Prairie Pines

Lincoln -- Last month Prairie Pines held an open house to allow the public to see this 145 acre gem of trees and prairies a few miles east of Lincoln. It is the decades-old project of forestry professor Walt Bagley and his late wife, Virginia, who bought the property as a farm and turned it into an arboretum. Professor Bagley, age 97, still lives on the property and is active in directing and maintaining it.

Twenty-three years ago the Bagleys gave ownership of Prairie Pines to the University of Nebraska Foundation. The university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, where Walt Bagley once taught, manages it for the foundation. More recently, part of the site has become a project of Community Crops, a local non-profit that uses it for training up to eight would-be organic vegetable farmers, before they locate their own sites and strike out on their own.

Another non-profit organization, Prairie Pines Pals, works to preserve the property, give tours, and promote the site as a part of a greenbelt surrounding Lincoln. Prairie Pines, like all such sites, is threatened by urban development sprawl.

Prairie Pines is unique in that it seems to be the only example in which the university works with organizations such as Community Crops to encourage entrepreneurship in developing a local industry based on fresh, healthy foods. There are many others doing this on a strictly private basis; it is good to see the university lending a hand through this arrangement. May it lead to more assistance and cooperation in the Lincoln area.