(Fort Washakie, Wyo.) – When Terry Roberts and Sheryl Pandoah from the Eastern Shoshone 477 Program decided to develop a gardening project for their clientele, they reached out to Centsible Nutrition, a program of the University of Wyoming Extension which has an office in Fort Washakie.

The two family outreach facilitators also garnered help from the local SNAP-Ed program, the federal food stamps service.

“In 2017, we started planning for this garden, so it took us a whole year to plan,” Roberts said. “We called it ‘The 477 Gardening Project.’”

From left, 477 Program administrative assistant Patty Eagle, Centsible Nutrition Educator Kelly Pingree, and 477 Program family outreach assistant Terry Roberts worked together to unroll a gardening project for Fort Washakie families. Photo h/t EST

Roberts, the family outreach assistant, was sure Centsible Nutrition would help unroll this idea since both programs have already established a working relationship. They’ve been collaboratively helping clients learn about basic nutrition to live healthy lives. The 477 Program reached out to Kelly Pingree, the nutrition educator at Centsible Nutrition.

Pandoah, the family outreach coordinator talked to Pingree about some of their ideas and plans developed so far. Pingree became aware that UW was donating three hoop houses to different gardening projects in the state so she requested a hoop house on behalf of the 477 Gardening Project.

“I knew that the competition to get one was high, but I felt that this hoop house would be the jewel of the garden, and would really help out the families that struggle with food insecurity here on the Wind River Indian Reservation,” Pingree said.

By March of 2018, Pingree finally heard from Jeff Edwards out of UW Extension who told her the 477 Program was chosen to receive a hoop house.

“I was so happy, I just could not believe it,” Pingree said.

By this time, the 477 Program had set aside space and a few items for use in the project. The 477 Program initially began by looking for 20 families to take part in this project.

“We were hoping for 20 families, and so far we have 12 families, but that is still a good start,” Roberts said. “We started by planting seedlings in order to get a head start in the growing process.”

By the end of May 2018 the raised garden beds were built and planted and the work culminated on June 12.

“Plants were everywhere in the UW extension kitchen. It was great.” Pingree said.  “Even with the completion of the beds and hoop house, I think this is just the beginning stage on this project as a whole. As of right now we have sixteen garden beds, eight inside the hoop house and eight outside. And it is beautiful, I would love to see it grow.”

The 12 families that signed up to be part of the garden now call themselves The 477 Gardening Club, Roberts said.

“Everyone really worked their tails off to get this done,” he said.

Edwards and his team of volunteers: Steven Telck, Ted Graig and Colman Griffith, brought their expertise and talent to assist in building the hoop house.

“Everyone just did a great job in getting this together,” Roberts said.

For Pingree, this was a good way to see what was accomplished and how it succeeded with “all the pieces in place.”

“I see great things to come with this project, because the shared goal here is to get more of the 477 clientele, and their families on the reservation involved,” she said. “The shared vision is to have the project grow and expand every year to where it becomes not just for 477 clients but for the whole community to take part.”

This project offers opportunities for the 477 clients as well as the community to learn about gardening, care taking, food education, and eating healthier, Pingree explained.

477 Program administrative assistant Patty Eagle. Photo h/t EST