- Associated Press - Sunday, June 4, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Tim Rinne planted herbs near the hydrant, sweet potatoes near the sidewalk.

He scattered more than 50 nut and fruit trees - peaches and pears, apples and cherries - all over the north Lincoln block they call the Hawley Hamlet.

The chickens are on one of his properties, the beehives in another.

Most of the rights-of-way and front yards and side yards and back yards at 26th and T streets have grown together in a garden of green, an edible landscape of basil, berries, tomatoes, potatoes and pecans, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/2rgPKIN ) reported.

The families who live on the block and down the street have planted more than 100 beds that would cover two-thirds of an acre - if planted on a football field, it would stretch from sideline to sideline and about as far as a quarterback could throw from the end zone.

They each get their own garden if they want, and they each benefit from the community plots.

And all of this simply grew, in fewer than 10 years. It grew from the small tomato patch Rinne first planted, from the strawberries that replaced his grass, from the neighbors who shared his vision, from the two other homes on the block he and his wife, Kay Walter, bought and renovated, from the absentee owners he convinced to give up their yards, and from the steady supply of fresh food this inner-city block keeps producing.

It feeds pagans and Christians, gay and straight people, renters and owners, Asians and African-Americans.

Rinne didn’t invite like-minded urban farmers to help cultivate Hawley Hamlet.

“This is not an artist’s colony. We’re just working with the people who live here.”

But the Hamlet is nearly full. They’re running out of places to plant, even after digging up a driveway to plant more blackberry bushes.

“We’ve probably done about as much as we possibly can. There are too many tree roots and too much shade to do too much more. But, my god, there’s the entire city of Lincoln out there.”

And Rinne will share the Hamlet with Lincoln next month, during walking tours of the Hawley Neighborhood hosted by NeighborWorks Lincoln.

Earlier this year, the nonprofit worked with a planning class from the university, and gave the students a tour of the area, just northeast of downtown. It went so well it decided to offer tours during its annual summer open house.

“That was a good way to introduce them to what NeighborWorks does. And we’ve used that same idea to show off what we’ve done here,” said Marty Lee, operations director.

NeighborWorks has renovated and replaced problem properties all over Lincoln, but its efforts have revitalized Hawley.

“We’ve done a ton. We’ve done rehab, we’ve done new construction, we’ve provided homeownership assistance, and that also provides rehab funds,” Lee said. “There’s probably more than 40 structures that we’ve had an impact on in some way.”

The tours will include the $6 million Antelope Square, a 24-town house development NeighborWorks is building near 23rd and Q streets in a partnership with Assurity Life Insurance.

They will include some of the properties NeighborWorks has rejuvenated, and they will include the Hawley Hamlet.

Rinne will have a lot to show and share, like the berry bushes, grape arbors and espalier apple trees, so symmetrical they look like candelabras. And the year-round hoop houses, the 100-foot patch of peas between the street and sidewalk, and the university students who are conducting soil and crop studies here, to better understand urban agriculture.

And his desire to see the garden grow, beyond this block and into other neighborhoods.

“We want this idea to spread and to morph. There’s no standard template for how you get neighbors together to garden. This is by definition a dynamic process; you never know what’s going to happen.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com


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