Beginning Farmers for our Collective Future

Every day, I’m thinking about Crops’ future and how we can make a greater impact in Lincoln. At the same time, I find myself thinking about how our civilization can navigate the rapid disruptions from climate change that we must face collectively. These things are not unrelated. While the earth shows signs of dramatic ecological shifts and deterioration, at the moment, Lincoln remains buffered from the immediate effects. We carry on mostly unaware. Our grocery stores remain stocked, water flows out of the taps and business proceeds as usual.

Discussions are happening every day in Lincoln that will impact how well prepared we are for the unknowns of our collective future. City planners are projecting population growth 30-40 years down the road; leaders of local universities are positioning their schools to be responsive to the hopes and dreams of wide-eyed college freshman who have yet to be born; and tech industry up-starts are placing bets on Lincoln’s ability to supply educated, passionate workers to realize their business dreams.

But look beneath the surface of our fair city and you can imagine a different picture in our future. Take, for example, the current reality in Cape Town, South Africa: “Day Zero”, when municipal taps will be shut off due to severe water shortages, is rapidly approaching, leaving millions to wonder, will there be water tomorrow? On average, 22 million refugees across the globe are migrating from extreme weather events and climate-related disruptions. By 2050, major disruptions to agricultural production are predicted, including in the United States, where California could see as much as 40% decline in outputs.

And yet, our conversations rarely imagine a future colored by the need to plan for the impact of climate change. What happens if Nebraska is no longer capable of being part of the American breadbasket? Who will step up to grow our food when the current farmers are too old to carry on the physicality required of them? What options do we have when our most valuable resource—arable soil—has been degraded beyond use?

Our work at Community Crops focuses on training the next generation of farmers who will heed the call to work the land and feed our families. For 12 years, Crops staff and partners have provided comprehensive training to beginning farmers so that they can start successful small farm businesses in our area. In that time, 63 new farm businesses have been created, 23 existing farmers have improved their businesses and 250 have attended our classes.

In addition, we are working hard to open up opportunities for beginning farmers to utilize unused land within the city of Lincoln to grow food. Working closely with city agencies, and within the framework of the recently adopted Lincoln Environmental Action Plan (LEAP), Crops’ has played a leading role in developing novel approaches to urban farming. These efforts include converting city owned property into small farms, modifying zoning codes to ease restrictions and researching models from other cities.

Whether or not this work will be enough to avert the challenges ahead of us, is unclear. But, it is vital that we continue this effort. Your support is essential! Make a donation to Community Crops today so that we can be there for future farmers and eaters!