At A Glance

At the heart of the VIDA project is the relationship forged between family and nutritional counselor.  To build trust and facilitate dialogue, each counselor invests time visiting with families in their homes.  The consequences of dietary disease are widespread and already well known to rural Totonacos.  It is the counselor’s job to connect these experiences back to the dinner table, to teach the basics of good nutrition, and to help implement raised-bed gardens with the vegetable crops needed to alleviate the worst health issues.

Project Walkthrough (15 Weeks)

A typical timeline for one of our eighteen target communities.


  • Health: By eating their home grown produce, families experience immediate relief from vitamin and iron deficiencies. By making these diet changes permanent, they unlock the plethora of health benefits associated with eating fresh vegetables.
  • Income: Selling surplus crops to neighboring communities creates a new source of income that remains consistent throughout the year.  Increased market visibility combined with VIDA’s nutritional sensitization campaigns encourages more Totonacos to grow and consume healthy produce.
  • Knowledge: Totonac families regain the ability to feed themselves. A thorough introduction to modern sustainable agriculture empowers farmers to reduce the volume of expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides they use for growing their cash crops, without sacrificing productivity.
  • Gender Equality: Because VIDA gardens are located near the home, they fall under the management of primary care givers, who are overwhelmingly women. Income in the hands of women is more likely to fund improved nutrition and healthcare for children.
  • A Brighter Future: Children are essential to changing the dietary habits of rural Mexico. By involving children in every step of the gardening process and by creating sustainable and commercially viable employment opportunities right at home, the VIDA program combats brain drain and rural exodus.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Auditing

    • Each nutritional counselor continues to make house calls every two months for second and third generation gardens.
    • Our three advisers evaluate each family in terms of health and economic outcomes.
    • The resulting data will be used to refine our model. If VIDA procedures are modified as a result, the changes will be posted on this website.

  • Training the trainers

    All VIDA nutritional counselors undergo 80 hours of theoretical and practical training in sustainable agriculture, nutrition, family organization, and child care. In addition to the roles outlined in the project walkthrough, they act as traditional social workers and identify any family issues that may be compromising the health of children.
  • What do we look for in a candidate family?

    In order to make the largest sustainable impact on health in the Totonac region and to respect the investments of our donors, we must be selective in choosing our participating families.  We look for families that are committed to long-term goals and who have engaged in collaborative activities in the past. These families are more likely to expand cultivation of fresh produce and improve dietary access to neighboring communities.
  • Project Timeline

    Because the early stages of a family’s adoption of VIDA are time and resource intensive for all involved, the project is being implemented community by community. The timeline for seeing 500 families through their first harvest is July 2012 – July 2013. Our consultancy and technical support will continue indefinitely, but we plan to suspend the introduction of new Totonac families while we evaluate our impact and begin to execute phase two of the project.

Our Nine Starter Crops

Time from
Planting to Harvest
Planting Season
Mode of Sowing
Chard 50-60 days March to August Direct seeding
Cauliflower 90-120 days October to March In seedlings
Cilantro 90-120 days October to March In seedlings
Carrot 75-110 days October to January Direct seeding
Cucumber 75-80 days February to June Direct seeding
Radish 30-35 days All year Direct seeding
Spinach 50-60 days All year Direct seeding
Tuition Tuition October to January In seeding
Cabbage 90-120 days October to March In seeding
Local Plants Variable All year Direct seeding