Unapologetically Rural: Food & Gardens

Community Gardens provide more than tasty nourishment, as you'll see in this annual report story.

If you drove past Carriage House Estates trailer court and Air Vista park – just east of the municipal airport in Columbus, Nebraska – a little over a year ago, you wouldn’t have seen anything surprising.

Across from Carriage House Estates and adjacent to the park, where you can see kids play ball and ride their bikes, is a large green space. The space is owned by the city and contains a large red metal building. Several large old oaks grace the short grass. The whole area, under an acre, is enclosed with a tall chainlink fence.

In a few short months, the landscape changed dramatically. Santiago Vasquez, a Columbus community member and Public School employee, approached us with the idea to start a garden in the neighborhood. With food and community at the heart of our work, we dove right in.

If you drove past the same spot this year, you would slow down and linger. You couldn’t miss the beautiful towering “BIENVENIDOS – WELCOME” sign nor the thoughtful kiosk, both construction projects of the local high school’s Industrial Arts classes.

Then you’d see the well-kept vegetable plots. You’d notice compost containers, a tool shed, perhaps a gardener watering their plot with their children alongside. Another gardener might place their harvest in a basket before walking home to cook dinner.

This community garden is one of several we helped develop this year. The gardeners attend workshops to learn growing and preserving techniques. Together they problem-solve, create guidelines, and build their shared space into something that gives them as much as they put into it.

Highlights of 2014

  • We were the Midwest Regional Lead for 7 states in the National Farm-to-School Network. 10 rural pilot schools are now reviving farm-fresh school lunches, and 27 growers have received training.
  • Over 20 workshops on the Santee Sioux and Omaha Reservations trained local residents on growing, preparing, and selling fresh produce in the community.
  • An expanded Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program won in the 2014 farm bill will pump $30 million annually into projects to rebuild local food systems across the country.

Read more about the accomplishments you helped make real in our 2014 Annual Report.

Feature image: Gardeners prepare the ground in Columbus, Nebraska, for the community garden. The lot went from unused space to community hub in a few months.