LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Not having enough food is a growing issue for many valley families. Even the middle class are feeling the impact at the grocery store. But where can a family turn if they don't qualify for food assistance?
In our series the Missing Middle, 13 Action News Meteorologist Dani Beckstrom looks at a growing trend that could help.
"There's pomegranate in the back," says Jennifer Mujica, owner of Farmer Jen Organics. "I'm really excited about that. Pomegranates are not cheap. So to just grab one off the tree, that's amazing," says Dani.
I couldn't believe what I learned during a recent visit with Farmer Jen, as she's known.
"I just planted my summer veggies. So this is..." says Farmer Jen. "Squash! I see it," says Dani. "Squash. Yeah," says Farmer Jen.
GROW YOUR FOOD
Farmer Jen has been teaching Las Vegans how to grow their own food since 2012.
"You're growing food in the desert where a lot of people think we can't do that. How did you figure it out?" asks Dani. "I hate to say, I think I like a challenge," says Farmer Jen.
Farmer Jen says you can grow just about anything in our valley. The secret is two simple steps.
"You figure out the seasons in the desert. The growing seasons of what grows when. Then you figure out how to make soil. Soil is the number one important thing we don't have in the desert," says Farmer Jen.
She clearly knows what she's doing. Along with her almond and apricot trees, she's growing bell peppers, egg plants, green onion and strawberries. Plus herbs like basil, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Farmer Jen's client, Greg Barr, is excited to get started.
"If I get the spices, as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to save a lot of money. I'm Italian. We cook. So spices, good thing to have because you're going to use every one of them," says Barr.
He also wants to try growing tomatoes.
"I like to have a good tasting tomato and if she can help me grow those and I can get a good tasting tomato, I'll be in heaven," says Barr.
JUST ADD SOIL
Now, I know what you're thinking. It's going to be expensive to get started. But Farmer Jen says, not really.
"So soil is about $10 a bag. I think it's going up a little bit more. But let's say under $100, you can take an empty area of your yard, add new soil, and then add some water, drip irrigation, the water smart landscaping, add that and you've got vegetables growing," says Farmer Jen.
But what if you live in an apartment? Farmer Jen has that figured out too.
"If you're in an apartment or a condo, you can start containers like this with all of your lettuces and your kale and your greens and your herbs and you can put this on your patio and have this all summer long if it's a shaded spot," says Farmer Jen.
But the benefits don't stop there.
"You say that you can take this to farmers markets and now not only are you helping your grocery bill, but you're actually adding in a little pocket change. Is that possible?" asks Dani.
"It is possible. So these tiny plants you see right here, you know, this is going to be zucchini... And I had more zucchini than you can imagine. So I was giving it to all my neighbors. But you could take it to a farmer's market and set up a booth," says Farmer Jen.
Of course, you can also save it all for yourself. There's some plants you may use all on your own. Like this Stevia plant, a natural sweetener, often used as a sugar substitute in your coffee.
"These leaves are what has all the flavor. So you take this and then go ahead and just take a bite of that," says Farmer Jen. "You just eat it," says Dani. "POW. Super sweet," says Farmer Jen. "That is crazy," says Dani. "Right? It's like, so super sweet," says Farmer Jen.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Farmer Jen says none of this has to be time consuming either. She teaches her clients to take just 15 minutes each day. She says growing your own food doesn't have to be that labor intensive.
13 Connects is sponsored by Landmark Recover, America First Credit Union and Subaru of Las Vegas.
Find more help and support for housing, food, utilities, employment and child care at ktnv.com/missingmiddle.