options, including the Red Oak Steakhouse, Spring River Buffet, Buffalo Grille and Ma-Ko-Sha Coffee Shop. The casino, located in Quapaw, features slots, table games and a poker room.

The tribe previously launched its agricultural project with the creation of four greenhouses, outdoor gardens and the cattle operation. Harrison said guests have noticed and appreciated the difference in having the freshest herbs and vegetables available at the restaurants.

“Our chefs go out to the greenhouses daily and select the produce they will use that day in the kitchens,” Harrison said. “With the cattle, we gained the ability to serve the best quality beef available anywhere at any price. We hired the experts in the field to run these operations, and we spared no expense in setting up the perfect systems for our agriculture program.”

The tribe has also started roasting coffee, which will eventually be used in the restaurants. The Quapaw Coffee Company is creating two new full-time jobs.

“We have a lot of coffee that we go through every year, and our idea is that we will ultimately replace all that with our own coffee,” Berrey said, adding that once that goal is reached, the coffee will also be available for retail at the Quapaw Tribe’s convenience stores, gift shop and mercantile.

For several years the tribe has focused on agricultural ventures to offer healthy food options to tribal members and casino guests.

“We’re Indians. We’re historically agricultural people and we also our concerned about what goes into what we eat and what our guests eat,” Berrey said. “We want them to have the highest quality and safest food possible.”

Harrison, meanwhile, said the new ventures allow the tribe to take over complete control of the process and know that the product quality is high.

“We will be able to serve coffee that was roasted just days before it is served to our guests. People like knowing that these fine products were produced right here especially for their enjoyment,” he added.

In fact, Harrison said, he believes Downstream Casino is the only casino in the world that employs a full-time cattle rancher, a bee keeper and now, an expert coffee roaster.  “Another big part of this whole effort is creating jobs. Not just new jobs, but different kinds of jobs,” he said.

Educating future generations is also a goal of the tribal agricultural program, Berrey said.  The tribe recently hosted 100 Native American students from the University of Arkansas who represented more than 50 tribal nations. The students toured all of the Quapaw Tribe’s business and agricultural operations.

“We want to teach young people how to build a sustainable economy based on the farm-to-table mentality,” the tribal chairman said.

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