Re:Vision’s Re:Farm program exists to cultivate a community food system in an area otherwise considered a food desert. Since 2009, we have cultivated more than 1,700 cumulative gardens. The majority of our participants stay in the program for 3-4 years, after which point they have learned enough skills to continue gardening on their own.
However, there are always some exceptions to the rules. One special family has been with Re:Farm since 2013, Antonia Aguirre (or Doña Antonia as she is referred to by the Promotoras) and her late husband Jose Pitones. They joined the program because they missed gardening as they did back home in Zacatecas. While they both had strong agricultural backgrounds, they were elderly and needed help establishing their garden, so they contacted Re:Vision.
Letty Manquera, their Promotora, remembers even in their first year, their garden was beautifully maintained. At first they started with a small and manageable space, but by 2017, their garden took up 1/3 of their back yard.
Mr. Pitones handled the majority of the work in the garden. He always loved to work outside and the connection he felt to the earth and his home. When Jose was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, he had to step back a bit. But even after surgeries, or other treatments, the Promotoras would often find him working in the garden. In early 2017, Mr. Pitones fell ill and passed away. The entire Promotora team attended his funeral and continued to visit Doña Antonia on a regular basis even though it wasn’t growing season. When it came time to think about setting up her garden, Doña Antonia wanted to keep it going, as a way to keep herself busy and as a way to remember Jose.
While it is standard for each Re:Farm family to be assigned one Promotora, it has become a bit of a tradition that when it’s time to visit Doña Antonia, at least a few come along. And, while it’s also standard to visit only twice a month, sometimes our team members drop in, just to check on her when they are nearby. She’s known to put the whole team to work, harvesting for the week, or pulling weeds. But everyone gladly chips in, knowing she cannot manage it on her own and knowing often times she shares her weekly harvest with her many family members who visit during the week. Whether it’s 9am, or late in the afternoon, Doña always has a full spread of traditional food she just happened to have “around.” And always included in the meal; fresh cut cucumbers or tomatoes.
While we seek to provide community members with the tools they need to grow their own solutions, Doña inspires our team each day. No matter what is going on in her life, she welcomes us into her home, with a smile on her face, conversation, and a home cooked meal. It's a reminder to our entire team that gardening is about so much more than growing food, it's about growing relationships and growing our community.