Hannah Michelle Bussa
UNO student Clarice Dombeck, a double major in Black studies and sociology, has helped start a community garden in North Omaha called Healing Roots.
“Last summer, a Karenni family grew a big, beautiful garden on a vacant lot by my house,” she said. “That is when I decided I wanted to, and began taking the steps to, start a community garden.”
Dombeck’s community garden is a co-op garden. A group of people work the land, sow the seeds, and harvest together. It is a shared spaced and experience. For those who live near the garden, the space will be a fixture in the community during the growing season.
Dombeck said community gardens are more important than the produce that is grown there.
“It makes the neighborhood more beautiful, it brings community members together, and it helps people learn new skills,” she said.
Community gardens also help make communities sustainable, both environmentally and socially.
“They feed into the ecosystem – the plant ecosystem and the community ecosystem,” Dombeck said. “It gives community members the opportunity to connect with folks that have different skill sets and different connections that they would not have otherwise.”
The name “Healing Roots” was chosen by the group, and specifically, community organizer and member Morgann Freeman was the one who submitted the idea for the name.
The garden is located in North Omaha on 24th Street, a historic part of North Omaha that is currently being revitalized by the community.
Manuel Cook, the Urban Planner and Project Lead for the North Omaha Trail, said this garden will be just a few blocks from where the trail will run.
“It will be a point along the trail and direct people to and from the trail,” he said.
Cook helped get this garden started.
“I worked with community members during my time with the City of Omaha to select the garden site, and sought an AARP grant for its construction,” he said.
Dombeck said the location in a Black neighborhood is significant.
“Community gardens are especially important to Black communities because of our historic connection to gardening and the need for healthy living that it helps fill,” she said.
She said the vision for the garden is to create something beautiful for the community and to have fun while creating it. So far, they have celebrated the Spring Equinox at the site. They have also began working to clean up the space.
With the location along the North Omaha Trail and the care from the community, the Healing Roots Garden will likely be a fixture for years to come. They also plan to do workshops for gardeners.
Cook said gardens beautify the community and bring people together.
“Clarice is a strong community leader and is organizing people to do great things,” Cook said. “North Omaha is lucky to have a leader like her!”