Innovator’s Spotlight: From Farming to Gardening

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Dwight Trumble of rural Springfield, Neb., says that he is retired. It’s true; his son Tim has taken over the family’s corn and soybean farming operation near Springfield. But, is a farmer really “retired” if he still helps grow thousands of pounds of fresh produce each year?

This is the fourth year that long-time Sarpy County Farm Bureau members Dwight and Bette Trumble have hosted the Springfield United Methodist (SUM) Big Garden on their suburban Omaha farm. SUM Big Garden is an extension of a United Methodist Ministries program that works to supply fresh and nutritious food to low-income families in the Omaha metro area.

Most cities have economically distressed areas, and inner city Omaha is no exception. Living in a land of abundance, it’s sometimes hard to believe that families in every county of the United States go to bed hungry. According to the World Hunger Education Service’s most recent statistics 17.2 million households, approximately one in seven families are food insecure; they lack physical or economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food.

Volunteers who tend SUM Big Garden come and go as they please. They grow everything from arugula to zucchini, even crops like okra and turnips. Dwight handles the successive plantings of sweet corn.

“There aren’t many things better than fresh sweet corn. Plus, it is simple to cook and doesn’t require any special ingredients,” Dwight said. Bette adds, “we’ve found that a lot of the people who receive the produce don’t know how to cook vegetables like eggplant or even fresh cauliflower, so this year we are giving out recipes that also include instructions about how to clean and prepare the vegetables.”

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Dwight and Bette give much of the credit for the Garden’s success to Kris Betts, the woman who coordinates volunteers, planting and harvesting, and often delivers the produce.

“Unfortunately, the foods that low-income households find most affordable tend to be the least nutritious.” Betts said. “We intend to change that. I know first-hand how this food affects the people that receive it. You can see the need in their faces and you can just feel the gratitude.” Kris estimates that weekly deliveries to churches and food pantries will top 16,000 pounds this year.

Those that work in the Big Garden receive as much pleasure growing and delivering the food, as do those who receive it.

“It’s not about us. It’s about God’s grace and taking care of each other. We have been blessed with this land, how can we not share it?” Bette Trumbull said.

Springfield United Methodist (SUM) Big Garden
Springfield United Methodist (SUM) Big Garden is an extension of United Methodist Ministries (UMM) Big Garden Program, a network of over 80 community and rural gardens throughout Nebraska and Kansas. UMM launched The Big Garden Program in 2005, with grant assistance from the USDA’s Community Food Project. Their mission is to improve nutritional health and facilitate community development by building the capacity of community organizations, congregations and schools through the act of gardening. The Big Garden has received a number of awards, including the 2008 Fiskar’s Orange Thumb, 2010 Best of Omaha Midtown and 2008 Sierra Club Faith in Action Award.

For more information visit SUM Big Garden’s new Facebook page. Also visit United Methodist Ministries Big Garden website at, the USDA Community Food Project website at and Cooking Matters website at

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