Big Garden makes big plans for Omaha campus

6/30/2015

The Big Garden, an effort by United Methodist Ministries in Omaha, Nebraska, is launching an ambitious effort to build a full campus over the next 18 months.

This artist rendering shows one concept of what the Big Garden Campus may
look like in North Omaha, Nebraska.

The Big Garden, which started in 2005 with a goal of building 12 community gardens in Omaha, has worked with hundreds of churches, schools and non-profits to build gardens. Along the way, it has taught thousands of people how to grow their own food and has made dozens of communities in three states healthier and more beautiful places to live.

The Big Garden has had a positive impact in low-income neighborhoods across Omaha and in rural communities in Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. In the Omaha area alone, more than 70,000 people are food insecure. One in five kids in Omaha go without adequate nutrition. The Big Garden has a waiting list of potential garden sites. If it had the resources and the staff, it could offer 10 weeks of Big Garden summer programming to 500 more kids this summer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have adequate space for the staff it has now. It also doesn’t have adequate space to store equipment for the Big Garden and neither its office nor its garage has running water. In order to meet the need, the organization has to move.

The new campus will allow the Big Garden to grow more food with neighbors who struggle with hunger, to teach more kids how to grow their own food and to develop long-lasting relationships in a neighborhood where we can do so much good. The Big Garden will partner with two organizations that share the vision of fighting hunger and building community. One of those organizations, 75 North, was founded in 2011 with the goal of creating healthy, sustainable, mixed-income communities in the Highlander neighborhood of North Omaha. The Big Garden Campus will be built near the 75 North redevelopment site in North Omaha. The other organization is Whispering Roots, an Omaha-based nonprofit with a mission to provide fresh, locally grown, healthy food for socially and economically disadvantaged communities by using aquaponics, hydroponics and urban farming. Whispering Roots has aquaponic units at several local schools where they teach principles of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) by using hands-on experiential learning. The Big Garden will share greenhouse space with Whispering Roots.

The plans for the Big Garden Campus include three large greenhouses that will allow for the growth of seedlings for the community garden network as well as provide more fresh produce to partners at local food pantries. The greenhouses also will provide space for partners at Whispering Roots to develop larger-scale aquaponics systems that will grow fish and vegetables while providing a living laboratory for science education for students in North Omaha. The campus also will develop a large learning garden where a variety of organic gardening classes can be taught to church, school and community groups. This garden will include a self-guided trail with signage describing the plants being grown and explaining the organic practices being used to grow them. Finally, there will be a office/garage/storage facility that will provide space for Big Garden staff, storage for garden pickup trucks and other equipment and materials that we need to manage the growing garden network. This facility also will provide classroom space where staff can teach more children and adults how to grow, cook and preserve their own food.

 

The Big Garden Campus will require an investment of roughly $750,000. The organization already has raised $65,000. If you'd like to learn more about the Big Garden Campus, please contact Nathan Morgan at nmorgan@bigmuddyumc.org or by calling 402-415-6780.


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