The USANA Foundation

The USANA Foundation

The USANA Foundation

Sometimes, it’s better to say yes and figure it out, than show doubt that it can be done. When we walked into Brian Paul’s office at the USANA Foundation on May 20, 2019, my mind was made up to say yes. Whatever he asked, it was a yes. 

We had talked over zoom, but holding up a garden tower to a webcam doesn’t quite have the same impact as live and in person. I knew Brian was skeptical, because why wouldn’t he be? I was telling him that with a tube of shade fabric with some holes burned into it, we could feed the world. Or at least teach them how to grow their own food. 

Garden Tower in Nkareta

It’s Time to Say Yes

At that point, we had built about 15 garden towers in Nkareta, Kenya, and ONE in Bomet at our training center. We had no statistics on how many meals they would provide. We didn’t know how long to let the seedlings grow before starting to harvest. We didn’t know how much soil each garden tower used, and we didn’t know the dimensions of the garden towers

We knew they cost $10 and we had to buy them from Nairobi. That was about it. 

For the next several months, I answered Brian’s questions to the best of my knowledge. Finally, in September 2019, he said, “Okay, let’s do a pilot project with 200 families in Bomet. Two garden towers, a water storage tank, and fencing to protect the garden towers from the animals. We need reports on how many meals per family member per day.” I wrote the proposal. 

A few weeks later, the funds were in our account, and we got started growing seedlings in Kenya. It was a slow start, and after around 30 families had the garden tower system, the world went crazy with Covid, and Kenya shut down for 13 weeks. 

During that time,100 Humanitarians fundraised for food relief for families in the 3 communities we worked in at that time. Our goal was to focus on helping widows get past the worst of it, since markets weren’t open and food was harder to access. We fed over 150 families with a daily meal of rice and beans for those 13 weeks, because of the generous donations that came in. It was truly witnessing a miracle.

What we didn’t realize at the time, was that it created a stronger list of families who would later receive garden towers. It also built a level of trust between our organization and the families that we wanted to reach. 

It took an entire year to build garden towers with those 200 families, but at the end of that year we had the statistics we needed: 

1. Each garden tower fed 5-6 people a meal of fresh vegetables almost daily. 

2. Families could sell the excess vegetables, making an income of $12-15 per month. If a family was living on $1/day, this was increasing their income by 50%. 

3. The families used the $12-15 per month on other things they needed like food staples and soap. 

4. The water storage tanks reduced the number of trips taken to the rivers and springs each day, creating more time for women.

5. It provided jobs in sewing and garden tower building for 10 women and men. 

We met with Brian, took a picture of that momentous day, which we look at from time to time now and remember how little we knew back then. After going over the numbers, Brian said, “It’s time to throw gas on the fire. Let’s do 500 more families.”

Next: Do You Want to Go to Kenya?


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The First Garden Towers

The First Garden Towers

The First Garden Tower – Did it Work?

It was a moment of truth. Five years ago we decided to make the switch from the square foot gardens to the garden towers, in hopes that they would be successful. One day, our team visited Kotolian School in Nkareta, Kenya. Our Community Director, Jacob, was chairman of the school, and they had agreed that they would assign students to take care of the garden towers. We also decided to plant two garden towers with one of the families we had previously worked with. It would take several weeks to see how they would grow in an area without much water.

The Garden Towers Succeed!

Months went by, and we received almost no feedback on how the gardens had grown. Our team returned for our November expedition, somewhat discouraged about the project. We had agreed to plant garden towers with 10 more families, but without knowing how they had done in the area.

Jacob had asked us to visit the farm where he was planting seedlings first, so that we could see what he had set up. As we pulled up, Moses said, “Has Jacob told you how the garden towers are doing?”

I responded, “No! I have been begging him to send pictures.”

Moses then said, “Oh, it didn’t work.”

We got out of the jeep, walked around the corner, and saw the picture above. After I finished punching Moses in the arm, I got a bit teary. All around us was dry and brittle bushes and trees, but the garden towers had grown beautifully, and were providing vegetables for the women who were helping them to grow.

Our team went on to plant the 10 garden towers with families in that area, and our project officially switched from the square foot gardens to the garden towers. Our March 2019 team built a garden tower in Bomet, Kenya, to see how it would do in another community.

You see, it wasn’t just whether or not it would grow, but whether or not the families actually wanted the stewardship and responsibility of growing them. As with everything, there are challenges and blessings to trying new things.

We had built about 25 garden towers in Kenya when one day I got a call from Allen Roberds. Allen had joined us on the March 2019 expedition, and afterward had run into an old student of his from when he taught high school, Hayden Paul. That chance encounter was to change the entire trajectory of not only the garden tower project, but 100 Humanitarians in general.

Next: The USANA Foundation


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