by: Aaron French, Manager of Urban Farm Initiatives
Photo: City Sprouts urban farm with watering system (5420 N 3rd Street, Omaha, Neb.)
We’re in full spring swing over here at City Sprouts! While the weather is slowly warming up and our heads are full of dreams of summer, it’d be tempting to simply write here about the thoughtful, intentional and forward-thinking planning we’ve put in over the winter to make our educational programming and farming operations run like a well-oiled machine.
I could write about the intensive crop planning we’ve gone through to ensure our produce distribution partners have a steady supply of delicious, culturally-preferred food. I could describe the extensive outreach we’ve done to high schools, universities, nonprofits and community groups to recruit amazing young folks for our Urban Farming Internship. I could spend so many paragraphs hyping up the incredible organizations and individuals who help make our work possible through some really great partnerships (and honestly I still might, because they’re so great).
Photo: Hands planting seeds in soil blocks
However, as we tend to the thousands of young plants waiting to be planted (BIG shout out to our friends at The Big Garden for letting us use space in their greenhouse yet again!), I keep coming back to the difficulties, obstacles and challenges we’re facing coming into this new growing season. As our small organization has grown in the past few years, our dreams, obligations and commitments have also grown. We’re trying to do more to support small urban farmers in Omaha, help mitigate food insecurity, and create a hub for urban agriculture education and innovation in our city. I’m sure some of you have experienced this, but sometimes when you attempt to achieve larger, loftier goals, things can tend to get a bit more complicated.
Whether it’s attempting to navigate the intricacies of city government and planning (building permits, zoning changes, a distinct lack of critical infrastructure), or adapt to growing programs (how do we transport 20 young adult interns all over the city?), or even wrap our heads around what sort of building we need to provide a community centered space for folks to gather and learn about growing food in the city. These are challenges I never imagined I’d need to worry about when I started here [at City Sprouts] five years ago, and certainly difficulties the founders of this organization never dreamed of either. But that’s growth, right?
Photo: City Sprouts staff members and interns clean up urban farm (5420 N 3rd Street, Omaha, Neb.)
In some sense, these obstacles might be a welcome sign. I’d like to take it as an indicator that we’re doing something deeply right. If things are tough for us, it most likely means that we’re helping to blaze a new trail for urban agriculture in Omaha…or at least help recreate one that’s been lost after decades of neglect. However, we’re a relatively well-resourced nonprofit organization with nine (incredible) full-time staff dedicated to making our mission a reality. I wish for a culture, community and city that could step up for smaller organizations, businesses and individuals for whom growing food is not (at least yet) a full-time job and support them in achieving their deepest desires in urban agriculture: land sovereignty, economic success, community connection….all of it and more!
Every good piece should end with some sort of call to action. At least, that’s what my high school English teacher told me. So, it’s with deepest apologies to Ms. Martinez that I’ll end this post without a clear and concise way for you, the reader, to help make this dream a reality. But I’m sure you have some ideas….and that’s a start!
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