As fast as fad diets come and go, faithful foodies, vegans, carnivores, and even the sometimes hard to understand world of raw consumers can all agree on one thing, and that is we should all be eating more fruits and vegetables. That should be easy enough, right? I mean, who doesn’t love fresh summer watermelon juice dripping off of their elbows, or a tomato so sweet and crisp you just sink your teeth into it like an apple?

A quick gander at a weekly circular indicates that an in-season, hydroponically grown, slightly waxy, chemically bathed hybrid tomato is on sale this week…and still incredibly expensive. Red bell peppers are $1.20 each. My favorite recipe for red peppers calls for six!

Growing our own is clearly the most cost effective, healthful choice. And did you know that the average sized human burns about 350 calories an hour gardening? So you’re doing even more good for your body than just filling it with delicious nutrients and adorning it in a glorious farmer’s tan.

So, no problem! I’ll just hop out to my garden and – wait. I don’t have a garden. You either, huh?

Urban Farmers

So how does one go about acquiring a bit of earth?

Renters, apartment dwellers, and ye of pitiable lands rejoice, for Omaha has a rich and thriving Community Garden scene.

I spoke with Kurt Goetzinger, founder of Benson community gardens, who told me “Before I purchased the land and started the garden 4 years ago, I had grown a tomato and a pepper. That’s it! I’ve come a long way, and that’s thanks to the community we’ve developed.”

And the community thanks him right back. In addition to providing the space, Goetzinger planted a 400 square foot neighborhood garden along the perimeter of the land. The bonus garden boasts beautiful produce that he offers free for passers-by to pick. The only stipulation is that they take only what they need.

Take a tour

Kurt tells me that this is the time to become active with your local garden. It more typically occurs to us in the spring, when seeds adorn the aisles of every grocery store and convenience shop we wander, or in the summer when we wish we had planted and could enjoy the harvest. He explains that each garden has its own set of rules and regulations, pesticide and fertilizer options, and code of conduct. This is the time to find a place with a location you can get to regularly, as you will be in charge of all of your own upkeep. A mess in your plot means weeds in everyone’s plots, meaning nobody wants to barter their squash for your snap peas come harvest.

You might find yourself already on a waiting list at your top spot, but take heart. Occasionally, someone will abandon a plot due to a move, injury, or it being more of a time investment than they had anticipated.

It is an investment, but the payoff is astronomical. Not only do you find your health improving, but you’re creating friendships, reducing your reliance on factory-farmed, nutritionally-bankrupt frankenfoods, and increasing the property value of everything surrounding your garden.

The simple act of planting a garden is a huge quality of life boost for everyone in our city, and one you should be proud of.

How do I get involved?

Once you’ve located a garden you would like to be a part of, contact the organizer for a tour and for information on what the garden might need. Even if you aren’t interested in planting, donations of land, healthy soil, and gardening tools are always welcome.

I asked Kurt why, with his then limited knowledge of gardening, would he choose to undertake such a venture. He replied simply “To create something beautiful. Something that only added value to our community.”

Let’s all put that on our to-do list.

Benson Community Gardens

1302 North 60th Street

Find one of the other many Omaha-area community gardens by searching online.

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