Katie Kresha, Executive Director
It has been such an honor to be a part of the 25th growing season at City Sprouts! While very little went as planned, 2020 was a year that exemplified the best of City Sprouts and the Omaha community. After the pandemic closed our Education Center in March of 2020, we feared what the future would hold, but the challenges allowed us to grow and expand our reach in new and exciting ways.
As lines at food pantries grew longer, we knew we had to find a way to respond. This led to the addition of three new urban farm sites and an increase in our food production goal to almost 20,000 pounds! This was made possible through partnerships with nonprofits to access land, share resources, and cultivate the land. Fresh, local produce has been distributed throughout the Omaha community through food pantries, nonprofits tackling food insecurity, and innovative approaches to farmer's markets, including free farm stands and pay-what-you-can farmer's markets.
Our educational programming shifted quickly to the virtual environment, with Little Sprouts and Growing Gardeners workshops reaching more people than ever before. Our community gardens provided not only a space for growing food, but also a safe place to come together as a community (six feet apart, outside, with masks and sanitizer!). The Urban Farming Internship kicked off a bit late and split into small groups at our various sites, but was a huge success and made our production goal possible.
We have a renewed sense of hope that in 2021, we will be able to once again gather in our spaces to grow and learn together. City Sprouts North is anticipating the addition of a Geodesic Greenhouse Learning Space and City Sprouts South is planning major upgrades to the community garden beds. We will continue to expand our food production at various Urban Farm sites and food distribution programs. In-person learning will resume as soon as it is safe to do so, with exciting new virtual options being planned for early 2021.
We are full of gratitude for all that was possible in 2020 and all that will be in 2021, thanks to our amazing funders, donors, volunteers, and partners.
Shannon Kyler, City Sprouts North Manager
We were just starting our season this year when Covid hit like a ton of bricks. I remember sitting at my desk when emails starting coming in from the many large volunteer groups we had scheduled for the spring. Everyone was regrettably canceling, and the reality of this pandemic started to set in. Our volunteers are integral to our success at City Sprouts, not only because of all the physical work they put in but also because of the spirit of community and connectedness they bring to our gardens.
While our volunteer program really felt the effects of Covid, our community garden flourished. I think it was a mix of folks having a little more time on their hands, and the safety and refuge of spending time outdoors. This year I saw gardeners spending an incredible amount of time and energy on their garden plots. Folks came with their families and pods, were able to chat at a distance with other gardeners, experimented with different growing techniques, and really maximized their space to grow a ton of food!
Jasmine Marr, City Sprouts South Manager & Summer Team Lead
I enjoyed my experience being a team lead this year. The interns as well as myself were really interested in learning and I feel like we did a lot of that this summer. We learned how to sow from seed, transplant, cultivate and harvest a wide variety of plants. It was sweet to see how everyone interacted with and supported one another. By the end of the summer, we shared inside jokes and pranks and we were homies. To take breaks and have fun we played a lot of soccer, tips, and kickball. We all enjoyed being able to work in large groups with all of the interns. One time when we were harvesting blackberries, Mae Paw went up to Jean and was like “here’s a blackberry” and he opened his hand for her and it was a grasshopper. He freaked out, it was so funny. Maybe the story doesn’t sound funny but knowing Mae Paw and Jean it was gold. And as a true prankster myself, I was v proud.
Laura Simpson, Programs Coordinator & Summer Team Lead
Being a team lead at Cooper Farm this summer was a great experience. I was continually amazed by the hard work the team put in every day and the amount of produce grown throughout Spring, Summer, and Fall. We grew a wide variety of produce including root vegetables, greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and more!
Day-to-day tasks at Cooper Farm consisted of planting, cultivation, trellising, pruning, pest management, harvesting, washing, and packaging produce grown in two fields. Before the interns started City Sprouts staff did a walk-through of the fields at Cooper Farm. It was larger than any area I’ve grown on before and I was concerned we wouldn’t have enough time to plant everything out. To my surprise, within the first few weeks, the team had prepared the fields and planted everything. Quickly, seeds and transplants grew, staff and interns experienced all that is involved in caring for the crops through to harvest. While hard at work interns enjoyed each other's company and bonded over shared interests like; anime, pop-culture, music, movies, and sports.
With as much produce grown this season- distributing that produce is a very important part of our work at City Sprouts. This year we were able to provide lunches for all our interns and teams. Lunches were prepared weekly by City Sprouts staff using as much our own produce as possible. Working outside in the heat of the day meant we needed to nourish our bodies with fuel to carry us through the day. We all looked forward to lunch- and the meals were amazing! In addition to having lunches provided interns and staff were given a weekly box of produce distributed through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program.
There are few main ways City Sprouts distributed produce to the local community this summer. We were vendors at the Fair Deal Farmer’s Market and at Heartland Family Service senior market. We worked with local organizations No More Empty Pots, Together Inc., Women’s Center for Advancement, Omaha Home for Boys, Midtown Mutual Aid, Big Muddy Urban Farm, Kitchen Table, and Table Grace to see that produce grown would provide nourishment for community members.
Overall being a team lead this summer was very rewarding. I feel fortunate to have been provided this opportunity - especially at a time when so much of our daily life is shifting to look much different in the midst of a global pandemic. I appreciate all the staff for their patience and guidance in transitioning to a full-time staff member. I learned numerous skills and lessons I will continue to develop and improve upon next year. I feel I have a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to in working at City Sprouts.
Check out Cian Brun's story on virtual education here
And Aaron French's story on the Urban Farming Internship here