May 3, 2018
On Sunday, April 28th, The Big Garden held a ceremony at its campus to honor Gene & Dorrie Gage, two Nebraska farmers who donated greenhouses to the non-profit organization. The two 80’ greenhouses were dedicated in their honor.
Since the 1970s, Gene, the owner of Heartland Organics in Martell, has dedicated himself to growing organic herbs, vegetables, and perennials that feed people and restore biodiversity. In recent years, Gene has mentored a number of young farmers, food advocates, and entrepreneurs. One young farmer mentee, Cait Caughey, is now Director of Education at The Big Garden.
In Omaha, Cait and the staff at The Big Garden work to reduce hunger by teaching people the skills they need to grow, cook, and preserve fresh garden produce. However, the greenhouses on their campus were outdated, inefficient, and dangerous.
Wanting to downsize and head toward retirement, Gene had offered to sell his greenhouses to local large-scale farmers. He was days away from accepting an offer. Then one day while working in Gene's greenhouse, Cait said to him, “I loved working in this greenhouse. Sometimes I wish I still worked here.” That’s when lightning struck and Gene realized that if he divided the greenhouse in half, it would fit on The Big Garden’s Omaha campus.
The Big Garden now uses the Gage’s greenhouses to grow seedlings to donate to its program gardens, in addition to seedlings that it sells to the public to fund its programs. Since the spring of 2017, The Big Garden has grown more than 40,000 herb, vegetable, and perennial flower seedlings in the greenhouses that the Gages donated.
Nathan Morgan, Executive Director of The Big Garden says, “Gene & Dorrie’s gift has meant that thousands of low-income kids in Omaha are learning how to grow fresh food, eat healthier, and lead healthier lives. The skills that Gene has taught to young people in those greenhouses for so many years are now being multiplied at The Big Garden.”
Gene takes the long view. He says, “My former greenhouses will now be part of a laudable effort to provide food to people who need it for generations to come---not a bad legacy to leave.” Not a bad legacy at all.