The Big Garden began in 2005 as a program of United Methodist Ministries. Initially funded by the USDA's Community Food Project, the Big Garden had a goal of creating 12 community gardens in three years. Five years later the Big Garden included 26 gardens in the metro-Omaha area and added a sister project, the Big Rural Garden, in Southeast Nebraska. Today, the Big Garden is a network of 150+ community gardens in metro-Omaha and rural and semi-rural communities in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas.
The Big Garden's mission is to cultivate food security by developing community gardens, creating opportunities to serve, and providing education on issues related to hunger.
The Big Garden is unique nationally both in terms of the large number of sites, and its partnerships with neighborhood-based congregations, schools, and non-profits. All the Big Garden sites are located on land owned by community agencies; partnering with sites to assist with initial start-up costs, ongoing program support, garden and nutrition classes for children, and by brokering collaborative relationships in the community.
United Methodist Ministries was formed in 1966 by the United Methodist Church in Nebraska. Through the years, the focus at UMM has always been addressing social justice issues in the Omaha metro area, often serving as a collaborator and bridge between non-profits. Past endeavors have included fair housing, broadcasting and after school programs; a Fair Trade/thrift shop; and Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) immigration clinic came to Nebraska in partnership with UMM. In recent years, our programming range widened geographically beyond Omaha into greater Nebraska, Kansas, and Southwest Iowa.
The Big Garden is a private 501-c3 organization, under the umbrella of United Methodist Ministries. We are governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. As a non-profit agency we rely on private donations to keep our doors open. The Big Garden is funded by the Great Plains United Methodist Conference, the Missouri River District of the Great Plains Conference, grants & foundations, and private donors.