behavioral change; community gardening; fruit and vegetables; gardening education; healthy eating behaviors; food sovereignty; knowledge; Navajo Nation; self-efficacy; financial barrier


Community-Based Research | Epidemiology | Health Services Research | Horticulture | Other Social and Behavioral Sciences


This paper seeks to evaluate the potential efficacy of a community gardening intervention on the Navajo Nation to increase gardening and healthy eating behaviors, which are potentially important in preventing obesity and related health conditions. Rates of obesity are high among American Indians, including those living on Navajo Nation land. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is part of healthy eating. However, availability and access to fresh fruits and vegetables are severely limited on the Navajo Nation, due to distance and cost. One way to increase both availability and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is through community gardening, yet many on the Navajo Nation have limited knowledge and capacity to garden.

Methods: We used a quasi-experimental pre-post study design to estimate the effect of a community gardening intervention. Primary outcomes of interest were gardening frequency and fruit and vegetable consumption. Community gardens were constructed and planted in two communities on the Navajo Nation. In addition, a series of gardening workshops were held in each community. Community members were recruited to complete surveys at time points before and after the workshops. The time between baseline and follow-up was approximately one year.

Results: We surveyed 169 participants at one time point at least, across both communities, and 25 of these participated in the gardening workshops. Within the 169, there was a cohort of 32 participants completing both baseline and follow-up surveys. For this cohort, interest in gardening increased from 78% to 97% (p=0.014), but none of the changes in gardening self-efficacy, knowledge or gardening frequency reached statistical significance. There were no measurable changes in reported fruit and vegetable consumption, self-efficacy or knowledge. Overall, the reported financial barriers to gardening increased from baseline to follow-up from 4.6 to 5.5 (p=0.035). Altogether 52 participants completed follow-up. In this group, those who attended at least one workshop gardened more frequently at follow-up than those who did not attend any workshops (21 times per month compared to 10 times per month (p=0.07).

Conclusion: Despite enthusiasm for the community garden in both the communities studied and the increased interest in gardening, workshop attendance and participant retention in the study were low. These factors limited our ability to evaluate the potential efficacy of the intervention on gardening and healthy eating behaviors. Nonetheless, we found some evidence that participating in gardening workshops may lead to increased gardening frequency. Future studies should augment the intervention to include explicit efforts to reduce barriers to long term engagement and extend intervention reach.