It’s time to sign up for free seeds from the Grow This: West Virginia Garden Challenge.
But the popular program is giving out more than seeds this year — it will also
hand out prize money to improve West Virginia communities.
In conjunction with its 2024 seed giveaway, the West Virginia University Extension Family Nutrition Program is launching the “Grow This Throwdown,” a statewide competition that aims to get West Virginians to move more, grow their own food and crush hunger in our state.
Participants will complete challenges to earn points for their counties. Some challenges will be simple, like donating vegetables to a food pantry. Others will be more involved, like organizing a seed library or building a Grow This-themed float for a local parade. The competition is supported by grant funds for these types of educational programs.
"We want our challenges to help communities. The challenges aren’t just for fun, they are strategies for building long-term nutrition security. We hope the challenges will encourage connection around issues of hunger and nutrition,” said Kristin McCartney, Extension specialist and SNAP-Ed coordinator with the WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program.
Growers will log their challenges through a new website, designed in conjunction with the WVU Food Justice Lab. Scores will be updated via a weekly leaderboard on the Grow This Facebook and Instagram accounts. At the end of the competition, counties with the most points will earn funds to improve their communities. Funds for this competition are provided through generous donations from several local foundations.
As always, Grow This is free to anyone in West Virginia who fills out a short online survey. Seeds should arrive in the mail in April.
Since this year’s approach to Grow This is so different, the program will send out new varieties of the same vegetable seeds participants grew in 2023: carrots, peppers and kale.
“Our thinking is, if you participated in Grow This 2023, you’ve already got a leg up on the competition. You learned how to grow these crops and probably have ideas of how to do it better this time,” McCartney said. “It’s like training for a marathon.”
Grow This started in 2018 and, for its first few years, had only a few hundred participants. Interest in the program exploded during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns led people to find solace in new hobbies, like gardening.
In 2023, the program provided seeds to more than 60,000 state residents. Grow This also set a record for the “world’s largest gardening lesson” in July 2023 at a West Virginia Black Bears baseball game in Morgantown. Over 1,300 fans attended the game, more than double the previous record.
The sign-up survey is now open at growthiswv.org/signup2024.
In previous years, the survey closed within days of its launch due to high demand.
“Even if you don’t receive free seeds, you can still participate in Grow This Throwdown challenges and compete for prizes,” McCartney said.
WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
To learn more about WVU Extension visit extension.wvu.edu.
WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program
Call 1.855.WVU.NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.
Follow @ WVUToday on Twitter.