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. In addition to the forest guilds, our project includes a full-sized, research-based outdoor classroom for kids of all ages, an extensive pollinator garden, and over 50 community garden plots. We have a vision of a different way to think about and value public space as a community. To create that inclusive commons that we seek, we are building out this piece of land by teaching each other the value and possibilities of food, play and ecological resilience.
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. 2020, our sixth growing season, has been an amazing journey. We are now an official non-profit, the volunteer program is in full swing, and all the pieces are in place for some real depth of program offerings in 2021. If you have an idea of something you’d like to see, please share it with us!
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. 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 foster the abundant earth which supports all life, lifelong.