Urban Agriculture to Prevent Omaha Nebraska's Status as a Food Desert.

       While the world heads toward an energy paradigm shift surely to affect everyone on the planet, will the people of the Heartland be able to feed themselves? In a region which has encouraged landowners to plant crops for fuel, corn syrup, and animal feed, where are people to go for actual, food, grown on farms?  Unfortunately, Omaha's farmer's markets could not keep up with a potential growth in demand for food that doesn't cost much in transportation fuel. All Nebraskans from all walks of life, would have to look at their spacious landscapes and decide what makes sense.  Spending money on fuel to manicure our yards, may become a new form of bragging.

        As fuel and food prices rise, how will "The Good Life" here in Nebraska, be affected?  $113 a barrel oil, as of 4/20/11, should mean something to people who rely on oil for every aspect of their lives.  Nebraskans enjoy a relatively cheap rate for energy compared with the rest of the country. However, our food is shipped in from everywhere else in the world from large corporations.  To other North Americans, we are envied for our spacious landscapes. If you like land, then move to Nebraska. Yet, why don't we grow food we can eat, on the land?  Nebraska, with its own blend of tradition, politics, and culture, has managed to create one of the biggest ironies on the planet. The swath of land stretching from North Dakota down to Texas has the most fertile soil, on the planet.  Due to modern agriculture, most of this beautiful, rich soil is washing into our rivers and streams; depleting the Heartland of one of its most valuable resources, second only to the Ogalalla aquifer(a close second). Additionally, this wonderful soil we stride on is degraded every year by pesticide and fertilizer cycles.  Modern agriculture in Nebraska is run by big Ag.  Big Ag needs lots of fuel to run big machines.  Even if we were to eat what is grown in the patterned grid of Nebraska's rolling landscapes, how expensive would it be to farm quality food products for nearby cities and towns?
     
       Historically, Nebraska and the plains region as a whole, has had a roller coaster of a ride, agriculturally. The 1930's dust bowl should still be lingering in the memories of some of our grandparents. If droughts are possible in this region, Nebraskans should begin to consider how to best retain water on their property. Combine drought with high fuel prices and I don't even need to begin to explain what is possible.  These reasons are why I am addressing the subject of a new trend of retro/modern urban agriculture within Omaha. Many people in Omaha are deciding not to make a long drive to Whole Foods or any local grocery store, as often. Omahans are discovering that there is always an abandoned lot on almost everybody's block, or that they have some extra land in back which receives good sun.  I have met many great people in Omaha who are putting 2 & 2 together. All classes of people are acknowledging this necessary social phenomenon to restore what our parents remember as a neighborhood.  Omaha urban agriculture has the potential to be the best example in the country.  The agricultural products needed to farm, are literally, all around us.  A food desert is a place which doesn't sound like Omaha.  Yet, a growing majority of Omaha's population is reliant on food aid, every year.  With higher fuel prices on the horizon, urban agriculture is the only way to prevent Omaha from eating yellow corn #2.

      I am optimistic that the trend toward urban agriculture here in Nebraska will take hold and transform a culture used to surplus into a society of neighborly people. This transformation will be tough.  A new, tough mindset may need to be adopted.  "If you don't work in the garden, should we let you eat?"  To some, this may seem extreme.  To me, farming is going to be the most important skill of this century. So, go over and give your neighbor a hand with her wheelbarrow.