Grow This wants to send you seeds for the 2022 gardening season.
At the height of COVID uncertainty and isolation, everyone was looking for something to keep themselves or loved ones entertained. Very few activities in West Virginia saw as huge a resurgence of interest as gardening, and Grow This: West Virginia Garden Challenge grew explosively.
The West Virginia University Extension Family Nutrition Program started Grow This in 2018 to promote home gardening and encourage healthy eating. Extension’s network of experts plus an emphasis on fun and community interaction and just a bit of food education sprinkled in drew a few hundred participants in the first few years to develop new skills while feeding their bodies and minds.
But in 2021, Grow This participation soared—the program reached 85,000 people through families, child care facilities, and local organizations. “COVID brought awareness to food supply shortages, and people realized that gardening and cultivation are needed skills that we haven’t thought about much in recent years,” says Kristin McCartney, a specialist in the WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program. “It’s a lost art if we don’t step in and do it for ourselves.”
Interested? You can receive free seeds for three delicious new crops for 2022: cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, and Roma tomatoes. These choices allow for planting throughout the year and open up the opportunity to learn about canning and food preservation. Through the program, you’ll have access to a growing calendar and an electronic newsletter to help make sure you get to enjoy the vegetables of your labor.
“At first, we didn’t have many participants, and I didn’t think it would be worth it to continue,” McCartney says. “Then the pandemic happened and proved me wrong.” Interest in gardening and healthy food options persists, and sign-ups to join the 2022 challenge are open through the end of January on Facebook. Coordinators have a goal of 15,000 participants, and everyone from individuals to classrooms is welcome to join. When you receive your seeds, make sure to check out the Grow This Facebook page—@growthiswv—for tips and tricks, community events, and fun challenges to keep you engaged in helping your little sprouts grow.