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Sierra Vista Herald, Jonathon Shacat, Associated Press
Ivan Lopez Meneses stands with his son Ivan Alejandro Lopez, 10, near their corn garden in the Colosio neighborhood of Naco, Sonora, Mexico on Aug. 31, 2012. Several gardens around Naco, Sonora, and the surrounding area here are helping to provide healthy foods and prevent illness for poor Mexican families.

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. — Several gardens around Naco, Sonora, and the surrounding area here are helping to provide healthy foods and prevent illness for poor Mexican families.

There are 17 projects in the town of Naco, including in Barrio Nuevo, Colosio, Barrio Minero, Colonia Centro and Colonia Ejidal, in addition to the nearby Ejidos of Cuahtemoc, San Pedro and Zaragoza.

This program, which is in its first year, is one of several components of the Naco Wellness Initiative for the prevention and awareness of diabetes. The idea is to show people how to grow their own vegetables and teach them what types of food are healthy, said Tom Carlson, president of Naco Wellness.

The Naco Wellness Initiative aims to provide curative and preventative medical and wellness services to the poor neighborhoods of Naco, in collaboration with local healthcare and social services providers, through a well organized and professional infrastructure, according to the group's website.

"All work undertaken by NWI results from decisions made by a board with bi-national leadership. Its programs represent a positive presence not only in Naco, located on U.S.-Mexico border, but also a commitment to inclusion and fellowship across all lines for the sake of common good," it states.

Imer Gilberto Osorio Alamea and his father Gilberto Ruben Osorio Carlon are volunteers with the project. In their garden, they are growing carrots, beans, cilantro, tomato, corn and peppers.

Alamea explained that plants like watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumber can be grown during the summer months, while potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic can be planted as a winter crop.

There is a community garden on the property of the Iglesia del Camino church. Alamea said tomato and pepper seeds are sown in the greenhouse until they germinate and then they will be transplanted outside. Also, in the winter they will grow plants in the greenhouse that they can't grow outside.

At the nearby home of Ivan Lopez Meneses, he has a garden, and he planted only corn this year. His father used to plant corn on his property in Sinaloa, he said, and therefore he really likes to eat corn.

Alamea said these gardens at people's homes have been so prolific that the fruits and vegetables have benefited many more families.

At the Casa Hogar Emmanuel orphanage garden, the corn has been harvested, the beans and zucchini are still producing, and the tomatillos are being harvested, as well as the peppers, onions and tomatoes, said Carlson.

Gisa Krueger and Mark Nicholson, both of Bisbee, volunteer at the garden at the orphanage.

"We both were trying to learn Spanish and we thought it would be a good chance to practice Spanish, and we wanted to help the kids," said Nicholson.

"During the vacation, the kids would help out, you know, pick some beans, but now they are in school and we don't see them, except for two real little ones," added Krueger.

Naco Wellness uses grant money from the Cochise Community Foundation and the Pakis Family Foundation toward the garden program.

Carlson said he is seeking monetary donations to purchase items, such as a flat-bed trailer for use to haul a large rototiller. Victor Acedo said he needs seeds and drip irrigation supplies, as well as 6 mil clear greenhouse plastic.

Information from: Sierra Vista Herald, http://www.svherald.com