The Junior League of Omaha is thrilled to be working with our community partners! This year, the League is partnering with Heart Ministry Center, The Big Garden, No More Empty Pots, The Union for Contemporary Arts, and Together Omaha. This blog will discuss our partnership with The Big Garden.
The Big Garden was created by United Methodist Ministries in 2005 as a new program. The goal was to create 12 community gardens over the following five years. They went on to create 26 gardens in Omaha over the following five years, in addition to a sister project, The Big Rural Garden. There is now a network of over 150 community gardens in Omaha, as well as small communities in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas.
The Big Garden’s mission is to “cultivate food security by developing community gardens, creating opportunities to serve, and providing education on issues related to hunger.” They are unique in both the large number of sites, as well as their emphasis on local partnerships. Community agencies own the land where all Big Garden sites are located, and the Big Garden partners with sites to assist with initial start-up costs, ongoing program support, garden and nutrition classes for children, and by brokering collaborative relationships in the community.
The Big Garden has several valuable programs. These include providing online gardening education, community gardens, Growing Gardeners Workshops, the New Roots internship, Grow-Your-Own, Farm to School, and Garden to Table. The online gardening education was an adaptation of some of their education programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also provide other online resources, such as recipes, a list of recommended reading, and a skill library that includes information on various topics such as how to start seeds at home, a guide to edible wild plants, and more.
The Growing Gardeners Workshop is provided each season, and is low-cost, available to budding gardeners of all ages, and is open regardless of availability to pay. There are four educational tracks that the workshops cover: urban ag school, herbal medicine cabinet, culinary & nutrition, and craft & lifestyle. The New Roots internship is a 12-week summer internship for young adults interested in organic gardening, food security, local food, and working with children. The interns receive training in gardening, food security and classroom management and often go on to have careers in these fields. Grow-Your-Own, Farm to School, and Garden to Table are all programs that teach students how to grow, tend, harvest, cook, and preserve the produce they grow. Grow-Your-Own classes are held at The Big Garden, while Farm to School and Garden to Table are held at school gardens.
The Big Garden is a fantastic organization that provides a lot of valuable training to community members interested in learning to grow their own produce. The League looks forward to a fruitful partnership!