At The Big Garden, we grow healthy food, healthy kids, and healthy communities. We do that by building gardens; teaching children to grow, cook, and preserve their own food; and providing education to address the systemic nature of hunger in our communities.
Our programs include:
We work with schools, faith communities, non-profits, and other organizations to start community gardens on their property. (We do not own any property except our campus at 56th & Read Street in Omaha.) Big Garden sites receive free seeds and seedlings annually, regular technical support, access to our volunteer network for projects, and educational programming in the first three years. We’ve helped to start more than 160 community gardens in Nebraska, Kansas, and Southwest Iowa.
Growing Gardeners Workshop Series
In collaboration with City Sprouts, we offer hands-on classes for gardeners of all levels. All workshops are free or low-cost. Past topics have included pollinator habitats, homemade baby food, local foods on a budget, backyard chickens, water conservation, meal planning, seed saving, fermented foods, cover crops, organic pest management, bread-baking, soup-making, and more.
Each summer, we hire young adult interns to work in childcare settings, teaching kids to grow, cook, and preserve garden produce. The interns receive extensive training in urban agriculture, food security, and working with children. The interns use our 10-week curriculum, which covers topics such as soil health and composting, companion planting, pollinators, harvesting, the food chain, cooking, food preservation, and more. In 2018, we taught at nearly 50 sites, reaching 850 kids each week.
New Roots Internship
The Big Garden offers a 12-week paid summer internship for young adults interested in organic gardening, food security, local food, and working with children. The interns receive the extensive hands-on training in gardening, food security, and classroom management that is necessary to teach low-income children and youth throughout the metro-Omaha area. The interns learn skills related to cooking, nutrition, & food preservation; garden maintenance; teaching garden classes; working as a team; working in a greenhouse; and washing, storing, & delivering produce. Many of our interns have gone on to work in fields related to gardening, food security, and education.
During the summer of 2016, we offered our first-ever onsite Nature Camp at our new campus. The weekly classes, for children ages 3-7, provide children with hands-on opportunities for learning and play in the garden. Children learn a variety of new skills based around themes such as wild salads, herbal remedies, and creatures of the garden.
Garden to Table
Through a partnership with City Sprouts, we offer Garden to Table after school classes at middle schools in Omaha Public Schools: Marrs, McMillan, Morton, Nathan Hale, Monroe, Lewis and Clark, and King Science Center. Participants learn how to grow vegetables and herbs in their school garden as well as how to properly harvest, cook, and preserve these crops through various methods. This program specifically highlights STEAM education through plant science and organic gardening techniques, nutrition, and healthy lifestyles.
Farm to School
The Big Garden Farm to School program began in Southwest Iowa through a partnership with Golden Hills RC&D in 2015. Farm to School is a national program that has three components: school garden installation, garden education, and local foods procurement. We install edible school gardens and bring our educators into the classroom to share gardening, cooking, nutrition, and preserving skills. During the growing season, food produced in the school garden is used for snacks and distributed to families for use at home. This program connects participants with their local food system as we enjoy local food snacks, meet local farmers, and even visit farms in the area.
Volunteers in Mission (VIM)
We are an accredited Volunteers in Mission site through the United Methodist Church, offering high-quality mission & education experiences in the Omaha area since 2005. Our group mission experiences are a combination of hands-on work, educational opportunities, and small-group reflection for youth and adults based around issues of hunger, poverty, and food security. We welcome groups of all sizes and varieties including youth groups, adult teams, school groups, community groups, and families. We believe strongly in educating mission teams about the intersectionality between justice issues. Our mission experiences provide teams with the tools and means to bring about change within their home communities.
Farmers Market Tours
In 2017, The Big Garden began collaborating with the Visiting Nurse's Association's Cooking Matters program to offer free tours of Omaha-area Farmers Markets. The goal is to encourage healthy, cost-effective eating that supports local farmers and connects participants to the local food system. Participants receive market bucks and recipes, meet local farmers,
The Giving Grove
In 2018, The Big Garden began a partnership with a Kansas City organization called the Giving Grove. As of the end of 2017, which is housed at Kansas City Community Gardens, had planted community orchards at 145 sites in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Through this partnership, The Big Garden planted 57 trees and 36 brambles at 7 sites around the Omaha-metro in 2018. The Big Garden will provide a lifetime of technical support and training to the folks at these sites, but the orchards belong to the partnering sites, not to The Big Garden. This means that the care of the orchards is up to a few individuals, called ‘stewards,’ at each site. The Giving Grove stewards are the backbone of this program, and altogether the 2018 stewards will help to produce more than 270,000 pounds of food over the lifetime of these trees.