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Grow This challenge reporting system

Hello Extension faculty and staff — and welcome to the Grow This: West Virginia Garden Challenge:

Grow This launched six years ago to promote and celebrate West Virginia’s heritage of home gardening. The campaign was small at first but blossomed during the early days of the COVID pandemic in 2020 — when people saw with their own eyes the effects of supply chain disruptions.

Participation in Grow This skyrocketed from 300 participants to over 25,000. This interest has continued and Grow This has become a program that unites Extension’s mission to support education, agriculture and health.  

While the immediate threats of the COVID pandemic have subsided, there’s a new threat to food and nutrition security. Increasing food prices are stretching all families to make difficult choices about how to feed their families. 

Out of the over 16,000 people participating in Grow This this year, 43 percent were worried about running out of food before they had money to buy more, and 36 percent didn’t have money to get more food once they ran out. It’s no surprise that the No.1 reason for participating in Grow This is to have increased food security — and reducing grocery bills comes in at No. 3.

The statewide reach and unifying mission of Grow This makes it ideal to test out collective reporting of activities and outcomes. What does that look like? Well, imagine if we were able to say something like: 

  • "WVU Extension supported production of over 100,000 pounds of produce in 50 school gardens around the state." Or,
  • "WVU Extension faculty helped 1,000 families save money on their grocery bills by preserving over 5,000 pounds worth of food." Or,
  • "WVU Extension program supported home gardeners in raising over 1 million pounds of food."
We can’t currently say any of that — because we don’t have the data to back it up. But many of these things could be achieved with common measurements and reporting systems. And that’s what the Family Nutrition Program is designing. 

First, counties will  select an activity from a list of Grow This  challenges. Some of those include:
  • Hosting a plant exchange
  • Hosting an intergenerational gardening event
  • Creating a tool library
  • Hosting a composting workshop
  • Creating composting stations, and
  • Establishing a community garden

Then you'll fill out this survey to report data about your event :

But we aren’t just asking you to be part of this experiment without the tools necessary.

That’s why we are providing each county with a Grow This kit, complete with scales for weighing produce, promotional items and educational tools for you to employ as you engage in outreach in the community. 

Inside the box you will receive: grow bags to use for container crops and digital scales to weigh produce for Grow This challenges, as well as stickers, garden markers and garden signs to give away as incentives to participants.

We are also piloting an easy-to-use reporting system to capture outcomes, which we’ll use to create both statewide and county reports. 

You’ve probably heard people say: “There are no garden mistakes, only experiments.” We hope you are willing to participate in this experiment to not only work together but to find a way to unify our missions and outcomes to show West Virginia how Extension is supporting agriculture, education and health. We look forward to seeing what you'll accomplish.

Again, here's the link for that survey: