FARMINGTON — Since he was 10, Tommy Begay has grown alfalfa, corn, zucchini, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Now he's 60 and ready to make money off of his crops — finally.

"I don't really produce much. I don't really sell much," Begay said. "I don't think anybody on the Navajo reservation is making a living off farming."

He's hoping a pair of Israeli farmers can change that.

Avi and Miriam Amzalag will visit Shiprock with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly next week to speak to Navajo farmers in the Four Corners.

They will be speaking during a free two-day conference "Navajo and Israel Agricultural Gathering for the First Nations," which will be at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

The couple's visit will be paid for by several local faith-based and non-government organizations. The same groups paid for Shelly's controversial trip to Israel last December.

Shelly toured the country looking for new ways to irrigate, fertilize and grow produce. He hoped Israel might be able to help find agricultural solutions because of its similar climate.

Some criticized the president's visit saying it was more for personal and religious reasons. Shelly said he made the trip mainly to gather insight into how the tribe could better develop its land.

"Agriculture is a priority for us as we build a healthier Navajo Nation and opportunities for business development," Shelly said during his overseas visit.


The Amzalags may talk about religion briefly, but they will focus on agriculture in most of their talks.

"The environment. The landscape. It's almost identical. We thought we were back on the Navajo Nation," said Robert Tso, Pastor at Victory Life Church in Shiprock.

Tso visited Israel with Shelly, more for spiritual reasons, but he is hoping that next week's conference will attract hundreds of Navajo farmers, he said, and teach them how to better grow and sell their crops.

"The Navajo farmer never has gotten to that platform," Tso said.

Jenny Kane can be reached at; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.

Want to go?

What: Navajo and Israel Agricultural Gathering for the First Nations

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock, west of Shiprock High School on U.S. Highway 64

Cost: Free