Urban Agriculture Takes Root in Omaha with City Sprouts

When you envision Omaha, Nebraska you might think of Lewis and Clark or world-renowned steaks. It might surprise you with its growing urban agriculture movement and the world’s largest indoor desert housed within the world’s largest glazed geodesic dome. That is not the only dome in Omaha, however. Tucked into a residential neighborhood on an unsuspecting ½ acre lot in the Orchard Hill neighborhood is a 26’ Growing Dome greenhouse at the headquarters of City Sprouts.

Home to Omaha’s oldest community garden, founded in 1995, City Sprouts is upholding a legacy of neighbors helping and uplifting each other. This non-profit organization is building local sustainable food systems and providing education and employment to the surrounding community through urban agriculture.

Man tending to an urban garden with a Growing Dome in the background

We got the insider details from Shannon Kyler, who has been part of the City Sprouts organization for 8 years. She manages the north community gardens and volunteers. This involves everything from taking care of chickens, watering the Dome and gardens, administrative duties, leading volunteers, and providing tours. She is a busy gal! We are very thankful that she was able to take the time to tell us about all the great things happening within the organization.

“We have grown over the last nearly 30 years to include an education center, 7 acre farm, 10 staff members, and programs that serve all ages in our neighborhoods and the greater Omaha area.” Shannon Kyler

Urban Agriculture Grants

In 2020, City Sprouts received generous funding through the Conagra Brands Foundation “Nourish our Community” grant program. While the grants provided through this foundation are prioritized to local non-profit organizations, in 2023 20 non-profits across 10 states. This grant has allowed City Sprouts to obtain a Growing Dome and expand their gardening capabilities and garden educational programs year-round! “We were dreaming about the greenhouse for a while and were so thankful that Conagra helped us make it happen!” said Shannon.

Due to their non-profit status, Growing Spaces also provided a 5% discount off the cost of the Growing Dome Kit. We offer this standard to all non-profits and schools that are getting a Growing Dome greenhouse.

Constructing the Dome was a team-building experience. With the help of a Growing Spaces supervisor, the team built the structure in one week despite the summer heat. To help combat the summer heat, City Sprouts opted to add two electric fans in place of the standard solar fan that comes with a 26′ Growing Dome. They also opted for an attic fan upgrade in place of the two upper vents. Providing active ventilation is key in extremely warm climates.

A Fresh Take on the Community Garden

Omaha has a growing urban agriculture movement and City Sprouts has a unique community garden model. The usual community garden model involves providing community members with a designated plot that they are responsible for planting, caring for, and harvesting. This model can be intimidating for even the most experienced gardeners while the City Sprouts model makes fresh, healthy food available for everyone. They have taken a communal approach. The gardens are planted and maintained by staff and volunteers and ANYONE is welcome to harvest the crops. “We have seen great success with this model and the majority of folks coming through the garden to harvest are neighbors.” Shannon Kyler

The dome is part of their North Community garden, which is open to the public from sunrise to sunset 365 days a year. City Sprouts are taking our motto of “Gardens That Thrive 365” to another level! Their farm grew over 15,000 pounds of produce last year. Almost all of that food, the produce not harvested by community members themselves, is distributed throughout the larger community via a partnership with Food Bank for the Heartland.

“When kids get to see how a potato grows, or how much more delicious a strawberry straight off the vine is—or a neighbor comes and picks tomatoes and tells me about how it reminds her of spending time in her grandmother’s garden. Those are magic moments. They connect with us and stick in our memories. We go and tell our friends and family. Food isn’t just fuel or calories…it’s a through line that connects all of us.”

Shannon Kyler

Importance of Education

Besides the food grown for the community in and around the Growing Dome, City Sprouts has various hands-on gardening programs to teach and empower community members of all ages. Home Grown Kids is an 8-week program that teaches everything from healthy soil and planting techniques to sustainability and conservation practices. In addition, Growing Gardeners is an adult workshop that teaches many of the same topics. Donations are suggested, but no one is turned away for the inability to pay. They also have after-school gardening programs at two local middle schools, family classes, a paid farming internship program, a free community fridge and pantry, and so much more

The Growing Dome is more than just a community garden. “Having such a unique and beautiful structure tucked into a neighborhood that, historically, hasn’t gotten a lot of care and positive attention from the wider city, is really a point of pride,” said Shannon. It provides people with a sense of joy and wonder to be able to walk into a warm, bright space full of life. Including the goldfish in the above-ground pond which have become very popular! Shannon’s favorite part of the Dome is to walk into the greenhouse on a sunny but cold winter day and nibble on fresh herbs and greens. 

The Future of City Sprouts

The City Sprouts organization is not done yet! Their mission is evolving and growing to serve more community members. They are analyzing their organization through a DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) lens. It is important to create a space where everyone feels safe and welcome. They are taking steps to make sure that everyone can participate in the urban agriculture programs, eliminating physical barriers, and providing representation within the organization’s staff, board members, and volunteers. 

Shannon stressed the importance of working together. She stated that “We can’t do it alone”. City Sprouts partners with many other organizations within the area to better serve the community. They are vulnerable to supply chain disruptions, as much of their food supply is shipped long distances. This larger local food movement they are a part of is supporting the local economy, providing culturally relevant foods, as well as creating a secure food supply. City Sprouts is proud to work with the following organizations: The Big Garden, Whispering Roots, Blazing Star Seed Cooperative (saving local seeds!!), and Free Farm Syndicate.

City Sprouts employees and volunteers wearing black Conagra Brands shirts standing in front of their newly constructed 26' Growing Dome Greenhouse

You can learn more about and support City Sprouts by following them on Facebook and Instagram @omahasprouts! If you are in the Omaha area stop by and visit, volunteer, and attend their classes to learn about urban agriculture or donate to their cause. Any and all support is greatly appreciated!

author avatar
Shelby Lucero Social Media Coordinator
I graduated from Fort Lewis College in 2018 with a BA in Environmental Studies. I began working for Growing Spaces in August of 2020 and have had the pleasure of working in many departments. I enjoy being a part of this amazing team that helps others achieve their dream gardens! In my spare time, I enjoy working in the 15’ Growing Dome that my husband and I share.

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