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SHIPROCK — The tapping from a fence post driver echoed as volunteers started installing studded T-posts around a damaged greenhouse in front of the Healing Circle Drop-In Center on Sunday.

Shiprock resident Deion Hayes helped install the structure during an agricultural workshop in November. The plan was to use it for a community garden and to demonstrate farming techniques.

But the greenhouse sustained damage when sections of its covering were cut and its garden boxes were ruined during the New Year's Day weekend.

The vandalism was reported to the Navajo Nation Police department in Shiprock, but no one has been charged, Hayes said.

Several community members donated items to help with repairs. Participants in the farmers assistance workshop with Issacher Calling continued to discuss ways to protect the area and how to move forward with the agricultural initiative, he added.

The large cuts were eventually sealed with tape and the structure now houses plants such as watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, lettuce, carrots and parsley.

Group members eventually settled on building a fence to enclose the greenhouse and provide space to build a low tunnel greenhouse, and for outdoor planting, Hayes said.

"Personally, I feel sad that we do have to do these extra precautions but it's definitely necessary given what had happened. Hopefully this will keep things going good," he said.

Construction of the greenhouse was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Advocacy and Outreach and administered by Issachar Calling, a nonprofit organization based in Waterflow.

Issachar Calling also helped purchase materials used Sunday's under a similar USDA grant.

Noah Privett, a volunteer with the nonprofit organization, said the fence installation served as a demonstration project under the farmers assistance workshop, in addition to securing the area.

Despite dark clouds overhead and chilly temperatures, community members and volunteers from Issachar Calling, AmeriCorps, Healing Circle Drop-In Center, Diné Introspective and Diné College worked to install the fence.

They also planned to replace the damaged greenhouse covering.

Shiprock resident LaVonna George has been mentoring the group as a volunteer with Diné Introspective.

George, a third-generation farmer, operates a dry land farm in Oak Springs, Arizona, and utilizes flood irrigation for a farm in Hogback.

She shares information about farming techniques – based on her experience and those gained in agricultural classes – with farmers in the group.

"I felt bad about how something was donated to the community, to make us stronger and to learn about sustainability, then somebody comes in and destroys it. But that's not going to stop us," George said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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