Omaha community gardens play more than one important role

Published: Jun. 9, 2020 at 3:35 PM CDT
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Gardens in Omaha have taken on a more important role since the coronavirus pandemic, providing food for communities. Along with helping those who use the gardens and those who work at the gardens, the gardens help immigrant communities bring flavors from home to the community.

A group of immigrants turned what was once an empty lot into a productive garden.

There are dozens of empty lots in Northeast Omaha, growing weeds and collecting litter.

It took three years for ten Asian families to turn this land into a productive garden.

David Moo was a farmer in Thailand, now he farms land here in Omaha. David says this garden helps him save money.

“That vegetable is very expensive so we plant our garden and that whole summer we don’t need to buy the vegetable from the store and we save a lot of money,” said Moo.

The families working this garden are also able to sell some of their vegetables to other Asian immigrants. David says it’s hard to find Asian vegetables here in Omaha.

“The okra is different from American country… your squash is different yeah it is different,” said Moo.

Gus Von Roenn is the Executive Director of Omaha PermaCulture. His nonprofit organization works with vacant land owned by the city and helps groups turn those lots into community gardens.

“Ultimately we’re trying to find a community champion. Someone in that neighborhood that wants to see that property becomes something better. Our organization works through that community champion and provides logistical support,” said Von Roenn.

Omaha PermaCulture has been operating for about five years.

Katie Kresha is with City Sprouts, her nonprofit organization is celebrating its 25th anniversary working to secure food systems in Omaha, providing community garden spaces mainly in North and South Omaha.

Katie says because of the pandemic, the community gardens have taken on a much more important role in the community.

“This need has always existed and this has always been important but we always thought it was kind of a luxury to be able to do something nice now we see it’s really a core part of why we need these gardens going on and farms going on to locally produced food to support our people here,” said Kresha.

Kresha says last year, City Sprouts produced 2,000 pounds of food. This year they hope to produce more than 20,000 pounds in their community gardens and farm sights.