Courtney Streett ’09: Reclaiming Native Connection to the Land

Courtney Streett ’09 gave a tour of the Edible Ecosystem Teaching Garden.
Image credit: Lisa Abitbol
Author  Deborah Lynn Blumberg ’00
Published on 

A Native American and member of the Nanticoke tribe, Courtney Streett ’09 has fond memories of attending powwows as a child. Her family operated a fried bread stand at the Tribe’s annual Delaware event. Courtney would chase bees away from the cinnamon and sugar toppings table and watch in awe as smoke and jingle dancers performed to drumbeats.

Four years ago, after powwow, she and her husband took a detour on the way home to New York and drove by the lower Delaware farm her great-grandparents bought in the early 1900s. At the time, it was rare for people of color to own property. Her family grew and sold crops including tomatoes, peas, and strawberries. When Courtney and her husband arrived at the nearly 100-acre farm, they noticed a “for sale” sign.

“My heart plummeted,” says Courtney. Her father’s cousins had listed the property, unbeknownst to her. She was devastated. “It made complete economic sense why my relatives, who were over 70, would want to cash out and retire,” she says. “But at the same time, there’s this family history, agricultural history, and cultural history.” Courtney felt connected to the land.

She knew lower Delaware was experiencing rapid growth, with developers buying up farmland from aging farmers at high prices, but she couldn’t bear to see more farms turned into shopping centers or parking lots. Worrying about it kept her up at night.

Courtney did something about it: She left her dream job as an associate producer at 60 Minutes, moved back to Delaware, and co-founded a nonprofit to help. “That one drive by the farm changed my trajectory,” she says.

This is an excerpt from an article by Deborah Lynn Blumberg ’00 that appears in the winter 2023 edition of “Wellesley” magazine. Read the full story on the magazine website.