By: Jeannette Rivera
This spring, Eve’s Fund helped launch the “From the Ground Up” Gardening Program in the Red Mesa Arizona community along with the school district and Four Corners Regional Health Center.
Now that summer has arrived, the program is in full swing.
Students at the Bluebird Recreational Camp learned why gardening is so important as part of a healthy lifestyle. They also took responsibility for planting, watering and maintaining the greenhouse at Red Mesa High School.
Calling themselves the Green Thumbs Club, the campers—who ranged from age 10 to 17—learned that gardening in the harsh Four Corners climate is possible.
Those of us who live in the desert know that there is more growing out here than cactus and tumbleweeds. However, gardening for sustenance and as a hobby has declined on the Navajo Nation.
The loss of traditional lifestyle practices and the introduction of processed foods have had a great negative impact on the health of indigenous peoples. Diabetes is a serious problem on the Navajo Nation, and it has been attributed to the lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as individual exercise habits.
The month-long Bluebird Recreational Camp, which is run by Eve’s Fund Program Director Echohawk Lefthand, aims to promote healthy and active lifestyles to Navajo youth, getting them outside and involved in a variety of healthy activities—including gardening.
Working with the campers and watching them take an active role in the gardening project was inspiring. Showing them that fruits and vegetables can be produced at such little cost and so close to home will hopefully lead to increased consumption, more daily activity (gardening is a form of exercise!) and possibly eliminate some of their family’s grocery expenses.
Perhaps this introduction to gardening will help families get back to the traditional practice of gardening and lead to a healthier lifestyle for those living on the Navajo Nation.
Ms. Rivera is a summer intern with Eve’s Fund and is a member of the Class of 2012 at Williams College.
Click here to read more about how gardening can help in the fight against diabetes on the Navajo Nation.