Nebraska’s Urban Community Gardening Scene Grows Produce and Relationships
July 7, 2014 | Abbie Stutzer
States throughout America are embracing urban farming and gardening more and more every day, setting up shop in new cities and spreading the love of fresh greens to people across the state. One that has recently emerged into the urban community gardening scene is Nebraska.
Sarah Browning, extension educator of horticulture at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, says Nebraska has successful community gardens in many communities, both large and small.
“Here in Lincoln, there are several community garden areas managed by Community Crops,” Browning says. “These gardens are open to anyone in Lincoln to rent for a season. There are also several private community gardens, managed by church or neighborhood groups, that are open to use by their members.”
While community gardens produce fresh greens and beauty, they also are great for people who don’t have enough quality space for a vegetable garden at home. Also, community gardens allow people to work together, share gardening tips and techniques, and more, Browning says.
While the benefits of gardening are apparent, Browning points out that any community garden in any state faces some challenges.
“The first challenge is to make sure there is a dedicated core group of individuals who are committed to the project and will make sure that the work of managing a community garden will get done,” she says. “The next is to get permission from the land owner to use the property. Sometimes property owned by a city or municipality is the desired site, and the group needs to work through the city’s requirements before they can get permission.” Other challenges include obtaining and paying for water, garden maintenance, abandoned plot management, plot signup, plant choice, weed control, and more.
One of Nebraska’s successful gardening operations is Dundee Community Garden. The Garden, founded in 2009, was created by a group of neighbors in the Dundee neighborhood of Omaha, Neb. The garden contains 41 individual plots, four pantry plots, a bumper sweet potato crop, and a free Neighbor Garden,where people walking by the garden can pick a small amount of herbs and veggies at no charge.
“Omaha has seen a huge increase in community gardens over the past five years,” says Mary Green, president of Dundee Community Garden. “The Douglas County Health Department’s website has an interactive map showing many of the community gardens in the Omaha area. It’s a great way to make friends in the neighborhood and the garden adds a lovely green space to the neighborhood, and is appreciated by many local residents for its beauty.”
Nebraska also has a wealth of pro-gardening organizations. Once such organization is Community Crops in Lincoln, which began operating in 2003. At first, it only had one community garden.
“Crops now has 11 community garden sites, a training farm, a successful Community Supported Agriculture program, a regular stand at the Old Cheney Road Farmers’ Market, and regular workshops and events,” says Ingrid Kirst, Community Crops executive director. The organization provides land, tools, water, seeds, and plants, while the gardeners do the work and take home the harvest.
“The gardens are spread throughout the city to accommodate our participants,” Kirst says. “Our gardeners come from many different backgrounds and income levels, and together they beautify our city while growing food for themselves.”
Community gardens directly benefit those who are gardening, but they have so many more benefits, Kirst says.
“The gardens have inspired many Lincolnites to grow their own food in their own yards, multiplying their effect,” she says.
Community Crops is now working in the Southern Heights Food Forest, one of Crops’ locations. The organization is partnering with a local church and another non-profit to build the forest, which will contain food-producing plants in a forest-like environment.
“The plants can benefit each other and provide delicious food for the community,” Kirst says.