A total of 94 people in communities throughout Naco have been engaged in the 2015-16 fall, winter and spring growing seasons. Classes were held in all phases of gardening – soil preparation, organic composting, planting, garden maintenance, mulching, water conservation, food preservation and seed collection. There are 25 gardens in this phase of the Naco Community Gardens Harvest for Health project – 22 family gardens, and three children's gardens, including one for children with learning disabilities. Companion classes on healthy lifestyles, diet, exercise, diabetes management and prevention, mental health, cooking and recipes, were integrated throughout the seasons. Seed, organic soil amendments, tools, supplies, support and supervision were also provided. Progress and results evaluations were offered throughout the season. Training class attendance and participation was excellent.
Drip irrigation systems were installed and utilized in all gardens. This has enabled significantly lower water usage, 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.
Anecdotal stories about individual gardener experiences reveals 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.
Of interest, please watch this recent 5 min. video of our garden projects above. It was produced pro bono by Vicky Westover, director of 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.
Also, there is a well written story about our garden programs in the current issue of edible Baja Arizona, a well respected and widely circulated bi monthly Tucson publication about "Celebrating the gastronomy of Tucson and the borderlands." It always contains wonderful articles on organic food growing, environmental consciousness, great restaurants, and excellent recipes. The article was developed from a visit to NWI by the editor Megan Kimble.
2016-17 GARDEN PROGRAM EXPANSION
We are currently training 25 new families for participation in the training class and garden development activities for the 2017 growing seasons. Two staff supervisors will work as training associates, gardener advisors and mentors, and in procuring garden supplies and equipment. All gardeners from previous groups are welcome to attend any or all garden and health education classes to continue advancing their knowledge and skills.
Over 100 Naco high school students have begun community service work in the Casa Hogar orphanage garden, mentored by garden supervisor Francisco Corneo and Maestro Joel Ramirez. They are attending classes and do gardening work there during all phases of the growing season.
Additional hydroponic garden locations will be developed, along with a pilot aquaponic project in 2017.