Written by Lauren Stepp
Local Experts Share Tips for Beginning Your Garden
When Jason Contreras was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, just months after his thirtieth birthday, he woke up. At the time, he was working as a computer drafter in Los Angeles, sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day, while his wife Lorraine commuted four hours roundtrip for a high-stress gig in the fashion industry. By American standards, they were healthy enough; though they indulged in fast food and soda, they also ate leafy greens and exercised. But six months of chemo made Jason want to sweat, to move, to breathe. He was hungry for fresh air and quality food. “At the time, we didn’t know anyone with a garden,” says Contreras. Cancer changed that.
In 2016, Jason and Lorraine quit their jobs and moved to a rural cove of Buncombe County to produce nearly all of their own fruits and vegetables. On a typical day, Jason shovels compost and wrangles ducks while Lorraine and their nine-year-old daughter, Penelope, pick cucumbers and cube root vegetables. The family documents each step on their YouTube channel, Sow the Land. “The videos started as a way to show our family in California what we were doing,” says Contreras. “It’s still for Mom and Grandma, except that 117,000 other people are watching, too.” Jason and Lorraine hope their videos inspire others to get a little dirt under their fingernails. Though, in times of COVID-19, little encouragement is needed.
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