Family Gardens

“I think many families don’t know the nutritional value that vegetables can add to our diets. It makes a big difference in our lives.”

– NWI Promotora Yesenia Tarazon

The first NWI gardens were family gardens. The idea was to introduce organic produce, nutrition and exercise ideas, and diabetes and hypertension prevention to interested families at home. When some families didn’t have space, NWI organized larger neighborhood plots on nearby open land. The number of participants varies yearly, but each year scores of families participate. No one is turned away. From garden start to harvest, NWI provides all necessary instruction, irrigation systems, rainwater capture ideas, seeds, and tool loans.

The Family Gardens Impact

Eight years into its work to increase the well-being of Naco’s 5,770 residents by teaching people to better manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease, and COPD, Naco Wellness Initiative volunteers were convinced: The best way to help everyone in town was to improve the local diet. 

The only way to do that consistently in a poor town with few grocery stores – and no complete produce section among them – was to teach people to grow their own organic fruits and vegetables. 

In 2012, NWI was still a small, locally-based nonprofit with a few volunteers. Even so, those volunteers organized their first big initiative: The Harvest for Health Program. They helped a half dozen families plant their first home gardens. Today, 150 gardens bloom across the Colosio neighborhood in south Naco.  

Every spring, summer, and fall, each family receives without charge everything needed to prepare their home garden soil, plant seeds, water plants, harvest the crop, and set up their gardens for the next season. That includes soil testing, instruction, tool loans, drip irrigation systems, seeds, composting tips, and soil amendments. 

NWI Promotoras Lupe Pacheco-Luna and Yesenia Tarazon were early participants in the program. Now they teach fellow Naco residents how to grow their own.

“Every year, I add new vegetables to my home garden, radishes one year and little yellow squash this year. I eat many more vegetables than I ever did. Before, I really had nowhere to buy any. I like radish sprouts. I have a recipe that adds tomatoes and onions to them, and they taste good. And I liquify my chard and add that to my corn tortillas to make them healthier.”

-NWI Promotoras Lupe Pacheco-Luna

Yesenia, who already had a home business raising cacti and roses for sale, learned new things about soil and composting that helped improve her sales. Her four daughters discovered they like vegetables. “Their favorites are chilis and tomatoes, and they like cucumbers a lot. I think they will be lifelong gardeners. We’ve put in a garden for my parents, too.”

In recent years, NWI’s Promotoras have advised home gardeners on rotating and intermixing crops to get three seasons of harvests and using trellises to increase productivity. The gardeners can drop in at the two Casa Saludables clinics for in-person help, request a home garden visit from a Promotora, or get advice over the phone. All family gardeners are lifelong members of the NWI Family. The way they talk with friends and neighbors about how it feels to grow their own food and share it with others, they are also the program’s best promotors.

Family Gardens Project

Harvest for Health

NWI volunteers say their programs grow organically, like vegetables. It’s true. New families join the Harvest for Health Family Gardens program as they see their neighbors’ pride in improving their health through better nutrition and the exercise that is part of gardening. 

Eighty percent of Naco’s residents live below the poverty level. Yet anyone can join the program because NWI provides all garden and gardening materials and equipment free of charge. Would you like to help fund the growing cost of this important program?