Eastern Band of Cherokee distributes gardening kits

By: David Forbes

Full announcement from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians:

CHEROKEE, N.C. – Continuing a program begun in 2004, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Principal Chief Michell Hicks last week handed out 750 springtime garden kits to tribal families.

Each kit contains eight varieties of vegetable seeds and fruiting shrubs that can provide each family with fresh produce valued at $600. The kits also contain a how-to gardening booklet with planting and growing tips, as well as nutrition information.

The project contributes nearly half a million dollars in nutritious foods to Cherokee families each year. Since it began eleven years ago, close to 6,000 garden kits have been distributed, providing more than $3 million in healthy food for tribal members.

“Good nutrition is vital to our Cherokee families,” Hicks said. “Not only are we helping people eat healthy foods, we are encouraging them to practice Cherokee agricultural traditions.”

“Raising a garden is a healthy activity and those who have participated say that gardening increases their physical activity and increases the amount of healthy fruits and vegetables their family eats,” Hicks added.

“Another plus is that we’ve seen an increase in family dinners to enjoy their home-grown foods. According to a Columbia University study, regular family meals develops better quality family relationships and helps kids grow up healthy and drug-free.”

Hundreds of community volunteers, the EBCI tribal staff and the tribal Cooperative Extension staff assist with the garden kit project each year.

Each kit contains a mix of heritage vegetables and local favorites, including creasy greens, hominy corn and Indian beans, yellow squash, cucumbers, Sugar Ann pea, boc choi and spaghetti squash. Also included is a Saskatoon Serviceberry seedling that can grow to ten feet tall and produce dark, purple berries.