While people in the northern US are still shoveling snow this month, families in Palomas, Chihuahua, MX are harvesting fresh lettuce for their dinner salads. Only a few years ago, diabetes was epidemic there and fresh vegetables not available. In response to residents’ requests to help them improve health, Border Partners introduced raised-bed, covered gardens in 2009. Gardeners have raised healthy vegetables year-round in this small border outpost ever since.
But since last fall, thanks to grant funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, production is blossoming! Twelve experienced gardeners now have home greenhouses (12’ x 15’) where they can increase their production. This month they’re harvesting celery, spinach, chard, kale, beets, cilantro, radishes and broccoli–in addition to that lettuce. These are all crops that thrive in cool weather. Since temperatures in this high desert town often fall into the 20’s overnight in January and February, these crops grow very well.
Peter Edmunds, Border Partners’ general manager explains:
“Greenhouses are about control. Throughout the year, the extremes of summer heat and winter cold are controlled. Greenhouse gardening, if done right, lets the gardener use every square foot of space–all year.”
Border Partners provided the materials for the greenhouses. But the gardeners constructed the greenhouses themselves, working together with our gardening staff. Each recipient agreed at the outset to contribute forty hours of labor to help build all the greenhouses. Twelve are now completed at family homes. These families not only eat the vegetables they grow themselves but generally they also share them with extended family and neighbors.
Two larger greenhouses will be built in March at elementary schools. Palomas school children will learn how to garden and will harvest vegetables to use for their own school lunch programs.
Next Priority: Rainwater Capture
In March, each gardener in the program will receive a rainwater catchment barrel and eave troughs to collect water from the roof of their home for watering the greenhouse. This promotes production since they’re gardening in the desert–where every drop of water is precious. And that highlights another advantage of greenhouse gardening: soil needs less water because it’s protected from direct sunlight.
Border Partners places strong emphasis on its gardening program because of the potential that better access to fresh vegetables has for making significant changes in community health.