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The biggest grower competition returns in May

By Fran tenBensel Benne, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

LINCOLN, Neb. — The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture and Nebraska Extension will host a high school student gardening competition this summer for the third time.

Through funding from the Nebraska Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Beyond School Bells, The Biggest Grower offers students the chance to start their own backyard or patio garden to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for their families and communities.

The competition is free to all Nebraska high school students entering the ninth through 12th grades in fall 2022. Participants will plant, grow, cultivate, harvest and distribute their fresh specialty crops and compete alongside other Nebraska students to find out who is “the biggest grower. “



Each participant will receive a Biggest Grower T-shirt, a copy of “The New Gardener’s Handbook” by Daryl Beyers, a gardening multi-tool, seeds, stickers and instructions on getting started.

“Participants just need to try their hand at gardening, occasionally meet throughout the summer with their garden mentor and tell us how many fruits, vegetables and flowers they grew in their Biggest Grower garden,” Stacy Adams, program director, said.



Lindy Schmidt of Columbus was crowned “the biggest grower” last year with 193.21 pounds of produce. The runner-up was Brianna Simmons with 94.11 pounds and honorable mention was Madison Goldfish with 74.63 pounds. Both are from Shelton.

“When I faced a problem in the garden, I was able to reach out to my garden mentor to solve the issue,” Simmons said. “That guidance through the whole summer greatly benefited me and will greatly benefit my garden in the future.”

The Biggest Grower Campus Day is June 17 on the university’s East Campus. Participants will meet with their garden mentor and university horticulture faculty, be introduced to scientific tools of the trade, and learn about plant propagation and landscape design. They will also tour the Backyard Farmer Garden, hydroponics and greenhouses.

Dakota Staggs, Beyond School Bells program coordinator, wishes all the growers good luck.

“Beyond School Bells cannot think of a better way to get Nebraska’s students involved in growing their own food and having fun doing it,” Staggs said.

The competition will begin May 6 and end Aug. 12. After all the data is entered and reviewed, The Biggest Grower winner, runners-up and honorable mentions will be announced and gift card prizes will be awarded Aug. 19.

Registration is open now at https://go.unl.edu/cqe2. Space is limited to 50 participants.

Contact Adams at sadams1@unl.edu with any questions.


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