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The Antelope

The Antelope

Plans for community garden grow in Kearney

antelope issue 5


Soon, Kearney may have
a community garden with access to home-grown, local produce throughout the sum- mer months.

Community gardens are trending but not a new con- cept.

“Prior to the 1960s, [com- munity] gardens were always a part of communities,” said Justin Simmons, leader of the Kearney Sustainability

Movement. “They help build healthy diets, character and, most importantly, communi- ty.”

In recent years, there has been a push toward returning to decentralized food pro- duction through communi- ty-based programs. Knowing where one’s food comes from and what went into its prod- cution has been prioritized by people across the nation.

The Kearney Sustainability Movement has set a goal to have this opportunity in Kear-

ney in the coming months. At the end of February,

KSM launched its Community Garden plan with a coordina- tion meeting. A sizable crowd gathered to discuss the bene- fits this program would bring to Kearney.

The mission for the com- munity garden is “to create
a community garden that will help educate community members on sustainability practices for people of all ages and to enhance human well-being.”

Community gardens have long been employed to im- prove diets, education and cultural opportunities, localize food production, reduce food insecurity, foster an urban ecosystem and build commu- nity.

“Our original goal was to get a garden in town to help people who live in apartments to grow their own food,” said Simmons.

Upon concerns of past failed gardens in Kearney, the plan has shifted into a pilot pro- gram to test its interest in the community.

Under this pilot program,
a majority of the food grown from the garden will be donated to area shelters and food pantries. Volunteers that help with the maintenance
of the plot and upkeep of the plants will be reimbursed with produce.

The KSM pilot program is currently planned to be locat- ed near the dog park in the northwest corner of the city near the water tower pending approval.

The quantity and scale
of the produce grown will depend on the number of volunteers that the group has to maintain it. The area that is being explored has a large area available for plots.

In addition to the Kearney Sustainability Movement spearheading this project,

other area groups have also stepped up to collaborate on this new community project.

Conservation Nebraska, Kearney Little Free Pantry, and the ReUse It Center have all signed on to support the venture.

“This project will help bring many generations of com- munity members together to create an organic fresh food source,” said Kristi Castil-

lo, founder of the ReUse It Center. “Removing barriers
to fresh food and helping educate the community on sustainable living practices are crucial to keeping our com- munity strong in the years to come.”

Food insecurity, an issue that the community gar-
den will be designed to help address in Kearney is more prevalent than one may think.

According to the American Community Survey, 1 out of every 5.7 residents live in a form of poverty and expe- rience food insecurity as a result.

“We are hoping this garden can help provide some fresh produce for our community and also be something that we can all work together on and be proud of,” said Shan- non Kramer and Erin Davis, founders of the Kearney Little Free Pantry.

In addition to growing fresh produce, KSM plans to use the garden for educational oppor- tunities for area schools and to create a composting area for local residents.

Ultimately, for this idea to become truly successful, the community garden project would need to expand.

“We are hoping that after the pilot program, we can expand and get gardens more centrally located in the city and have gardening become a larger part of the Kearney community,” Simmons said.

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