Papillion’s first urban garden almost ready for planting

Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 3:23 PM CDT
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PAPILLION, Neb. (WOWT) - Community gardens are not uncommon, you’ll find them in cities across the country and now Papillion can add itself to that list.

Work is already underway on the city’s first urban garden, located off of 1st Street, not far from the downtown area. The land, which is a little under an acre, was donated by the Zauha and Uhe families.

The Papillion Community Foundation will begin tilling the land this week and the first seeds will go in the ground in mid-May. There are also plans for a ‘you-pick-it’ flower garden.

Plans for the Papillion Urban Garden (PUG) came about near the beginning of the pandemic when everything shut down for the first time.

“We were like okay what can we do, and the first thought was well okay we need to feed people,” said Laura Schwartz, the executive director of the Papillion Community Foundation.

The foundation started holding food drives at its main office but members quickly decided they wanted to offer families some healthier options. That’s when the idea for the community garden was born.

Schwartz and other members immediately started researching, reading books, and reaching out to other community garden projects across the country for help, tips, and inspiration.

Fast forward to now and the inside of the Papillion Community Foundation office looks like a shed. A variety of seeds are laid out on a table - everything from pumpkin, corn, tomatoes, and peppers - and farming equipment like gloves, a seeder, and a wheel hoe can be found in each corner.

This first year, everything that’s grown will be donated to the Tri-City Food Pantry in Papillion. The city plans to lease the Papillion Urban Garden two acres of land right beside the pantry.

They’ll hopefully start the groundbreaking for that project later on this year.

“This is our learning year so we want to make sure we understand what plants grow best and what gives us the most yield,” said Schwartz. “Our plan is to just get growing so we can feed families and feed them in a way that actually makes them better, makes them healthier, gives them more variety.”

Along with the donated vegetables, the foundation hopes to pass along recipes so people can try to incorporate them into their food. In the future, the hope is to donate to other pantries in Sarpy County.

“It really is about community taking care of community, and as we started this project we started looking at what we wanted to say about it. It really is cultivating community and finding a common ground,” said Schwartz. “We want it to be a place where everyone is welcome so they can learn and take away something good for them, so it’s sort of like feeding your soul and feeding your body.”

Next year, Schwartz hopes to have a more permanent place where a greenhouse can help extend their growing period. There are plans for geothermal growing, and within that, hydroponic, aquaponic, and aquaculture growing. The 5-year plan is for a fully-functioning Community Supported Agriculture program.

Under that, 51% of what’s grown would be donated and 49% will be available for people in the community who pledge to support the farm operation.

“And their donation for that food comes right back in and feeds the community, so it’s like this big circle,” said Schwartz.

The Papillion Community Foundation says the community support has been incredible so far, and they’re hoping more people get involved as the project evolves. You can find more information on the Papillion Urban Garden’s website.