Members of the Omaha Tribe are working to improve access to fresh food, starting with growing produce in their own communities. The Center for Rural Affairs has worked alongside them during the last four years.
In 2016, gardeners had a record year with high levels of garden participation – Center staff demonstrated garden soil preparation at more than 100 family garden plots. This year, staff demonstrated in at least 220 family gardens, and at a demonstration plot at Nebraska Indian Community College.
One of those gardens is the Outhouse Honey Farm, featured here.
During the growing season, Suzi French, community food specialist, makes regular visits to encourage and support the gardeners. She also helps them learn how to combat pests and weeds and how to tell when produce is ripe.
“This work meets the needs of the individual participants and their families in their own backyards, where they feel comfortable and can work at their own pace,” she said. “We support the individuals by getting down in the dirt with them, helping them plant seeds, and offering positive advice and techniques.”
In addition, French provides training on food preparation and preservation techniques.
The Center runs farmers markets in Macy and Walthill, where the gardeners can sell surplus produce. These market stalls increase fresh food access on the Omaha reservation and provide gardeners with supplemental income.
“Offering a place to sell fresh produce gives participants an opportunity to earn income for the work they put into the garden,” French said. “People are realizing they can grow, eat, and sell the produce. Plus, farmers markets are one of the only places in our community where fresh produce is available and affordable.”
She said the best part is: the food is grown locally on the Omaha Reservation.
“Community members are excited about gardening and growing their own food. I get to be involved and see it first hand,” French said. “I watched a lot of people realize that they could grow their own tomatoes or radishes last year. There is nothing like watching someone eat their first ever homegrown tomato.”
Featured photo: The Osborne family - Zena, Anabel, Zora, Olivia, Milissa, Alannah, Lowell, and dog, Ollie - work hard growing and preserving produce to sell at farmers markets on the Omaha Reservation. They run Outhouse Honey Farm. | Photo by Rhea Landholm