A letter from Miriam Maldonado Escobar in Mexico
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good—Genesis 1:11-12.
Spring has arrived, bringing beautiful signs. A variety of desert flowers, showing the beauty of nature and with them also offering aromas so appealing that they no doubt attract our attention.
Spring brings with it the hope that moves not just a single family, but perhaps many of the families of the world—through the work of our hands working the land we can bring sustenance to our families.
This year Frontera de Cristo (FDC) has asked me to be the official liaison with Douglaprieta (DPT) and FDC’s promoter of urban and family gardening. I have the privilege of working with Rosalinda, the director of Douglaprieta, a binational group working to help individuals and families in poor neighborhoods develop capacities for self-sufficiency as well as the leadership of the Lirio de los Valles Church and the CAINA after-school program.
Since January I have been working with a new group of permaculture students, teaching organic farming techniques and methods of how to take care of the land, taking advantage of all the natural resources God has given to us and using the Creator’s resources to the fullest, without destroying creation. The urban and family gardening classes are practical—we learn by doing. During the winter we prepared the soil and later planted many seeds in the greenhouse we made together. We have had phenomenal results.
The success has motivated us so much that we didn't want to stop planting seeds. We also planted some winter vegetables directly in the garden where the land had already been worked through practice efforts. We planted a variety of green leaves as cabbage, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, mustard, spinach, onion, garlic, cilantro, etc., and we are now enjoying the harvest!
During the first permaculture class I asked the community members: “What is your motivation to be here?”
One of the women responded first: “My name is Yolanda Ruiz. I have diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other sicknesses. I am here because I want to learn to grow my own vegetables and I want to be a part of the community garden. My motivation is the need to change my life and way of eating to become a healthier person. A family garden will help me economically, because I will not need to buy my vegetables now that I don’t have a job because of my sickness and I am living minimally.”
This was what Ms. Yolanda Ruiz from the Ladrillera, one of the poorest communities in Agua Prieta, shared. Like Yolanda, there are other families that come with hope for the small seed, planted in the soil, that grows to feed their families, and hoping, praying to God, that the plant will produce abundantly and spread to other families so that they can also share in the nourishment.
Our hope is to invite more and more of the community to learn to be self-sufficient in producing their own vegetables. In addition, we have the opportunity and the blessing to plant the seed of the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ in the hearts of those families through our presence and relationships. With God’s greatest love and mercy, we hope to show them the blessings of the earth and being able to enjoy the work of their hands, knowing that God is the one who provides for them.
In late March after class Rosalinda, the director of one of Frontera de Cristo’s partner organizations, invited me to eat at her house with some of the families. I suggested we harvest some of the winter vegetables and make the first garden salad, and she agreed. We cut the vegetables and while preparing the salad Rosalinda told me: “My daughters said they won't eat this salad." I just smiled.
When we served the salad the girls looked at the vegetables with unpleasant faces. Before eating, I shared with them all the benefits of eating vegetables and asked if they had eaten salads with ranch dressing before (ranch has the benefit of being delicious but not so healthy). They looked at me as if to say, "What are you talking about?" I told them that a little ranch is a good way to start eating a salad, but they were still afraid to even try it.
With apprehension and silence, they began to eat. Suddenly Gloria, one of the teenagers, said: “This tastes great!” and then Claudia said enthusiastically, “Yes, this is delicious!” Ariel, Rosalinda’s 5-year-old niece, had never eaten salad. She said she loved the spinach best. Since her first encounter with the “scary green leaf” Ariel has asked for salad every day.
The hope of the 13 families of the community garden of DPT and Frontera de Cristo is that this summer there will be an abundant harvest that can provide healthy and affordable food for each of the families. We also hope that there will be more and more “converts” like Ariel who will be asking for and eating nutrient-rich vegetables everyday.
Currently we have more than 300 seedlings of multiple varieties of vegetables in our greenhouses that, God willing, will be turned into a “food forest” at our community garden that will support these families and produce such an abundance that they will be able to provide for others in need. We also hope that this vision grows and more families like those of Ariel, Yolanda, Rosalinda, Gloria, Claudia and ours will be excited about starting their own family gardens in the future.
Thank you so much, sisters and brothers and friends, for you encouragement, support and prayers. May God continue to pour out blessings in and through your lives and ministries.
Miriam Maldonado Escobar