Iowa's Gardening To Give program sees success

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Farm Forum

AMES, Iowa — After 25 weeks of engaging families in gardening for others, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development wrapped up the Gardening to Give program on Oct. 30.

Shortly after COVID-19 precautions shut down schools last spring, Iowa 4-H saw a need to create a program that people could do with their families or individually, as many families were spending more time at home, said Laura Liechty, healthy living specialist with Iowa 4-H. The Gardening to Give program was developed by Iowa 4-H Youth Development staff for Iowans of all ages and abilities to get involved in the gardening and growing process.

Beginning in May, registered participants received weekly, research-based lessons on gardening throughout the program. Topics ranged from different types of gardens and food preservation, to garden tools and plant diseases, and everything in between.

“Our goal was to provide the basics on gardening, how to get started at home and helpful tips as they moved through the growing season, to help families take that next step in growing their own produce,” explained Liechty.

The program engaged over 1,000 individuals from 339 households in 82 Iowa counties, as well as individuals from California, New Jersey, Ohio and Minnesota.

Each lesson, published in both English and Spanish, included how-to information, research, activities and resources for youth and adults to learn from. The program provided participants with the opportunity to submit their gardening progress through photos and harvest totals throughout the season. Participants in the program were also encouraged to donate their produce to friends, neighbors and organizations in need in their communities.

Youth participants from Fremont County, Noah and Carter Shiner, were among the program participants to share their progress throughout the summer and fall.

“My favorite part of the Gardening to Give program was to see smiles on people’s faces when I gave them vegetables that we grew,” Noah said.

Younger brother Carter explained that he enjoyed learning about how bees and butterflies help a garden grow.

Though the gardening season has wrapped up in Iowa, Iowa 4-H Youth Development is looking forward to launching the program for its second year in 2021.

“Whether it is learning how to start a seed, grow a plant in a windowsill or dedicating a portion of their yard to gardening, we want to meet our audience wherever they are at in their comfort with gardening and the resources to do so,” Liechty said.

To learn more about the Gardening to Give program and Iowa 4-H Youth Development, visit

Noah and Carter Shiner from Iowa’s Fremont County show some of their Gardening to Give harvest.