Native American Gardening Resources

Native American Gardening: Planting Seeds of the Future:

Story and song introduce the ancient traditions of Native American gardening. Slides, hands-on activities, games and a demonstration of gardening plans and techniques show how to plan, plant and tend a historically-accurate Native garden. This workshop shares how to preserve ancient plant varieties--to participate in gardening as part of the Circle of Life. We also explore the harvest, recipes and suggestions for garden crafts and games. Michael draws from his book: Native American Gardening: Stories, Projects and Recipes for Families.

A 2-1/2 hour workshop for teachers of children from grades K-12

Offered by Michael Caduto

Michael Caduto is an award-winning author, master storyteller, ecologist, educator, poet and musician who has been featured on educational television, over National Public Radio and by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). He reaches thousands of people each year through personal appearances and his books are used by millions throughout the world. His work draws from science, Earth stewardship and cultural diversity and he has worked with many indigenous peoples during the past 25 years. Michael is a juried artist with the New Hampshire Council on the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council, and has been affiliated with the Vermont Council on the Humanities and the Quebec-Labrador Foundation. His programs, performances, keynotes, workshops and residencies are given to children, school groups, teachers, naturalists, families, storytellers, conferences and general audiences. He has taught at numerous colleges and universities throughout North America. (Michael is of Italian ancestry.)
In 1984 Michael founded a service called P.E.A.C.E.® - Programs for Environmental Awareness and Cultural Exchange. P.E.A.C.E.® promotes understanding, awareness, appreciation and stewardship as the foundation for building a harmonious, sustainable relationship between people and Earth, and among the cultures of the world.

Farm-to-Cafeteria Initiatives: Connections with the Tribal Food Sovereignty Movement
Includes profiles of eight Native communities who participate in Farm-to-Cafeteria initiatives, including both successes and setbacks. The report, written by Emily Harriett Dwyer, with support from White Earth Land Recovery Project Executive Director Winona LaDuke and the National Farm to School Network, addresses the challenges that tribal communities face when trying to revamp their school food systems.

National Farm to School Network -

The Edible Schoolyard Project -

Blackfoot School District Garden Beds
Elementary students get their hands dirty working in raised garden beds located right outside their classrooms at the Lillian Valley School in the Blackfoot School District in Idaho. They’re growing potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce and other salad vegetables that are eaten at school for lunch and snacks. A larger, traditional garden space nearby allows enough room for a cornfield. Teachers are incorporating traditional Native American growing methods into the garden plan and curriculum, to further connect students to their culture. Students take extra foods home to their families.

For more information see:

Tepary Bean Quesadillas for Tohono O'odhom
Two high school students introducing a new traditional lunch to fellow students of the Tohono O’Odhom Nation in Arizona said through the school’s loudspeaker to fellow students: “We hope it will be good for all of you, not just for your bodies but for your minds, to help with your education.” In 2010, the nonprofit organization Tohono O’odhom Community Action (TOCA) began its "Traditional Foods in Schools" program in the Indian Oasis Baboquivari-Unified School District in Arizona. The first traditional lunch offered as an alternative to that day’s menu of pepperoni pizza: white tepary bean stew with chicken and green chili and brown tepary bean quesadillas.

The program started small by offering traditional foods once a month and has grown to include weekly traditional menus. It has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation through its Food & Community Initiative, which also includes a fitness element.

TOCA credits its success with getting youth involved in the process and allowing their voices to be heard. The organization has a Y.O.U.T.H (Young O’odham United Through Health) program that works to inspire and empower youth to be strong, powerful and self-sufficient members of their community. Youth take on leadership roles in the “Traditional Foods in Schools” program by mentoring other students, speaking in schools at the weekly traditional meals and teaching gardening classes. Y.O.U.T.H. members developed a series of food themed cartoons that have been successful in motivating kids to want fresh, locally farmed, healthy, native foods.

For more information see:

The Cultural Conservancy
In their Indigenous Health/Native Circle of Food Program, TCC recognizes the strength and resilience of holistic indigenous health and healing models and the power of native foods in addressing the unbalanced state of American Indian health today. Contemporary native health problems are the results of historical injustices, imposed western diets and lifestyles, and a number of other major factors. To address these imbalances TCC is committed to developing, promoting, and disseminating a reintegrated vision and holistic practice of native health and healing for the 21st century.

Through our Indigenous Health Initiative we have developed our Native Circle of Food program area and the Renewing American Indian Nutrition, Food, and Ecological Diversity (RAIN FED) suite of projects. Through educational workshops, creating urban and rural native gardens, seed-saving, restoring traditional ecological knowledge and foodways, coalition-building, public education, and bringing native foods back into our daily diets, TCC is working to renew indigenous health from the inside out.

For more information see:

Walleye and Wild Rice on White Earth Reservation
Students at the Pine Point School on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota enjoy local foods like walleye, wild rice and hominy, take field trips to the forest to learn about maple syrup or visit a rice mill, and have planned and designed their own garden mounds using the square foot gardening method. The Farm-to-School initiative is a community-wide, multi-faceted collaboration that began in 2007 and is led by the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP).

It all started with revamping the breakfast and lunch menus: new meal plans included traditional foods, local “kid friendly” foods like corn on the cob, organic all-beef hotdogs and buffalo burgers replaced their processed counterparts typically sourced elsewhere, and a local bakery delivers weekly supplies of fresh bread and other baked goods.

WELRP has worked closely with University of Minnesota Extension to create curriculum that includes handouts on cultural history, nutrition information and activities for kids. Each month, families and community members join students and teachers for a Farm-to-School feast where students also showcase their related classwork.

One key to this community’s success lies in the partnerships within the community. Community members are invited to cooking classes, and students learn about local food systems by taking field trips to the nearby orchard, rice mill, turkey farm, pumpkin patch. Farmers, tribal leaders and other community members are invited to join Family Fun Day feasts. An advisory committee consisting of teachers, administrators, parents, students and community members helps plan new menu items, curriculum and activities.

Within its first year, the program’s effect on the local economy was clear: nearly $30,000 was spent on local foods and the school’s budget deficit had been reduced by $12,000 (Source: Farm to Cafeteria Initiatives: Connections with the Tribal Food Sovereignty Movement)

Read This report prepared for University of Minnesota Extension to learn more detailed information about Farm to School activities at the Pine Point School.

Tohono O’odham
On the Tohono O’odham Nation, young people are leading work in school gardens, health and wellness initiatives, cultural revitalization, and more. Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) places youth at the core of all programming with great emphasis on building partnerships between youth, adults and elders.

Project Oidak, created in 2011, grew from the demands of young people. It is a community garden project (oikak in the O’odham language means garden) that promotes leadership, healthy foods, gardening and culture.

TOCA is the lead organization for the Youth Leadership Initiative. Fifty-four percent of TOCA’s staff are under the age of 25, which reflects the community’s demographics. As described on its blog, “when young people know they have the freedom and resources to make their vision of a healthy community a reality, a stronger relationship is built that allows for adults and elders to share their own perspectives, knowledge and wisdom.” Genuine partnerships create space for young people to utilize their natural strengths, such as high levels of energy and enthusiasm for making change, creativity and imagination.

An intensive summer youth internship program teaches youth to garden and farm. Through school wellness initiatives, students work in school gardens, learn about traditional foods, health and wellness and also eat local foods, such as tepary beans, for lunch.

Native Food Systems Resource Center – An Initiative of First Nations Development Institute -

FoodCorps Service Member Opportunity
Are you a leader passionate about healthy food, farms, and kids? Then we want you to be a FoodCorps service member! FoodCorps recruits talented leaders for a year of paid public service building healthy school food environments in limited-resource communities. Our service members:

TEACH children about what healthy food is and where it comes from
BUILD and tend school gardens
BRING quality local food into public school cafeterias

We envision a nation of well-nourished children who know what healthy food is, how it grows and where it comes from, and who have access to it every day. We envision a bright future for our service members: emerging leaders who, having invested a year of public service creating healthy food environments for children, will go on to become farmers, chefs, educators and public health leaders.

In partnership with The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health Feast for the Future program, some of our Arizona service members are assisting with the development of curricula incorporating nutrition, cooking, and growing of traditional and nontraditional foods at Tohono O'odham Community Action in Sells, AZ. Other service members are teaching/co-teaching science-based garden curriculum at elementary schools in Cibecue/Fort Apache and Tuba City, among other activities.

We have a strong desire to increase the number of Native Americans applying to serve in these communities, as well as others who have some familiarity with the Navajo, Hopi, Apache, or Tohono O'odham languages. (Desired, but not required.) This is an opportunity for students to gain substantial work experience and launch careers in sustainable agriculture, public health, education, food service, and nutrition.