October 9, 2017
The Big Garden is excited to announce that it has paid off the mortgage to its property at 5602 Read Street in Omaha, NE. This comes just a year and a half after purchasing the property in March of 2016. This is the first property owned by The Big Garden and its parent, United Methodist Ministries. The Big Garden was able to pay off the mortgage in full thanks to a generous gift from First United Methodist Church, a few key individuals, and locally-based foundations.
The Big Garden previously operated out of a rented office space in downtown Omaha, sharing it with the Missouri River District of the United Methodist Church. This space had no running water, no growing space, and only a small garage. Staff struggled to maintain seedlings in several off-site locations and could not give them the daily attention that was required. Staff also struggled to properly care for equipment without access to running water or adequate storage.
Then, the seeds of a dream were planted. Nathan Morgan, Executive Director, says, "Five years ago I was bouncing around in our old Ford pickup with Matt Freeman our current Development Director when we began to talk about a dedicated site for The Big Garden. We envisioned an urban farm campus with land to grow fresh produce, space for staff, and a barn to store equipment and build garden beds. We knew that we could do so much more to grow healthy food, healthy kids and healthy communities if we just had the space and infrastructure. That vision stayed with us and was shared by the rest of The Big Garden staff and board." Thus, the search for a permanent home began.
In the fall of 2015, after exploring several locations in North Omaha that proved untenable, a little serendipity came into play. The campus search committee stumbled upon a for-sale property just north of 56th & Sorensen Parkway. The property, nearly two acres in size, was home to a florist and garden nursery business at the time. The owner was looking to retire. The buildings included: two greenhouses, a 2800 square ft. garage, an 1100 square ft. outbuilding, and an 800 square ft. home. "In March of 2016, we closed on The Big Garden Campus. It was a leap of faith to move into this permanent home. Now, a little over a year later, I'm happy to announce that we have paid off the property and are debt free," says Morgan.
Since moving to the new location, The Big Garden has planted several on-site demonstration gardens, rebuilt the two greenhouses, completed minor interior renovations, grown thousands of perennials, herbs & vegetables, established bees & chickens, and hosted numerous workshops, volunteer groups, and events. The Big Garden's ultimate goal for the property is to create an urban agriculture "hub" where people will come to learn the skills necessary to grow, cook, and preserve garden produce.
Morgan says, "The generosity of everyone that supported this vision is humbling. We are grateful to all the individuals, churches and foundations that donated, sometimes sacrificially to bring make this dream a reality."