New Grant Helps Tribes Expand Study Of Health Benefits Of Gardening

Aug 24, 2015

Jim Sutter with Blue Mountain shows off a zucchini grown in one of the study's gardens.
Credit Blue Mountain Associates

Through a $2.5 million dollar grant, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes will be able to study the health benefits of starting backyard gardens. The project is called Growing Resilience and is a collaboration between tribal health groups, the University of Wyoming and the nonprofit, Action Resources International.

Dr. Virginia Sutter is President of Blue Mountain Associates, a group that focuses on agriculture and health issues on the reservation. Sutter says a 2013 pilot project already studied the health benefits of gardening for tribal members. “And we found the results of that to be very exciting because it shows that their health did improve during their gardening project,” Sutter says. “Their blood sugar went down and they felt better and they got more exercise.”

These positive results convinced the National Institute of Health to award this larger grant that will allow 50 Northern Arapaho and 50 Eastern Shoshone families to receive education and assistance in home gardening in hopes of studying their health improvements.

Jim Sutter is Dr. Sutter’s son and Blue Mountain’s Vice President. He says the grants have already started bringing generations together to learn gardening skills.

“Almost everyone of them said, I remember my grandmother or my great-grandmother, they had a huge garden. And so we know it was there. We just forgot about it, it didn’t get passed down.”

The Sutters say the project will begin selecting family gardeners for the NIH grant project this winter and begin constructing garden plots next spring.