Story by Parker Johnson. Photos by Nancy McGuire.
It is incredible how a simple act like building a raised garden bed can leave such a lasting impact on someone’s life while also creating a stronger community. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the DFW community, Nia Khepera was furloughed from her job. Her two sons, Mene II and Jabari Khepera, decided they would build two above-ground gardens in their family’s backyard. “I have been a vegan for over 27 years. It is difficult for me to have access to the fresh produce I need,” said Nia. In fact, according to a recent study, there are over 88 food deserts, neighborhoods that do not have access to fresh and healthy produce, in Dallas County. After Mene II and Jabari were done building the above-ground gardens for their mother, they realized they could help empower other families by building above ground gardens and teaching families how to grow their own food. After some deliberation, the MJK Engineering and Construction Company was born.
Over the last several months, Mene II and Jabari, with the help of their family, have built raised garden beds all over Dallas and the surrounding communities, including Cedar Hill, Grand Prairie, Forney, Pleasant Grove, and Oak Cliff. “We are not sure about the exact number of above-ground gardens we have built, but we know it is well over one hundred,” Nia said. MKJ has also begun delivery to the northern suburbs of Dallas, including Frisco.
The MJK Engineering and Construction Company is providing much more than above-ground gardens to their local community. They are beginning to use social media platforms like Facebook to provide vital education and information. “We are starting to use Facebook to help our customers get the most out of their above-ground garden. We will post educational content on how to take care of plants and produce. Also, we want to show our customers the right seeds to plant in the right seasons,” Mene I, Jabari and Mene II’s father, said.
Even though both Mene II and Jabari are both college students planning to return to school in the Fall, they want MJK Engineering and Construction Company to become much more than a summer job. “We have every intention of turning MJK Engineering and Construction Company into a year-around business. Currently, we are looking into hiring more people to help handle the continually growing requests to build above-ground gardens,” Mene II said. Although Jabari, a sophomore in college majoring in Political Science/Pre-Law, will attend school out of state, he will continue helping with the business. “When I get to school, I am going to take over the social media for MJK Engineering and Construction Company. With the help of my mom, I will share the resources our customers need to keep their above-ground garden thriving,” Jabari said.
Mene II and Jabari, along with the rest of the Khepera family, are shining examples of how to build a strong community by providing resources people need to thrive and grow. Above-ground gardens not only provide fresh produce to individuals who do not have access to affordable and convenient alternatives, but it also provides an escape when life’s circumstances are chaotic and stressful. Spending just an hour a day gardening can significantly reduce symptoms of stress and depression.
With the many benefits that come with above-ground gardens, it is no surprise that the MJK Engineering and Construction Company is bursting with orders. If you would like your own above-ground garden, you can contact Nia Khepera and the rest of the MKJ team on their Facebook page.