From Sprout to Sapling Part 2

In part 1 we told the story of how the Southern Heights Food Forest grew from a seed to sprout. In 2014, our sprout began to grow branches, reaching out and up. As these branches grew, our volunteers began showing their strengths as organizers and community builders. More fertile soil was added to our roots through many kind contributions from local organizations.

In October of 2014 we had our first Annual Trunk or Treat at Southern Heights Presbyterian featuring the food forest. This brought a lot of congregation and community members to our space. It was also a very successful and fun fundraiser! Thanks to Carol Ann Anderson and her team for organizing it!

Our First Trunk or Treat!

In April of 2015, our very handy congregation members Dave Barnhouse, Jim Harder and Neil Kolder built us a shed with funds generously provided by Mystic Rhodes Productions. Now we had a place to protect our tools and wheelbarrows!

Also that month, we established our first pollinator garden provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust. We had an amazing turnout and our community finally had a chance to bring the dream into reality. We sheet mulched the 400 square feet of what would later be the home of a multitude native plants and insects. At the same time we planted our first trees! Pecans! This was a big day for the Food Forest. It created stronger bonds through work and gave us the confidence to keep going!

Great turnout for setting up the pollinator beds!

In June of 2015 we continued with Elderberry, Chokecherries and Wild Plums! This was another day of fun in the sun! Not only were the Pecan trees growing but we also establish a whole new area of the food forest in our “Thicket Zone” with delicious berry and fruit bushes!

Heather and Gary planting Chokecherries

In August of 2015, Campbell’s Nursery and our volunteers installed the pathways for the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom. Campbell’s was very kind to charge us just for material costs which made it much more affordable to install this very large component of our vision. Now with these pathways in place, all community members can enjoy the benefits of outdoor education and creativity! Thanks very much to Heather Fox for her dedication to our outdoor classroom! I huge thank you to Rotary District 5650 for providing funding for the project!

So much changed in a few months!

We also came together for our first ever build party. Eleven Volunteers came together to build benches, an art easel and tables for our gathering, building and nature art areas. Once these pieces where put together and put in place, the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom became an inviting place for everyone to discover their creativity and building skills.

Building those benches!

We installed Persimmon, Paw Paw, Walnut, Hickory and Chestnut trees in November of 2015. With these trees in the ground the major components of the Food Forest where in place. Now all we needed was water, time, and mostly understory plants to complete the project! Which is what most of 2016 has been devoted to. Thanks to Bob Hendrickson of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum for his expertise in tree selection and providing us with the backbone of our great endeavor. It’s this amazing collaboration with experts and community members that have taken a flat field and turned it into an example of diversity and cooperation!

Great group of food foresters getting some trees in the ground!

As the season came to a close in 2015, so much had gotten done by pure volunteer power and community support. Our sprout had become a sapling.  In 2016, we found out how even more amazing we could become with paid staff! Check out Part 3 to bring you to our current awesomeness!

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