Are you growing a garden in your backyard or have a few containers of tomatoes on your patio? Do you know what you will do with any extra veggies you might grow this summer? Colorado State University Extension has a solution for your overabundant garden and can help you make the most out of your harvest – it’s called Grow & Give! Through the Grow & Give program, you can donate those extra zucchinis, tomatoes and beans to a local food pantry or a neighbor in need and make a positive impact on others.
The Grow & Give program was created in the spring of 2020 as ‘a modern victory garden project’ to help Coloradans learn to grow food, share their harvest, and keep it in their local communities. Back then, you might remember people flocking to garden centers across the state to empty the shelves and buy up all the seed packets to start their new hobby of backyard gardening. But growing food isn’t necessarily a cake walk and CSU Extension saw the need to fill in the gaps. They created an independently driven program to teach people how to garden from starting with seeds to harvesting and storage. In addition, Grow & Give collected information from local donations centers across the state and created an interactive map to help participants get their extra produce to donation centers.
In its pilot year, the goal of the program was to provide an outlet for learning about home food gardening while also making a difference in local communities during the global pandemic. In 2020, Grow & Give registered over 500 home and community gardens across the state and saw over 1,800 donations for a total of 47,000+ pounds of nutritious, fresh home-grown produce. But it didn’t stop as the pandemic has slowed…in fact, it’s grown! Last year, Grow & Give registered an additional 200 gardens and donations topped 55,000 pounds. This summer is no different as we continue to deal with food insecurity in our communities due to supply chain disruptions, inflation, and inequities in community services. Grow & Give continues to be there to help.
One of the unique aspects of the Grow & Give program is that it not only links you to produce donation sites, but it also teaches you how to grow fruits and vegetables specifically in Colorado’s unique climate through resources on its website. From the plains to the mountains, there are a vast number of articles, fact sheets and videos from raised bed gardening to how to grow tomatoes in buckets. You can learn about kohlrabi, peppers, cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, herbs and practically any other fruit or vegetable you can grow in Colorado. Not sure how to get started or deal with pests? This is also covered in the resources on the Grow & Give website – growandgivecolorado.org.
Do you want to join the collective effort across the state to help with food insecurity at a hyper local level through the Grow & Give program? It’s easy! All you have to do is register your backyard garden or community garden plot…then when you have extra produce, report your donation through the website. You’ll get a bi-weekly emailed newsletter with gardening tips and it’s totally free to join. To learn more, contact your county’s CSU Extension office or visit growandgivecolorado.org.
Master Gardeners work in the ‘Food Pantry Garden’ at the Boulder County Fairgrounds Community Garden which grows solely for donations through the Grow & Give program.
By Amy Lentz. Amy is the Home Horticulture Program Coordinator for Colorado State University Extension Boulder County in Longmont.