POWER 9® PEOPLE
An ongoing series about people improving their well-being
Fort Worth is the largest certified Blue Zones Community® in the country. Each month we talk to a different member of our community and find out how they experience well-being in their neighborhood. This month’s featured guests are Steven and Ursula Nuñez, who own IDEA Environmental Landscape Design and have been developing Mind Your Garden, an urban agricultural enterprise that aims to bring the farm life into a food desert in Fort Worth.
Q: What started the development of Mind Your Garden?
Steven: The seed was planted, so to speak, in 2013, when we purchased the property. Mind Your Garden was founded in 2018 when I completed my thesis, “Addressing Issues Related to Food Deserts Through Empowerment: A Community Garden Design Proposal for The Glencrest Neighborhood of Fort Worth.” I took a look at our Glencrest Community – specifically, the lack of grocery stores and the plethora of liquor stores here.
Steven: We realized our property could be best utilized to serve our community. Our mission at Mind Your Garden is to increase access to healthy food, provide holistic education, and cultivate a community of wellness.
Ursula: This year we are experimenting with different crops. So far, we’ve planted mustard greens, collard greens, kale, herbs, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and cantaloupe. We planted strawberries in October and they’re just now coming up!
Q: You definitely found your Power 9 sense of Purpose. Steven, you said that until you got your master’s degree you hadn’t heard the term “food desert.”
Steven: Through the years of our research, we learned communities located in food deserts can improve their health by implementing the Power 9 principles. Since there’s limited access to healthy food in food deserts, we plan to grow fresh and healthy food for the community and plan to create a support system by partnering with other organizations. Our (extended) family suffers from the diseases that are common in these areas and we understand first-hand the challenges people face.
Q: Part of the problem is that people don’t know how to cook with the veggies that they get from meal box services, local farmers markets, or from the food bank.
Ursula: We’re excited to partner with Blue Zones Project to create cooking demonstrations to show people how easy and affordable it is to cook with a plant slant. We’re experimenting with cooking our traditional dishes using different ingredients. For example, we make collard green enchiladas without using animal products. We share some of our recipes on our Instagram page mindyourgardenfw.
Q: You also have an unusual take on the Power 9 principle of Wine at Five –– because you’ve also stopped drinking alcohol.
Steven: We have a history of alcoholism in our families, and that cycle needs to be broken. Even the four ounces of wine that Wine at Five recommends requires a lot of discipline for some of us – especially with our culture, we either go big or go home! We also realized there was a direct connection between our unhealthy eating and drinking (e.g., pizza and beer, margaritas and queso dip). Many of our social events revolve around drinking and unhealthy eating.
Q: So you’ve focused more on the Social Hour aspect of the principle – sharing something (a non-alcoholic drink like a smoothie or a healthy snack) to amplify the benefit of sitting down with someone you like, taking a break from the rush of the day.
Ursula: Yes, that’s why we have launched our healthy hour initiative, where we host social gatherings similar to happy hour; we serve non-alcoholic drinks and healthy plant-based food. This provides people with healthier social environments.
Ursula: It was difficult. We didn’t grow up eating a lot of vegetables. We saw the effect that unhealthy eating has on our families. My family has a history of cardiovascular disease, and Steven’s family has a history of (Type 2) diabetes. And we knew if we didn’t change our lifestyle, we would be next.
Q: For you both, the connection between the land and how you eat became very apparent.
Ursula: We planned to grow fresh and healthy food on the urban farm; yet we were still consuming the standard American diet. Steven describes it best by stating it was a matter of integrity. We needed to live the lifestyle we were promoting. I started running about six years ago and I thought if I was working out, I could still eat the standard American diet. But we learned you can’t outwork a bad diet.
Q: And to that end, you two and your two kids have changed how you eat.
Ursula: We are a whole food, plant-based household. We no longer eat any animal products. In addition, we’ve significantly reduced processed foods and our sugar intake.
Steven: Plant-based eating has opened up a world of food to us. We had to learn how to shop, build up the pantry, and cook with diverse ingredients. Now we have a myriad of recipes to choose from that are healthy, delicious, affordable, and hearty!