This project is the first of its kind in the State of Nebraska and consists of three components: a soil health demonstration, community garden and pollinator habitat. The goals are to maintain profitability while improving soil health, increasing awareness of the importance of pollinator habitat, and providing a community garden for the citizens of York.
Year one was fruitful with an inaugural group of gardeners in the community garden. The triticale growing season and harvest on the soil health demonstration acres was very successful. The harvested seed was contracted to a cover crop company for use in their cover crop mixtures. The triticale harvest was followed with a manure application and cover crop seeding. The cover crops were grazed in mid-September and reseeded to a winter cover crop in October. Soil health will be measured through rigorous soil and plant biomass sampling. As the soil health improves, so will the soil sample results.
The district has also been building soil health in the pollinator area by keeping vegetation growing most months. Even if vegetation on the land surface was not growing, the roots and soil bacteria below ground were thriving. Pollinator seed was planted in the fall with the goal of seeing pollinators of every species doing their job in the summer.
The community garden had 11 gardeners the first year. Each one brought different resources and expertise to the garden area. A variety of fruit-bearing shrubs and trees were planted on the site to allow community groups to harvest the fruit and sell it as a fundraiser for their organizations.
An interlocal agreement was signed by both the Upper Big Blue NRD and City of York for this project to continue until 2021. The NRD and City have budgeted funds and are committed to making Project GROW a success. Two more years of funding were secured through a Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality: Source Water Protection Grant to continue the educational efforts and provide technical assistance surrounding Project GROW.