A Garden Blooms in the Desert in Tijuana, Mexico

National Headquarters  |  December 17, 2023
Fabian harvesting in the melon field. Some melons are large, but not necessarily ripe. Only the person who planted them can touch and inspect to know if they are ready to be picked. Photo/Shuli Lo

Written by Shuli Lo
Translated by Ariel Chan
Edited by Patrick McShane

The State of Tijuana in Northern Mexico, just across the border from the U.S. State of California, is known for its warm desert climate. The parched land, covered in stones and yellow sand, is Fabian Vega’s dream field.

Located at the nexus of the complex border between Mexico and the U.S., Tijuana is a place with underdeveloped infrastructure and many unpaved roads. Whenever a car passes by, clouds of yellow sand billow up. In rural areas, there are only rocks and sand as far as the eye can see. Even the open areas of the Tzu Chi Campus in Tijuana are just rocks and sand, seemingly unfit for plant growth. However, within a short five months, a green area has emerged and is gradually expanding.

Fabian’s Dream Land

Five months ago, a Tzu Chi employee named Fabian began a new project. Every day, he would come to the center early in the morning and, in addition to his regular duties, began working as a farmer. He would till the soil, prepare the land, sow seeds, and water plants, finding immense joy in the process. He had learned to cultivate crops from his father when he was young, and he had a deep interest and understanding of farming. 

When Fabian saw that there was ample open space in the area, and considering that the food provided was primarily vegetarian, he conceived the idea of planting fruits and vegetables in the unused areas, hoping to provide healthy produce for the children who studied at the local Tzu Chi Education Campus.

Fabian brought seeds from his home and cared for them meticulously. After months of effort, he had successfully grown a variety of fruits and vegetables. These were used to supply some of the center’s lunch offerings. When cucumbers were in abundance, he even allowed the students from the Hope Classroom program to take some home to share with their families.

I respect these crops, and I love them. My wife feels the same way. We enjoy serving others. We not only do what we love, but we also continue to help those in need.

Harvest for the Land and the Heart

“I have always had a strong interest in cultivating plants, and now I am finally able to realize it. At Tzu Chi, they give me enough trust, and because of that, I’m very happy.” After working at Tzu Chi for five months and seeing the kindness and joy of Tzu Chi volunteers, Fabian became even happier. While cultivating fruits and vegetables, he also developed a deep respect for plants and people. Witnessing volunteers dedicating themselves to the disadvantaged in the community, he gained a deeper understanding of the spirit of helping others and was eager to participate.

Currently, Fabian has planted tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, hibiscus, and dragon fruit, as well as fruit trees like loquats, peaches, and guavas. Fabian has vowed to transform the dusty area into a green space. “The vegetables and fruits I grow are natural, without chemical fertilizers. Everyone can eat them with peace of mind. Right now, we have tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and carrots. We’re expecting to harvest some fruits next year. We still have some space to continue planting. I tell myself to work hard so everyone can have access to healthy food.”

Hope Classroom graduate Rosa Alejandra said: “I eat the vegetables Mr. Fabian grows in the campus cafeteria. It’s healthy vegan food rich in protein and vitamins, which benefits us.”

More News Stories