ZUNI, NM (May 15, 2022) — Nearly 200 people attended the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s annual Garden Kits Distribution event, which is made possible with support from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Native American Agriculture Fund, New Mexico Department of Health and Newman’s Own Foundation. Almost 60 of the 80 pre-registered families visited six dynamic walk-and-learn stations and assembled their 2023 garden kits at Ho’n A:wan Park on Apr. 29-30.
“We had a great turnout,” said Brittny Seowtewa, ZYEP’s assistant food sovereignty coordinator. “Each family came with three to four people, so 80 to 100 people attended each day. Both days were warm and sunny, perfect weather for the walk-and-learn stations.”
The Registration Station was first. Upon arrival, the ZYEP Food Sovereignty team gave each family a binder filled with information about seeds, water tracking, planting dates, and garden care.
Next was the Seed Station. Here, families learned where seeds come from, depending on the type of plant, and how to garden with seed-saving in mind. They also learned about genetically modified organisms, drought-tolerant seeds, and Tucson, Arizona-based nonprofit Native Seed Search, which donated 80 seed packets for Zuni families.
At the Tool Station, Tyrin Seowtewa talked with families about how he handcrafted 80 child-sized garden tools using recycled materials. Each family was able to add one of these special rakes to their garden kit.
“He’s so passionate about this work,” said Tahlia Natachu, ZYEP’s executive director. “It was wonderful to hear him explain what he does, and why.”
Not only were families able to pick up their rain barrels and learn how to set them up at the Rain Barrel Station, they also had an opportunity to learn more about rain-harvesting systems in general. Families who had an existing barrel were eligible for a connector hose.
“Our water specialist, Zachary James, did the rain barrel demo, introduced families to the gutter system, and explained how and where to set up the system,” Natachu said. “Our team also helped families load the barrels into their vehicles.”
At the Seed Start Station, families planted a seed start and also planted cilantro in the garden. Finally, at the Waffle Garden Station, families learned about traditional waffle gardens and how to create them.
When the families left at the end of the evening, they each took home a fully stocked garden kit equipped with water barrel, trustworthy non-GMO seeds from the local seed bank and Native Seed Search, a selection of garden tools, and a gunny sack of garden soil.
The annual Garden Kits Distribution events are an essential part of ZYEP’s Food Sovereignty initiative, which provides access to resources, instruction and knowledge sharing through its Agricultural Advisory Committee. The program brings community members together to share the journey from prepping, planting and nurturing to harvesting, seed-saving and recipes.
Another important component is the Food Sovereignty Workshop Series. This year’s series kicks off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17 with a workshop dedicated to soil health and soil amendments.
“We are going to make the workshop as interactive as possible, with games and hands-on activities centered around Soil Composition, How and What to Compost, How to Amend Your Soil, and Where to Get Different Soil Types in Zuni,” Seowtewa said.
The Workshop Series was limited to registered families last year, but for 2023, ZYEP has opened it up to the whole community. The youth project will host one public workshop per month during the growing season, and Seowtewa said they can accommodate 40-plus people in each one.
The June workshop will focus on water conservation, shade, and moisture retention; July will address pest management; and August will highlight healthy recipes from the garden. Then, as autumn arrives, ZYEP will bring back its popular Family Cook Nights.
To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), YouTube (/ZuniYouth), and TikTok (/zyep09)
Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.