One year in, gardening project on the reservation going strong
A study evaluating the health impacts of food gardens with Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho families is under way, and the first wave of 18 families joined the project in February 2016 starting with 59 family members. Ten of the families were randomized to start gardening right way with support from Blue Mountain Associates (BMA), a tribal-led organization. The project is being conducted in conjunction with the University of Wyoming through five year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Virginia Sutter, executive director of BMA, recounts a story of a woman stopping by her office last summer and saying, “You don’t know me, Dr. Sutter, but I am one of the gardeners you are helping. I wanted to thank you, because now our family sits together every evening, around our garden, and we listen to our children. We answer their questions. Thank you for bringing us together again.”
In August, and again in February 2017, the 18 families returned for the second and third data gathering sessions, with nearly every family member accounted for. Christine M. Porter at UW, says that this nearly 100% return and retention rate, over such a long period, is nearly unheard of. She credits the families and the project partners, especially the two in charge of recruitment and retention, Eastern Shoshone Tribal Health and Wind River Development Fund.
The recruitment of another 42 families, who came to their first health data gathering last month, exceeded the goal for the second wave. Partners are now optimistic that they will be able to meet or exceed the goal of 100 total participating families by the end of the third recruitment wave early next year.
The project’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) guided the work of UW, BMA and the other organizational partners to shepherd the project though a successful first year. For the coming year, they are also shaping plans for supporting, leading, and documenting ways to produce food on the Wind River Indian Reservation to help grow health and sovereignty. One of the CAB-led projects will be establishing a community demonstration garden.
The merits and promise of the Growing Resilience project has garnered positive media coverage. This has included a Wyoming Public Media “Open Spaces” story on July 29th that featured the challenges and successes of one of the gardeners, stories in the Cornell and UW alumnae magazines, and a piece in the Spring 2017 issue of Rocky Mountain Gardening Magazine.
Blue Mountain Associates is looking forward to helping the 10 families from last year re-establish their gardens this summer and to designing and planting new gardens with the 23 families from the second wave who are slated to start growing food this year.
BMA welcomes contributions of materials and or, volunteer labor to help install new gardens. Contact garden manager Etheleen Potter or Jim Sutter at 307-335-8445, or stop by their offices at Frank B. Wise.
See www.growingresilience.org for more information or contact Melvin Arthur, 307-231-6414.
h/t Darrah Perez