The Gardens

Community Gardens Harvest for Health

Not too many years into providing medical aid in the borderlands, Naco Wellness Initiative knew that the best solution to many of the health problems, especially the diabetes epidemic, was to improve the food supply. Our neighbors needed a reliable local, economical supply of nutritious, delicious foods. 

The NWI gardening program began when Naco families asked for instruction and supplies to plant their own home gardens. School gardens, at the preschool, kindergarten, and middle school levels, came next. School parents did the hard work of building raised ground and container beds, and experts at Arizona State University wrote a Spanish curriculum focused on math, science, writing, and nutrition that Naco teachers eagerly adopted. The children were the most enthusiastic learners. They still are.

With the Covid pandemic, real hunger became an immediate, overwhelming problem. NWI answered with its biggest garden: The San Jose Organic Community Garden, located in Naco’s poorest, Colosio neighborhood. Two years later, a once barren stretch of desert is now a 1.5-acre garden showplace, with a greenhouse, compost facilities, miles of irrigation lines, a water pumping station, and rows and rows and rows of fruits and vegetables. It has storage buildings and bathrooms, a 7,000-gallon underground cistern, and a state-of-the-art weather station, all surrounded by a living, blooming ocotillo fence. In 2022, it fed 1,200 people. In the coming years, it will grow even more productive.

The Gardens

Drip irrigation systems were installed and utilized in all gardens. This has enabled significantly lower water usage, and consistent crop watering, resulting in highly successful harvests. Total garden crop yields were at a record high – approximate weights: 270 lbs of tomatoes, 440 lbs of zucchini, 44 lbs of radishes, 550 lbs of corn, 28 lbs or carrots, 165 lbs of chiles, 55 lbs of cucumbers, 220 lbs of green beans, 77 lbs of cilantro.


Stories about individual gardener experiences reveal a wide variety of positive results – experiencing the benefits of nutritious, delicious fresh produce, regular exercise, food sharing, and economical healthy food source, learning to utilize sustainable organic gardening methods, improved blood sugar and blood pressure levels, reduced hypertension, a sense of confidence, pride, and empowerment by taking charge of personal health, and more. 

Naco Garden Stories

Of interest, please watch this recent 5 min. video of our garden projects above. It was produced pro bono by Vicky Westover, director of the University of Arizona Hanson Film Institute, Jonathan VanBallenberghe, Tucson independent filmmaker – Open Lens Productions, and edited by Bijoyini Chattergee and Juan Carlos Barrera – Onirica Productions, Bisbee Arizona. They came several times during the year to track the season’s progress and were a delightful team to work with. It was especially fun working with the kids at the orphanage garden.

“These groups of gardeners form a market, that all the excess produce can be taken to a market of organic products, that the rest of the community can have access to these products, and eat products that are healthy and clean, that the people of the community have cultivated. That is another goal for the future.”

The Gardens

Help Our Gardens Grow

Every year our crops feed hundreds of people and harvesting our gardens cannot happen without the support of our Friends of Naco. Will you become a friend?