1250 Garden Towers Per Quarter

1250 Garden Towers Per Quarter

What does 1250 Garden Towers Per Quarter take? 

We returned from our trip to Kenya with Brian, and spent the rest of the year working with 500 more families to build garden towers in Bomet, Nkareta, and the Maasai Mara. 

During those months, we had 4 additional teams go to Kenya, and each one focused on building garden towers and delivering water tanks for rainwater capture.

We also spent countless hours at The USANA Foundation, working on sewing garden towers to go to other countries, and revamping the pattern to something that was a bit easier to manage. Believe it or not, that process took a year!

Tilling the Ground for Garden Towers in Oyugis

Building the Seedling Gardens

Then, in early 2022, Brian reached out and said, “Could your team do 1,250 garden towers each quarter?” 

I said, “Yes, absolutely!” Then, I panicked when I realized that we couldn’t actually do that with our existing team. The previous year, we had done a few pilot projects in Kenya, building 10 garden towers in each location to see how they would work. 

We reached out to those three communities and said, “So, we’ve been asked to do this. Are you in?” They said, “Yes, absolutely!” 

Garden Tower in Nkareta

Creating the Garden Tower System

The amount of work that it took to make this happen was astronomical. First, seeding beds needed to be cleared, fenced, and started, so that they could be transplanted into the garden towers. 

Then, the families needed to be identified, and asked if they wanted to participate in the program. At 5000 garden towers over the year, that meant 2500 families spread out over our 6 communities. 

Along with that, fabric needed to be ordered in bulk, and shipped to the different locations. Sewing teams needed to be established and trained, and the building teams needed to be trained. The task seemed impossible.

And then, the first quarter ended, and the count began. In spite of all of the obstacles, we had reached our goal. The systems were in place, and the rest of the year went by in a flash as we counted the numbers each month. 

We finished the year in December with a little over 5000 garden towers, completed in just 11 months. In 2019-2020, it took us a year to do 400. We were all blown away, but what we started to discover, was that the garden towers were a pathway to greater community development. 

Not only that, we tracked the names and challenges of every single family we built garden towers with, so that we would be able to track their path out of poverty

Next week: What if we built out 100 villages with garden towers, boreholes, and HopeKits? 

The Training Garden in Lugari

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Can I Build a Cottage Here?

Can I Build a Cottage Here?

Can I Build a Cottage Here?

Have you ever wanted to build a cottage in Kenya? We had landed in Seattle en route to Amsterdam, and had a few hours to walk around and gear up for the long flight. At some point I asked Brian, “How many times do you think you’ll go to Kenya with us?” He laughed and said, “Oh, probably one and done. I need to get all of the video I can on this trip.” 

I recall just smiling. He had never been to Kenya, although he had been to almost 30 other countries. 

After our visit to Nkareta and Bomet, we got on the road to the Mara, with the opportunity to stay at Kokoo’s Guest House for the first time. 

Garden Tower in Nkareta

Meeting the Maasai Warriors

We pulled into the gates of the Cultural Centre, and drove up to the house. As we got out of the jeeps, a large group of Maasai warriors came from around the corner, singing and dancing to welcome us for the first time. The experience was both beautiful and overwhelming, as there were so many emotions at the surface for what it took to get there. 

We were led into the house, engulfed in the incredible smell of lunch waiting for us. Somehow, Moses had managed to hire the best chef in all of Kenya to cook for us – Mancha Letura. 

Garden Tower in Nkareta

Can I Build a Cottage?

We wrapped up lunch to go on an afternoon safari, and as we walked out onto the front porch, Brian said, “Okay, what would it take to build a cottage here? I’ve got to retire somewhere!” We had a good laugh over that. It’s very common for people to come with us again and again to Kenya, because they build a strong connection with the people there. 

I shared with him my dream of being able to create Family Humanitarian Expeditions for people, so that they can come to Kokoo’s Guest House,  work with families in the community to help better their lives, and have a cultural immersion experience. Oh yeah, and go on safari in the #1 location in the world! 

He said, “It will happen.” And it has. We’ve had 5 families over the past year experience a Family Humanitarian Expedition. 

There were several days left in our trip, but this day was a day that we will always remember. Staying for the first time at Kokoo’s Guest House was a miracle we never truly thought possible. Since April 2021, we’ve had 13 groups stay at the guest house. 

They all rave about Mancha’s food.

Next week: Can you do 1,250 garden towers per quarter?

Garden Tower in Nkareta

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Do You Want to Go to Kenya?

Do You Want to Go to Kenya?

Let’s Go to Kenya

When Brian said we were going to throw gas on the fire, he wasn’t kidding. Building garden towers with 500 families required us to go to Kenya, and expand to three different communities. We wanted to get a more realistic picture of what growing the garden towers looked like in different climates. Believe it or not, an hour away in Kenya from Bomet is the dry desert region of Narok County. 

This was February 2021, and the world was still in the middle of a pandemic. I had gone back to Kenya in October to buy furniture for Kokoo’s Guest House so that it would be ready for our teams, but we hadn’t gone in as a team since getting stuck in Kenya the year before. 

Garden Tower in Nkareta

Eating Greens Grown in a Garden Tower

Allen Roberds, Marissa Waldrop, and I decided that we would go to Kenya to help get things organized and set up for expansion. One day, I was at a sew-a-thon at The USANA Foundation and asked Brian if he wanted to go with us. There was almost no hesitation on his part, and we set the date for late April. A few other members of our team found out we were going and jumped in, and suddenly, we had a full group and the opportunity to stay for the first time at Kokoo’s Guest House. 

However, opposition came in full force when a month before we were scheduled to leave, Kenya locked down 5 counties, including Nairobi County. Their mandate was that people could travel within the 5 counties, or outside of the 5 counties, but they couldn’t cross the border. 

That put a wrench in our plans, and we went back and forth on whether or not to go for a few weeks. Finally, we got word that if you were a tourist, you would get a special permit to go to the Maasa Mara. We decided to take the chance, and boarded the plane. 

When we started driving a few days later to the Mara, a collective prayer went up that it would work. As we drove through the first checkpoint, we saw cars pulled over by police lining the road. And then, the first miracle occurred. As we drove past, every police officer turned away from the jeep. It was almost like they didn’t see us. We weren’t stopped or prevented in any way from driving through. 

We still had the second checkpoint to get through, and the same thing happened! We had crossed the border of the counties, and we were free to continue. 

The first few days were spent in Nkareta and Bomet, as we got video of everything the teams were doing to make and build garden towers. Watching Brian’s reaction was priceless. Truthfully, we were all pretty emotional about how it had impacted families. There are many stories that we hear when we are on the ground in Kenya, that are too sacred to share publicly. 

Next week…Can I build a cottage here? 

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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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