My Vision for an Empowered, Sustainable Community

by Ingrid Kirst, Executive Director of Community CROPS

“Whether you live in an apartment, in the suburbs, on a farm, or anywhere in between, growing food is the first step toward a healthier, more self-reliant, and ultimately more ecologically sane life. Gardening may seem like just a hobby to many people, but in fact growing food is one of the most radical things you can do: Those who control our food control our lives and when we take that control back into our own hands, we empower ourselves toward autonomy, self-reliance, and true freedom.” – Heather Flores in Food Not Lawns

At Community CROPS, we talk about helping families grow healthy food and live sustainably as our mission, and implementing this takes many forms. Community gardens, farmer training programs, classes and youth garden education are all parts of the solution but Community CROPS is always looking for innovative ways to grow the local food movement through education and new local food sources.

The Southern Heights Food Forest is an exciting new venture from Community CROPS, Nature Explore and Southern Heights Presbyterian Church, which will be a showcase for Lincoln and a model for additional food growing projects. Southern Heights already has a community garden on their property at 40th and Old Cheney Road, and the Food Forest project will add more garden plots, larger spaces for growing food for market, an outdoor classroom and a food forest.

The food forest part is the most exciting new project from my perspective, as it will provide a longer season and more diverse palette of local foods for our community. It will mimic a forest design with multiple layers of plants from root crops to vines to trees. Plants are healthier and easier to maintain in this diverse environment, as they provide multiple benefits to each other. Some plants will provide food for bees, butterflies and birds. Other plants will improve the soil and suppress weeds.

The food forest will also be a healthy and beneficial environment for humans. Imagine wandering through the food forest sampling serviceberries, fresh picked sorrel or Good King Henry (both tasty perennial greens). Later in the season, you will be able to pick juicy peaches, pawpaws and apples right off the trees. While you’re at the Food Forest, you’ll also be able to learn about how you can grow these same plants in your yard, what care they need and where you can procure them. We want the food forest to be an inspiration for everyone to expand their definition of “edible foods,” and to share with each other.

I look forward to the development of the entire food forest project as the permanent food growing area will be a delicious addition to our community and an inspiration for edible landscaping across Lincoln. It’s all part of taking back our food supply and connecting with each other for meaningful change.