An Omaha Nation school garden is teaching students valuable employment skills and life lessons

Garden is an oasis in a food desert and has become national model for sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty

By: - October 30, 2023 2:18 pm

An Umoⁿhoⁿ Nation Public Schools student helps with harvesting fruits and vegetables from a student garden on Aug. 24, 2023, in Macy, Nebraska. (Photo courtesy of Umoⁿhoⁿ Nation Public Schools)

MACY, Neb. – A light rain sprinkles rows and rows of corn, beans, cucumbers, flowers. A man and a woman walk through the mud, their boots sloshing, as they stop periodically to point out and name specific plants, their faces beaming with pride.

It’s a week before the big harvest, and Suzi French and Ricardo Ariza are here to offer a reporter a tour of their pride and joy – the Umoⁿhoⁿ Nation Public Schools student garden.

“Look at how beautiful it is,” French said. “This by far is the biggest dream I ever had.”

French’s “dream” is a garden planted and tended primarily by students, first planted three years ago. Back then it was a one-acre plot. Today, the garden takes up seven acres, or more than five football fields.

For a small town with no grocery store, the garden is an oasis in a food desert and has become a model nationally for tribes seeking to practice sustainable agricultural and food sovereignty.

For the students, it provides an opportunity to learn agricultural skills, entrepreneurship and customer service – tools that school officials hope will propel them into successful careers in whatever fields they choose.

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