Ciro Cortez has worked in the restaurant industry since he was a 16-year-old dishwasher in California. Four months later, he was promoted to kitchen assistant, then to cook, and he kept rising through the culinary ranks until he was a chef in charge of an entire kitchen.
After becoming an expert in preparing cuisines including Argentinian and Italian, Ciro owned two restaurants in Florida. He sold those and was looking for a new opportunity when his daughter invited him to Nebraska.
“My daughter told me there were good-paying jobs and I should give it a try,” said Ciro. “Within two weeks, I was working at the meatpacking plant and I started selling burritos there. The people I worked with at the plant liked them very much.”
Today, he owns The Yellow Taco Truck, in Nebraska City, Nebraska, which specializes in food from where he grew up in Mexico.
Growing up on a hill overlooking North Omaha during World War II, Mary Carpenter remembers the numerous vegetable plots, called Victory Gardens, that dotted her Florence neighborhood.
“Everybody had one,” said Carpenter, the reporter’s mother-in-law. “We grew everything – asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, black raspberries, pears, even grapes. That’s what fed us and supplemented our food.”
Over the ensuing decades, many of those gardens disappeared as grocery stores started carrying seasonal produce year round. Yet 80 years later, everything old is new again.
Drive anywhere in the Omaha metro – West, North, South O, Midtown – and you’ll see a community garden or an urban farm.
Through the leaves and the debris, lies an area of meek land, ready to be improved.
“We are making sure that it is dignified for people living in communities, but it’s also a place that our Nebraska wildlife can cohabitate with us, even in the city,” Gus Von Roenn said.
At 33rd and Patrick is one of many pieces of land that Omaha Permaculture made viable again.
“We’ve touched maybe over 17 different vacant properties and try to improve them in different phases of becoming either a community garden, or a pocket park, or just a green space so people can enjoy it,” Von Roenn said.
Von Roenn is the founder of Omaha Permaculture, who said permaculture changes the way we interact with our surroundings.
In this episode, we’re joined by the team at GC Resolve to discuss the 2023 farm bill, and why it’s such a big deal. What can consumers do to impact how the farm bill is written?
This conversation tackles some of the issues around how the farm bills are structured and geared, and how despite constant conversations around the idea of supporting small farmers, little is done to actually support small farmers in the way farm insurance is structured, just for one example.
The first day of class with his freshman students at Chadron State College, Dr. Ron Bolze writes the “Dr.” prefix on the board, draws a circle around it, and then a line through it.
“Just call me Ron,” Bolze said. “We don’t need to trouble ourselves with titles.”
What Bolze does want students to focus on in the range livestock production classes he teaches is the vast potential of his students and how to look at agriculture differently – in a regenerative, open-minded way.
In his nine different courses at Chadron State, Bolze said in almost half of them he spends the first month, about eight lectures, on regenerative agriculture.
“Just as the soil is itself under threat, so is the Nebraska way of life. It seems there is nothing left for these industrial ag corporations to take but our souls.” — The RegeNEration Proclamation
As a Nebraskan attending college in the northeast, I am often faced with questions like “Where even is Nebraska?” and “What’s notable about Nebraska?” I usually give them the spiel about the College World Series, Warren Buffett, perhaps the Reuben sandwich and, if I’m lucky, I can convince them that I drove a tractor to high school.
Of course, I can’t talk about Nebraska without mentioning the abundance of corn after which our state is nicknamed. But what will we name our football team when climate change-caused drought and wildfires strip our state of viable topsoil and, consequently, the golden corn we grow? Climate change is already affecting Nebraska growers. It’s past time for our farmers to transition to regenerative agriculture practices.
A North Omaha urban agricultural facility that’s gone unused since it was built four years ago will finally be activated thanks to local Black women-led nonprofits Seventy Five North Revitalization Corp. and No More Empty Pots.
The greenhouse was constructed by Seventy Five North as part of its mixed-use Highlander Village in 2018. The ag space was to be a key cog in the complex’s Highlander Accelerator at 2112 North 30th St. The Accelerator offers educational, health, food and other resources for residents. Urban farm nonprofit Whispering Roots signed on as the greenhouse tenant with a much publicized plan for doing aquaponic and hydroponic growing at scale. That original plan did not come to fruition due to a timing issue, according to Franklin.
The prospect of finally bringing life to this long idle, two-level, 17,500 square foot resource is satisfying for all involved. There’s no lack of interest in it and recent outreach to donors and residents confirms strong buy-in from stakeholders, Seventy Five North President-CEO Cydney Franklin said.
In a basement here, and in a garage in Lincoln, two brothers are taking small steps to rid the planet of a glut of plastic refuse.
Andrew Bader, and his younger brother, Steve, make sunglasses and other products out of plastics infused with hemp fibers using high-tech 3D printers and an injection molding machine.
They say using a plant-based and biodegradable form of plastic in their Hemp3D business is as much about improving the environment as it is making a cool, marketable product that could provide full-time jobs for two farm boys looking for an alternative to growing corn and soybeans.
“The world is saturated with oil-based plastics. If we can get something that degrades faster in wider use, our world might be greener and our future a lot brighter,” said Andrew Bader, 26.
Farmers and academics at a hearing this week stressed the need for members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee to support regenerative agriculture farming practices in the upcoming farm bill in order to protect topsoil.
U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chair David Scott said he held the hearing Wednesday to discuss ways policymakers and the Department of Agriculture could help farmers incorporate regenerative agriculture practices. That investment in soil health would curb climate change and prevent a food shortage, the Georgia Democrat said.
Regenerative agriculture occurs in farming and grazing practices that focus on rebuilding organic matter in topsoil, restoring degraded soil biodiversity and improving the water cycle. All of these mitigate climate change by growing plants that capture carbon dioxide and move it into the soil.
“Conventional agriculture models are degrading American soil,” Jeff Moyer, the chief executive officer of Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, said. Rodale was a pioneer in organic farming.
For the last generation, sustainability has been the buzzword around agriculture. Now, a growing chorus is calling for a focus on “agricultural regeneration.” It’s about reclaiming the health of the soil, making our regions more food independent, and keeping our young people on the land, said Graham Christensen, the president of GC Resolve who lives near Oakland.
GC Resolve is a communication and consulting company that is working to build resilient communities. Its focus is on environmentally and economically sound principles related to agricultural production.
They emphasize erosion control, on-farm fertility, re-establishment of local & regional markets for increased food security, soil health and reduction of carbon dioxide and nitrate greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s also about generating greater opportunities for young people to get into farming. As the average age of farm operators increases, and land is auctioned to the highest bidder, more and more ownership is transitioning to large corporations, including foreign investors, Christensen said. That is not in the best interest of our national security, or of the younger generation, he said.