No matter how long I garden, I am still amazed at how much food I produce. This spring I had five rows that were 33’ long and three feet wide. In that small amount of space I produced over 300 pounds of tomatoes and 200 pounds of cucumbers. I also produced about a bushel of green beans and my peppers are still producing. Every time I haul in far more tomatoes and cucumbers than my wife will ever be able to can, I think “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could give this to someone that actually needs it”. Unfortunately, thinking about is all I ever do.
Luckily, there are some gardeners out there that do more than just think about helping those “that actually need it”. Saul and Diana Padilla are the owners of Yahweh’s All Natural Farm and Garden in Harlingen. Saul and Diana grow and sell organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables through their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). They also offer free range chickens, goats, rabbits, and farm fresh eggs to their members.
Saul and Diana love farming and they feel blessed to be able to to make a living doing what they love. Saul is life-long farmer and Diana was formerly a fine dining chef. When they are not farming, they are working to develop and promote a “Buy Local” food community in the Harlingen area. Because of their involvement with the local food movement they learned that a whole lot of people in their local area could not afford to provide their families with fresh, healthy produce like they were growing on their farm. As Christians, this bothered them so much that they decided to do something about it.
With the help of Kate McSwain , the Padilla’s decided to follow the teachings of Christ who said “… let us not love with words or tongues but with actions and in truth”. They took an acre of their farm out of production and gave it to those in their community that really needed it. The three of them started a program that they call HOPE (Holistic, Outreach, Practical Education) for Small Farm Sustainability. HOPE strives to help people become more self sufficent and food secure by teaching them to produce healthy, organic food for their families.
Diana persuaded the University of Texas Pan-American to provide a greenhouse, hand tools and a once a week instructor to teach these deserving families how to abundantly produce organic vegetables on their plot. After that they recruited volunteers to help them lay out the plots, install water lines and build the beds. The families that joined the program were free to grow whatever they wanted. With the guidance of the Padilla’s and other volunteers, the first class of H.O.P.E. grew baskets and baskets of fresh melons, cucumbers, squash, onions, corn, beans and peppers. In fact, some of the family plots were so successful that the “HOPE farmers” were able to supplement their income by selling their extra produce at the Harlingen Farmer’s Market (Diana was instrumental in getting this market started).
According to Feeding America (feedingamerica.org), about 1 in 6 Americans go to bed hungry every night. That is a staggering number of people. For someone like me that has enjoyed so many blessings in my life, this statistic truly saddens me. I just cannot imagine how hard it would be to have to send one of my kids to bed hungry. My hat is off to the Padillas. If there were more people like them there would be a lot fewer hungry people in the U.S.
Running an organization like HOPE takes more than volunteer labor and good intentions. Each plot on the HOPE Community Garden uses about $15 worth of water each month. If you would like to help the Padilla’s continue to provide the land and skills needed to change the lives of hungry people in the Valley, please consider a $15 monthly sponsorship. This small donation will ensure that one more family will be able to feed their children “with fruits of their lands and the work of their hands”.
Donations can be addressed to:H.O.P.E 19741 Morris Road
Harlingen Texas 78552
If you would like to learn more about HOPE you can call Diana at 956-412-4916.