A Navajo native, Tsosie J. Lewis is a farmer, a businessman and most of all a leader. As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NAPI, Mr. Lewis has modernized communications technology, overhauled marketing and turned annual losses into profits. Lewis manages the 72,573 acre farming enterprise of the Navajo Nation and oversees the “Navajo Pride” brand name for all products grown and sold by NAPI.
Mr. Lewis has been with NAPI for four decades. Lewis grew up in Two Grey Hills, south of Shiprock, NM where his parents raised sheep and grew beans, alfalfa, peaches and apricots.
In 1974, NAPI hired Lewis as the Livestock Manager. He supervised feeding and breeding programs for NAPI’s 20,000 head of sheep. In 1981, he became the Agronomy Production Manager. He did soil and insect inspections, tracked crop maturity during growing seasons and recommended seed varieties and fertilizers. Between 1990 and 1994, Lewis served an initial four-year stint as NAPI General Manager. In 1994, Lewis went back to school (New Mexico State University), where he obtained his Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Economics & Agriculture Business.
In 1997, Lewis returned to NAPI as the Potato Crop Manager. In 2000, the NAPI Board of Directors hired Lewis as General Manager and overhauled NAPI’s business practices. Lewis immediately set up a new communication system that allowed him immediate contact with NAPI Crop Managers and with customers as well as changes in accounting and marketing strategies, such as insisting that contracts be signed before crops are planted. Lewis also designed NAPI’s first Five-Year Strategic Plan, which focuses on diversifying customers and crops and improving infrastructure, transportation and management. On a quarterly basis, the Strategic Plan is updated and reported to the Board of Directors on progress achieved. As a result, NAPI went from a $6 million loss in 1999 to a $9.5 million profit in 2014. Mr. Lewis oversees a $30 million annual budget. To date, NAPI has continuously generated revenues under his leadership; provided year-round potato inventory for the market; new NAPI Native Food products (White, Yellow and Blue Indian Corn, Ground Sumac); new Soils Lab; JD Link Program; AgVerdict Reports; Crop Metrics; and most importantly establishment of an Investment Committee; Audit Committee; NAPI Trading, LLC; Navajo Pride, LLC Management Committee and NAPI Flour Mill, LLC.
Mr. Lewis has developed a young leadership group who are currently holding positions as Crop Manager or Assistant Crop Manager. He envisioned putting in place a scholarship program for future generation leaders who will come back to NAPI upon achieving their Bachelor’s Degree in Ag-Science, Ag-Business, Farm Management, Agronomy, Crop Science and Business Degrees with an agriculture concentration. Individuals will learn in an internship to learn the practical aspects of farming. This helps them to apply the skills that they learned during their academic study. The group has also been sent to the Chicago Board of Trades to learn the trading industry and the business of the CME Group.
Lewis main goal is to complete and achieve the full development of the 110,630 acreage as stated in the NIIP Legislation (P.L. 87-483) and on behalf of the Navajo Nation. His vision is to see the Navajo Nation’s water and land being utilized to the full extent and to continue to provide jobs and training for the Navajo people in agriculture, including opportunities in management. Lewis focuses on team efforts and by facing obstacles together, goals are accomplished and achieved.