Gardening competition educates, instills confidence in Nebraska students

· 3 min read

Gardening competition educates, instills confidence in Nebraska students

The Biggest Grower winner, Yve Nelson of Lincoln, shows off her competition garden.
The Biggest Grower winner, Yve Nelson of Lincoln, shows off her competition garden.

Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Beyond School Bells, successfully concluded The Biggest Grower Competition Aug. 11.

The competition was free to all Nebraska high school students entering the ninth through 12th grades this fall 2022. Twelve students participated this year. Each student was given a Biggest Grower T-shirt, a copy of “The New Gardener’s Handbook” by Daryl Beyers, a gardening multi-tool, seeds, stickers and instructions on how to get started.

Starting May 25, each student was placed into one of three teams that met weekly for the first five weeks via Zoom. Additionally, Garden mentor, William Anderson, a plant and landscape systems major, met with participants virtually every week. Students received educational content and participated in discussions about garden activities, challenges and ideas over the 11-week, summer competition. Topics included garden planning and preparation, soil care and compost, water and plant response, plant nutrition, environmental stress, insects and diseases, distribution channels and marketing of fresh food products, and careers in horticulture.

Participants planted, grew, cultivated, harvested and distributed their fresh specialty crops and competed alongside other Nebraska students to find out who would be The Biggest Grower.

On June 17, the university and Stacy Adams, program director, hosted the participants and their families on campus for The Biggest Grower Day. The day was filled with different plant activities including propagations, take-home hydroponic system building, drawing landscape designs, and an introduction to different scientific tools, hosted by Sam Wortman, associate professor of agronomy and horticulture. The day ended with a tour of East Campus.

The Biggest Grower winner, Yve Nelson of Lincoln, expressed gratitude to everyone involved in the program and for the opportunity to participate.

“I had been wanting to learn how to garden, so this was the perfect educational opportunity for me,” Nelson said. “I had ups and downs but really enjoyed the whole experience. Seeing the garden grow, gave me a sense of joy, knowing that I did this.”

The results of the 2022 competition were announced Aug. 17. Nelson was The Biggest Grower with 892 ounces of produce and 90 floral stems for a combined total of 1,522 ounces. McKenzie Lucas of Nickerson, Nebraska, was runner-up with 120.3 ounces of produce and 28 floral stems for a total of 316.3 ounces. Sable Gray of Lincoln was third with 26.7 ounces of produce and 38 floral stems for a total of 292.7 ounces. The winner, runner-ups and honorable mentions were awarded gift cards.

The program will be offered again next spring and summer starting in May. Learn more about the competition.

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