Growing up in Cibecue on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, Stevie Case often helped his great-grandmother tend her garden. She grew squash, corn, tomatoes and wild spinach. This year, with the help of a garden project supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brother Case, of the Cibecue Branch in the Show Low Stake, has a garden of his own for the first time. He also has a shade house nearby for his great-grandmother to sit under and admire the onions (as big as softballs), watermelon, tomatoes, potatoes, summer and winter squash, carrots, beans and corn.
What would he like to learn next? How to make special dishes with vegetables he is growing, he says.
For Brother Case, the garden has given him a gift. He says, “It’s give me new perspective about caring for something. It’s special. It needs love. I always tend the garden. I live in a tough neighborhood, but people compliment my garden. I offer something as they pass by or invite them to harvest some of it. It’s special to be able to give back to the community.”
Earlier this year, Elder and Sister Jex, Member and Leader Support missionaries serving in the Show Low Stake, read an article in the news about successful Church-sponsored family gardens on the Navajo Nation. They thought, “That would work here.” They began reaching out to local leaders as well as Church headquarters. It didn’t take long before the project came together. Supplies arrived from Salt Lake City (fencing materials, water drip system and heirloom seeds), and help was offered by missionaries from the Navajo Nation and Scottsdale Mission, by Show Low Stake President Steve Williams, by Cecil Ivins, Cibecue Branch President, and by master gardeners Dave and Mari Burgess.
This summer in Cibecue, eight gardens have been tilled, planted and weeded. These days, the harvest is truly great. One of these gardens was planted in early July at the alcohol treatment facility in the village. The garden offers a positive diversion from addictive behaviors.
Brother Burgess offered and continues to offer countless hours of effort and technical knowledge about proper fencing techniques and making seed beds. He smiles as he pictures Elder Jex, a retired podiatrist, and Sister Jex as they teach families about gardening, help families decide on seeds, and assist them in preparing to plant. The Jexes have enjoyed working shoulder to shoulder with members of the community.
On a recent visit to the Navajo Nation, General Authorities from the Church applauded the efforts of the garden project by offering classes and a demonstration garden to help educate families with hands-on experience, helping members and neighbors realize greater self-reliance. Brother Burgess hopes in time, such enrichment opportunities will also be available in the community of Cibecue.
Brother Case finds peace in his garden and knows that it’s better than being inside watching television. He didn’t think the potatoes would grow from the little triangle of a potato start, but they did. He has learned so much. Thanks to the garden project, he says, he is excited for the future.
When asked what he’d tell someone considering growing their own garden he says, “It’s a whole new experience. You should try it!”
For more information about the family garden project, visit lds.org.