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Welcome to the Garden

It’s funny how things can start out small, then take on a life of their own. The Hands To Harvest Community Garden is one of those stories.

When we started this, the idea was to simply clean up and utilize an ugly vacant lot. The apartment tenants behind the lot were using it as a dumping ground for their castoffs that Deffenbaugh won’t take; the city handed down serious budget cuts to Parks so nobody was mowing it, and like any other unmaintained lot, the weeds and overgrown grass were acting like a net, catching all the loose litter blowing around.

The Ford Birthsite Neighborhood Association President was looking at it one day, and said, “Hey, this would be a neat place for a community garden.”

Unfortunately, the lot that was originally intended for the garden was tied up in so much red tape that we couldn’t get it. Tax liens, city liens and a demolition lien meant that we’d have to come up with tens of thousands of dollars just to get to the point we could use it. A local developer, Gerry Reimer of Urban Village, was there when we finally admitted defeat and offered a lot of his own that he’d bought intending to use as part of a much larger project which had fallen through.

When we accepted, there were only a couple of us involved, and only with the Ford Birthsite Neighborhood Association. Our Vice President, Brian Henkel, took the offer and the idea and ran with it. He told everyone he could think of who might be interested, including a friend of his from the Leavenworth Neighborhood Association. Everybody he spoke to was excited and enthusiastic about the garden and agreed to help.

Usually, when a project like this is begun, there is a lot of initial interest until the reality sets in and people begin to realize how much time they need to devote. Slowly, they begin to fade away until only a small core group is left. If that core group is small enough, the project dies or goals have to be readjusted to accommodate the lack of support. That didn’t happen in this case; not only did everyone continue to show up, but every time any of us went anywhere, we met someone who either wants to garden, has education in gardening or wants to donate to a “green” project. After a series of meetings at Wohlner’s on Sundays (great food at the deli and the café mocha with an extra espresso shot is unbelievable), both FBNA and LNA agreed to apply for the Mayor’s Grant and use it to create the garden. As soon as the ground thawed enough to work it, we started spending our Saturdays there, pulling weeds, breaking ground, building raised beds and bringing in nursery soil.

This is another time when most people bow out, but once again, not only did that not happen, more people started showing up. Not only people like me (my kitchen garden would make a Master Gardener weep: I have a crop of weeds that is unparalleled in this hemisphere. There are some plants in there somewhere, but since I can’t tell which ones they are, I just water it all without prejudice), but people like Brian Henkel, who is an engineer; Gail Gladstone, who is a landscape architect; Kristi Lee, who also has a degree in landscape architecture; Carol Haas, who works for a local nursery; Kat Vinton, who has one of those yards people drive by just to admire; Amber Dunn and Andy Thompsen, who own the adjacent properties; and Randy Roy, who is a technology analyst and built our website.

As often happens, we didn’t realize how much time and expense a community garden actually takes until we were already in the middle of it. But instead of letting the lack of funds stop us, people actually went out and spent their own money in advance of the grant to keep us on schedule. The amount and quality of help we have received is astounding: Douglas County Corrections let us take advantage of their “Work Release” program, Runza and Little King donated sandwiches to us on two occasions, Menard’s let us open a credit line with them, FBNA gave us an advance against the grant money, LNA let us send our nursery bills to them in advance of the grant money, the Neighborhood Center gave us a PO box to use as our mailing address, and Keep Omaha Beautiful loaned us gardening tools. Hanscom Neighborhood Association offered us space in their newsletter and Gifford Park and Bemis Park Associations sent their community garden Coordinators to give us advice.

We have 22 beds that we’re renting for $10.00 and six hours’ volunteer time per season. The Hands To Harvest Community Garden is located at 1113 S. 31st Ave in the Ford Birthsite Neighborhood area. We’re planning a big party in June; stop by and tell us what you think!

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Sponsors

The Hands to Harvest Community Garden would like to thank our supporters for helping to make this garden possible.