Betin has worked with Naco Wellness Initiative for 13 years, was a builder of the Barrio Nuevo Casa Saludables Clinic, and is the husband of NWI Director Lupita Sanchez. Ted is a retired furniture engineer and designer, and a skilled home remodeler. He and his wife, Margot, are on the NWI Board of Directors. 

Betin described how the men’s relationship worked. “It took a little English and a lot of body language, lots of food, lots of laughs and Coca-Cola. We fellowshipped, we shared a daily meal prepared by the women of NWI, because for sure Ted loves Mexican food, and ever since we have been good friends.”

Ted tells a similar story. “Being from the East, I was a little apprehensive about going into Mexico. After my first visit, my apprehensions dissipated as I met some warm and welcoming people and we began working on this project together. I now consider the group of people I worked with to be dear friends. I see them a lot. It’s a shame there’s a wall between us.”

“Nothing like this garden and greenhouse was here before. It’s a huge positive change. This garden benefits so many, many people in Naco,” Betin said. “Ted, NWI Executive Director Tom Carlson, and the people who support NWI have a great heart for the vulnerable people of our community. There was a lot of need for something like this.”

Roberto “Betin” Estrada Martinez

The men’s first task was power-digging, often by hand, 20 holes in the cement-like caleche soil of Naco. Each hole was three feet deep. Work continued in spurts for several months as supplies and parts came in, and U.S. volunteer groups could visit. The finished high tunnel greenhouse measures 50 feet long by 16 feet wide by 16 feet high. The roof consists of two plastic layers, and a huge fan that blows air between for winter insulation. In summer, the roof is covered with a black sunshade to reduce heat, and the sides roll up for air venting. Inside are planting areas, plant shades, and multiple layers of vertical trellises. There’s also a space with tables and chairs that serves as a teaching area for students.  

In February 2023, thousands of spring seedlings were started in the greenhouse. They are now in the garden. Seeds for the garden’s summer crop will get their start in the greenhouse soon. 

“We should gain a six-week lead-time by propagating many of our crops in the greenhouse and transplanting them. That’s going to be a big deal,” said NWI Executive Director Tom Carlson.

NWI Promotora Sandra Jaquez agreed. “If it wasn’t for the greenhouse, we wouldn’t have anything growing in the garden yet in March. This March, we’re sowing many small plants into some of the rows. And we’ll sow others a few weeks after that.”

NWI is committed to encouraging more Naco residents to begin gardening, and to sharing its garden development and wellness efforts with every interested person in Naco and surrounding Mexican communities. 

Garden Development

Ready to Grow?

San Jose Garden is growing fast and we need support more than ever. As we continue to cultivate the land, we are also cultivating lives and transforming the community around us. Do you want to be a part of our journey? Become a Friend of Naco!