Organic Training Gardens
on Lake Chapala

Eating Organic Vegetable by Lake Chapala

Lorena: When we lived in Ajijic on Lake Chapala, every Tuesday morning, I would leave the house with my shopping bag and scurry down to the Lake Chapala Society to wait for Wendee & Marie to arrive with their pickup load of freshly harvested organic vegetables.

A little later I'd leave with an overflowing 'bolsa' filled with bags of mixed lettuce, spinach, kale, chard and arugula. Depending on what was ripening in their garden, I might also have brocolli, snow peas, beets, kohlrabi or savory cabbage. There was also a selection of fresh herbs and potted plants, often including lettuce and spinach starts.

As ACA (Asociación Comunitaria de Autosuficienci) develops their new training garden in nearby Jaltepec, the varieties and quantity of their organic vegetables steadily increase.

Although we no longer live in Ajijic, Wendee and Marie continue growing and promoting organic gardening. They have a fascinating history and have done amazing things with their community training gardens in the Lake Chapala area.

You can now read all about Wendee and Marie's great gardening projects on their website

How ACA formed

The first project was conceived and initiated by the co-directors Wendee Hill and Marie Pruden, an experienced horticulturist and community organizer. Hill and Pruden were called to Mexico in 1992 to work as instructors in the Lake Chapala area through the auspices of the Catholic diocese of McKenzie, N.W.T., Canada.

In 1994 they were asked by the Catholic priest in the village of Nestipac to facilitate the opening of a community center offering classes in gardening, health and nutrition. Their close involvement with this very low-income Mexican community gave them a feeling of great rapport with the villagers and a deep concern for its problems of environmental damage, poverty, malnutrition, and lack of training and employment possibilities.

On the most basic level, many problems such as malnutrition, diminishing fishing industry in Lake Chapala, inadequate access to land and water for home gardens, the declining fertility of the soil and water contamination, are solvable. The widespread use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in almost all the commercial fields are leaving un-trained laborers unprotected, exposed to dangerous chemical substances that are endangering their health.

The widespread reliance on these “wonder products” has caused the local farmers to abandon, even lose their understanding, of older, more ecologically sound farming practices.

Finally, the resulting ecological imbalance of the land and the destruction of many beneficial plants, insects and other organisms has resulted in plant diseases heretofore unknown in the area. The health of the land, its crops and people is further compromised by a diminishing water supply brought on by years of drought and the serious overuse of Lake Chapala water for the metropolis of Guadalajara.

Farming and the misuse of dangerous chemicals, has been blamed for almost half of the contamination in Lake Chapala, This problem area extents from the base of the Lerma river, through 5 states and into the Lake Chapala.

In August of 1996 Hill and Pruden started planning an independent, self sustaining horticultural project that would be accessible to a wider rural and urban population, one that would prepare youths, families and farmers from many Mexican communities (regardless of their religious affiliation or locality), with training in organic farming, food production, and water and environmental conservation. They found support from a small body of equally concerned lakeside citizens and, on April 24, 1997, they incorporated a six-member board of directors as the Asociación Comunitaria de Autosuficiencia, A.C.

ACA was incorporated under Mexican law as a nonprofit organization on April 22, 1997

What Else are They Doing

As you browse their website,, we hope you'll gain a better understanding of ACA's garden programs, and the benefits they are bringing to their students and nearby communities. A large beautiful garden center has been created at Jaltepec. If you visit Lake Chapala, please stop by for a visit.

©1972-2008 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens