3 min read
A Grow More, Give More demonstration garden.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Since its launch in 2020, the Grow More, Give More (GMGM) program has touched the lives of many Alabamians. Through partnership and passion for horticulture, the program reaches new successes.

At its core, GMGM is an Alabama Cooperative Extension System program that tackles food insecurity through educational programming. Bringing this issue into the light takes time, funding and collaboration.

In 2021, the Alabama Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils (ARC&D) awarded a $10,865 grant to GMGM. This donation allowed the program to extend resources to even more residents. This expansion focuses on catering to new gardeners of all ages.

“We are extremely grateful to ARC&D for funding our Grow More, Give More grant this year,” said Bethany O’ Rear, an Alabama Extension home grounds regional agent. “Their support has enabled Alabama Extension, as well as our community volunteers, to reach and recruit new gardeners throughout the state.”

Growing More

A GMGM grow kit containing every necessity for beginner gardener.

A GMGM grow kit containing every necessity for beginner gardener.

The goal for the 2021 fiscal year was to make larger impacts across the state than the prior year. One of the most fulfilling ways to do this is to educate. Approximately 37 home gardeners doubled as citizen scientists in seed testing. This allowed for larger harvest bounty increases.

Grow Kits

Another piece of GMGM’s success is their grow kits. These all-in-one containers take away the intimidation of growing vegetables by providing all the necessities for production.

Approximately 567 buckets containing seeds, soil, fertilizer and instructions were distributed this grant year. On many occasions, the ease of starting a garden using these kits gave confidence to amateur growers.

With the help of sponsorship by the Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Pursell Agri-Tech and Sungro Horticulture, these buckets assisted numerous future gardeners.

Demonstration Gardens

A vital component to spreading the wealth of home gardening knowledge is demonstration gardens. These gardens are perfect for educating the public on how to grow healthy food year-round.

Alabama Extension Master Gardener (MG) volunteers, home grounds agents and community volunteers spearhead the gardens’ efforts. The season-extending supplies enable the MG volunteers to showcase how they can recreate similar techniques at home to the public. This practice enables them to grow their own vegetables.

Dani Carroll, an Alabama Extension regional agent, said the added funds from the ARC&D grant has allowed the GMGM campaign to reach more people with Extension programming.

“We enjoy the addition of grow buckets, soil, plants and seed,” Carroll said. “Our demonstrations and giveaways have encouraged many people to grow their own food for the first time.”

Additionally, 11 of the demonstration gardens were upgraded using the ARC&D grant. These locations now feature pop-up greenhouses, insect and shade cloth protection, frost blankets, hoop supports, cold frames, electric soil cables and multi-season plant supports.

Giving More

A GMGM volunteer distributing grow kits.

A GMGM volunteer distributing grow kits.

The rate of charitable contributions also increased in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. More than 23,000 pounds of produce were donated by MG volunteers. Food charities, families and neighbors, quite literally reap the benefits of the GMGM program.

Carol Dorsey, a Mobile County MG volunteer, said their demonstration garden provides hundreds of pounds of produce to charities regularly. Nicknamed the DREAM garden, they regularly donate to Haven of Hope recovery for women, James T. Strickland Youth Center, Central Presbyterian Church and Wings of Life Recovery.

“With new season-extending equipment purchased through the ARC&D grant, we have greater growing options going forward,” Dorsey said. “We all feel that the acts of gardening and sharing with others make our lives richer.”

Based on the average fresh produce retail value (i.e, $1.85), approximately 3,892 Alabama families were provided with donations totaling $43,210.45.

Continuing a Dual Mission

From its inception, Grow More, Give More is a dual-mission project – education and giving back to those that need it most. The ARC&D grant advances this effort in ways that would have never been possible prior to the partnership.

To learn more about the GMGM program, visit the Alabama Extension website at www.aces.edu.