Taking Root in Healthy Lifestyles

The Diabetes Prevention Program of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, located in Cherokee, NC, has taken an important step towards healthier, traditional lifestyles, and nutrition through the Cherokee Choices Healthy Roots project. With the project, the Cherokee Youth Garden was created and cultivated on a one half acre plot of land located at the Kituwah mound site. Through a sturdy commitment to growing traditional crops organically and increasing youth participants’ knowledge of gardening, the project follows two important objects which are to increase availability of traditional food to the community and increase the awareness of traditional activities. Collaboration of community efforts and partnerships allow for the program to spread traditional knowledge to all generations, both young and old.

To kick start summer, the Cherokee Youth Garden launched their annual eight week gardening program that is focused on engaging youth with growing, eating, and preserving local and traditional foods. Youth have the opportunity to learn about how food systems affect health, the economy, and environmental sustainability. Also, a series of guest speakers are slated to cover a variety of topics including the history of Kituwah, wild edible plants on the farm, yoga in the garden, public speaking, organic gardening practices, and how to take an entrepreneurial approach to growing food. This summer, the program will reach 15 community youth out of the forty that applied. While it is ideal that all youth are accepted into the program, as of now there are limitations because of staffing as well as funding. Nonetheless, the leadership involved with Cherokee Choices Healthy Roots project and the Cherokee Youth Garden are making great strides in encouraging healthy habits while instilling traditional values in young people who are a part of the Eastern Band of Cherokee community.

Are you interested in starting a gardening program at your Club to promote traditional values? Or maybe you would like to know more about agricultural programs that take place across the nation? Check out the following resources that detail other successful projects, ideas for starting your own garden, and practical tips for sustaining a program based on healthy living and producing your own food.

  • YAP! Youth Agriculture Program- A successful program that provides opportunities to experience success while harvesting life skills through agriculture and gardening.
  • Kids Gardening- A Website filled with grant opportunities, curricula and lesson plans, family garden activities, and tips on getting a youth garden started.
  • Food Safety in the School Garden- An article detailing safety precautions to take when consuming produce from a school garden.