MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginians can again sign up for free vegetable seeds and gardening instruction from the Grow This: West Virginia Garden Challenge, a program of the West Virginia University Extension Family Nutrition Program.
Sign-ups opened on New Year’s Day and will run until January 31, 2022. All West Virginia residents are eligible. Participants just need to fill out a short sign-up survey.
“The Grow This program has expanded each year, and we’re sure 2022 will be our most successful year yet,” said Kristin McCartney, WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program specialist and assistant professor. “We’re especially excited to introduce a crop our participants have never grown before.”
Grow This crops for 2022 will be Roma tomatoes, cucumbers and Brussels sprouts. Participants have grown tomatoes and cucumbers in years past, but this will be the program’s first time attempting sprouts, which are a cool weather crop.
In addition to complimentary seeds, Grow This participants receive a weekly email newsletter and compete in contests on the Grow This Facebook page. The Facebook page also allows gardeners to connect with WVU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources experts, who host regular live chats. To find out more, visit facebook.com/growthiswv.
“Although most people join to receive free seeds, the community that has sprung up around Grow This is really the most exciting part,” McCartney said. “It’s so rewarding to see people go from complete beginners to experienced gardeners, feeding their families fresh vegetables from their own backyards.”
Grow This launched in 2018 with a few hundred participants for its first few years. But in 2020, the launch coincided with statewide COVID-19 lockdowns, which resulted in nearly 25,000 West Virginians joining the program. Grow This saw similar success in 2021.
The program has been so successful that it has even been replicated by other universities. Oregon State University created the Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge, now in its third year, after seeing how well it worked in West Virginia.
WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.