Squash, bamboo, cucumbers, mushrooms and eggplants are being tended with care by Karen refugees in a first of its kind communal garden in Lincoln. The Karen culture supports the sharing of plots of land and labor for the use of all.

“For those who worked in agriculture before immigrating, it builds a comforting connection between their new lives and their former selves,” Ailyne Swartz Taylor, Community Gardens manager said.

Community gardens are one of many projects Community Crops sponsors in the capital city. It’s a non-profit organization that provides education, advocacy and experiences to grow local food.

About 6,500 Karen are living in Nebraska, more than 1,500 in Lincoln. They are refugees from Burma and Thailand where they are the subject of persecution and ethnic cleansing by the Burmese government. Many lived in Thailand refugee camps before settling in the state.

“We are thankful that you are doing so much to start this garden and give us a place to grow food and teach our children how to grow vegetables,” Htee Moo, Karen community elder said.

With funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Knyaw Garden is a collaboration with the Karen Society and the Asian Community and Cultural Center.

“The garden will serve many families that look forward to passing along their agriculture traditions,” Taylor said.

The garden is located a half block south of 15th and South Streets in Lincoln.

Community Crops is always looking for new garden locations that can be developed along with volunteers to manage the garden locations. For more information go to info@communitycrops.org