Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Adams, S., and James, T. (2022). The Biggest Grower-A youth gardening competition for growing specialty crops and urban farmers. Nebraska Extension.


Copyright 2023, Adams and James, Used by permission.



Youth today have tendencies for unhealthy lifestyles, being sedentary, consuming high fat diets low in fruits and vegetables, all contributing to child obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and precedence for life-long health concerns. For rural and economically disadvantaged urban households, poor diet is directly attributed to the inaccessibility of fresh produce, affordability and understanding of preparation of various specialty crops. Through a grant from the NE Specialty Crop Block Funding Program, The Biggest Grower Competition (BGC) was developed as a summer extension education program for youth in 8th through 12th grade. Project goals included; provide educational materials on gardening, benefits of consuming fresh edibles, and entrepreneurship opportunities; to have participants grow their own crops, collect productivity data, record method of distribution; and, measure behavioral changes in consumption of specialty crops for individual and family. Programs were completed during the period of June 1–August 12 in each of 2020 and 2021. Yearly individual garden production averages were 21.55 kg and 23.13 kg respectively with a total of 1,118.56 kg of fresh produce grown. Through a post-experience survey, daily produce consumption rate increased from 12.5% to 36.4%, 72% of the participants tried a new vegetable/fruit recipe, 91% indicated produce grown was consumed by family, and 18% was donated to food banks.


This manuscript details information from the oral presentation given on September 27 at the 2022 Urban Food Systems Symposium-Building Coalitions for a Changing World, Kansas City, Missouri, United States. Additional information can be found at "UFSS 2022 Book of Abstracts," Urban Food Systems Symposium.