The Southern Heights Food Forest is the first of its kind in the nation. The 2 acre space in South Lincoln is Nebraska’s first publicly accessible food forest and includes a full-sized, research-based outdoor classroom, and over 50 community garden plots. Our vision is to change the way we think about and value public space as a community. We are creating a space where entire communities and families come together to interact with each other and build relationships, a space where children can play freely while learning about nature, where we teach each other organically about life. We made a lot of progress in 2018!
It all began with a conversation in the spring of 2012. Staff from two Lincoln-based nonprofits—Community Crops and Nature Explore—asked each other, “How can we make community gardens more active spaces?” More importantly, “How can we start to transform these spaces into catalysts for real community-building?” Shortly after that initial conversation, an opportunity arose to collaborate with Southern Heights Presbyterian Church, which is host to a plot of existing community gardens managed by Community Crops.
The Southern Heights Food Forest includes a variety of elements that are changing the way we eat, play, and interact, both with each other as a community and with the landscape within which we live. The two-acre space is Nebraska’s first Food Forest and includes within that a Nature Explore outdoor classroom, a pollinator garden, and an expansion of the prior community garden. By creating a dynamic space that is based around the value of food and the outdoors, we are creating a sanctuary for community development where children can play safely, where nature is encouraged instead of thwarted, where we learn about and value the abundant earth which supports all life, and where meaningful lifelong relationships are built within the Lincoln community.