By Steven Zimmerman
Photos By Tim Schmann
SAN ELIZARIO, TEXAS – I love growing things: vegetables, fruit, roses. My love for anything green comes from when I was a child and was encouraged by my grandmother.
I also like the idea of growing food for self-sufficiency. It was not long ago, but it seems like a lifetime has passed that grocery store shelves began to empty over fears of COVID-19. Being able to grow food enables one to make sure there is something to eat on their table.
As I’ve spoken to people about the idea of growing their fruit and vegetables, many say they don’t know where to begin. Others opine they have limited space or lack the most basic skills. There is, however, an answer for all of this: Chuco Town Farm.
Chuco Town Farm was started by Jonathan Grijalva, of San Elizario, three years ago in response to minor health issues within his family.
“We’re a small urban farm here in San Elizario, providing nutritional dense vegetables and produce for the local area,” says Jonathan. “[We] have some Swiss chard. We have beets that are inter-planted with our trees. We got some tomatillos; we have cucumbers. We also have tomatoes and eggplant. And we also have some wild berries in the back as well.”
So how did the idea of starting an urban farm in his back yard come about?
“The idea came about when my kids, they were getting a lot of allergies,” says Jonathan. “We went to the doctor, and he said, that’s a lot to do with our diet. So, we decided to grow our own food.”
Jonathan started with a small area in his back yard that eventually grew over time. This year is the first season growing both outside and in their new high tunnel.
What I like about Chuco Town Farm is that they not only want to grow the food, they want to make it an educational project for the community of San Elizario as a whole.
“We do want to try to get into the schools to be able to let children know and actually see what food is,” said Jonathan. “Instead of just going in the grocery store, they actually can see it and look into it. We do also want to try to do some kind of gardening where we can go to your home, and we can help you establish a garden in your home.”
Mr Grijalva’s two-fold idea is one that I think, as a community, we should all get behind.
We are no longer self-sufficient. Far too many people have never taken the time to teach their children where food comes from, much less start a garden that the whole family can become involved in.
Imagine your kids being able to harvest food from your family garden and then being able to prepare that same food for dinner.
When my sister Nancy and I were sharing an apartment, I started a small garden in our patch of “front yard.” My nephew, Edward, was excited when he was able to pull the carrots right from the ground and eat them.
That garden gave me a chance to spend time with my nephew and teach him how to plant, water, care for and harvest his food.
Here in San Elizario, many of us have enough extra space to start a small garden. Why not do it? As Johnathan Grijalva of Chuco Town Farm has said, they’ll help you thought the process.
“We started with the intention of growing our own food,” says Jonathan. “That intention still applies for other people that we want them to grow their own food.”
We gave Jonathan the last word as we closed out our conversation.
“Just don’t be afraid. I started this farm, and honestly, I only grew very small things,” says Jonathan. “I didn’t know that too much about it. I’m all self-taught. I did take some internet classes. So what I would like to say about that is to pursue and grow your own food. And if you don’t want to do that, we’re here for you, and we could also provide you with produce as well. I would just like to let people know that there are grants. That’s how we were blessed with this beautiful high tunnel, the NRCS, and I would like to say thank you very much to the NRCS and their help with this.”