Ho-Chunk Pallet Garden Project

Ho-Chunk Pallet Garden Project 

Awardee: Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Health
Location: Black River Falls, WI

About the Ho-Chunk Nation

Ho-Chunk Nation’s land jurisdiction covers 15 rural counties in central Wisconsin. Traditionally, gardening and gathering food from Mother Earth was how Ho-Chunks provided food for their families.

About the Project

Project Goal:

To increase fruit & vegetable intake and return to our traditional way of eating by providing pallet gardens and gardening/nutrition education to 90 Tribal families. 

“It is good to see the community coming together to plant a garden as an extended family as we once did years ago. It is nice to return to our roots.”


What are pallet gardens, and why do they work?

Pallet gardens are raised garden beds using free, recycled pallets from local area businesses. These gardens provide opportunities for families to spend time together, and introduce the concept of gardening and growing your own food. Raised gardens were chosen because of their unique advantages, including:

  • Easy access to the whole garden
  • A large variety of plants can fit in a small space
  • Less weeding
  • Suitable for small spaces like community developments or apartment buildings

Most families have a garden that is stacked 1-2 pallets high. Elders participating in the program have gardens stacked 6 pallets high (with dirt only in the top two pallets) so they don’t have to kneel down to tend it.

Adapting the CDC Winnable Battles to Our Nation's Needs

The Ho-Chunk Nation tribe has always been hunters and gatherers, and gardening used to be a necessary activity every year. By sharing education about the necessity of gardening, our people realized how far removed we are from our old ways. The pallet gardens brought that back to the community. Our elders brought their grandkids to work with them in the gardens and taught them how to work with seeds and grow the plants. 

Our Impact on the Community

  • Community Involvement
    • Able to bring community together in an activity that used to be a way of life for our tribe
    • Members of all ages come together for gardens that will serve the communities for years to come
    • Members interested in attending more education pieces on gardening and agriculture
    • Benefit for future generation as the Ho-Chunk culture is one that is past down from generation to generations through hands on training and the spoken word
  • Community Gardens
    • Able to service 7 Ho-Chunk Nation communities
    • Elders, youth, employees, other community members involved
    • Gardens located in each of our Ho-Chunk Nation community locations
    • Give so many people the opportunity to participate and share in these gardens
  • Plant Variety/Education
    • Able to learn about many native plants that either have cultural significance or be a perennial plant that we never thought about through UW Ext
    • UW Ext invaluable to providing our community members with gardening knowledge and even produce preservation education, seed preservation and food preparation education

Lessons Learned through Implementing this Program

  • Advertising and buy-in are two of the most important parts of a program
  • It its accessible the people will use it (build it and they will come)
  • Not a lack of people’s desire to garden or eat better but the lack of access
  • Gaining interest takes time for garden projects
  • Utilize social media as a platform for information – able to provide information to all community members instantly
  • Utilize specialists for education – partnerships with other professionals in a certain area of expertise was invaluable in bringing our gardens to life
  • Reconnecting community member to the cultural significance of what they are doing was an amazing opportunity and gift