Growing Our Future Together

Growing Our Future Together

This service project will be the focus of the 2020 State Conference that is being held at Hamilton & Howard Counties, Sept 10-12, 2020.  A “trial run” is being held in 2019.  We hope you will join us in the experiment!

Food Insecurity

According to Feeding America, Hamilton County has a food insecurity rate of 8.8% with an estimate of 26,760 food insecure individuals.  Many counties around the state may have a much higher food insecurity rate.  It is the hope that this service project will help to instill a desire for people to grow some of their own food…starting on a very small scale, but with the potential to gain confidence and knowledge to move on to larger plantings.

Suggested Supplies / Ideas

Containers – Preferred/suggested items (but not limited to)

You will need to drill drainage holes in plastic containers.  Ask Kroger/local grocery store bakery/local bakery–28# frosting buckets (ask them to run through a 2-minute rinse); grocery stores that have sushi ask for the 20# sushi buckets.  Also get the lids to the buckets as these can be used for saucer.

    1. HTGSupply–5gal grow bags- 100/$40 (roll the top down so not so full)


    1. Ziploc bags 


    1. Kitty Litter buckets


    1. Restaurant Condiment Buckets


    1. Recycle old nursery pots


    1. Flat wax lined banana or grape boxes with plastic bag liners


  1. 40 lb. soil bag laying flat on ground with top of bag cut open to plant in.

Notes about containers:

    • According to Rosie Lerner at Purdue it is not necessary to use food grade containers, no leaching has been reported. However, do not use containers that have had hazardous chemicals or harmful substances in them.


  • Portability is something to consider when choosing a container, both portability to get it to the recipient and portability if the recipient moves (see last 2 items in list above).

Soil Mix
  • Create your own organic mix:  

2 parts peat moss or potting soil

1-2 parts compost

1 part perlite

¼-½ part vermiculite

  • Soil-less ProMix – feeds for 3 months
  • Potting Soil
  • Contact local suppliers/soil company for donations

Note: The second planting,  where the recipient will get a tomato plant, we may need  to either add more soil/soil mix/compost or trade out their bucket for a new one to ensure enough nutrients are in the soil to sustain the tomato plant.  

    • Contact box stores (or anyone else selling seeds) during growing season for  information on acquiring end-of-season free seeds. For example: Meijer, Target, Walmart, Hardware stores, etc.  


    • Master Gardeners old seeds


    • Seed Savers


  • Harvest seeds from what you’ve grown the year before
Continuing Education Ideas
    • Label container with contact information of local Extension office/Education Center (in Hamilton County) or a Master Gardener hotline/voicemail system.


    • Master Gardeners continued presence at the food pantries to maintain contact with the recipients throughout the year.


  • An email/text/app program for recipients to sign up where they can ask questions and we can send out information.  For example: a reminder to water, how to harvest, how to cook with it/easy recipes.
Finding Recipients
    • Work with the County Extension CWC’s (Community Wellness Coordinators) for their contacts on families and the food banks that they work with.


    • Food pantries


    • Research additional local needs (independent living centers, senior centers/nursing homes,  elementary schools, etc) Note: For those counties that are going to trial this project with us in 2019, the locations listed in item C may be another place for us to monitor how the buckets are growing.  This may lead to possible changes to the items in the buckets for the official roll out in 2020.


  • Some county Soil and Water Conservation Districts may also have contacts if there is a person that handles urban agriculture
Labels for Containers
  • A good resource for weatherproof labels is
Draft Template for Containers

First Planting –  March/April (buckets should be almost ready for harvest at distribution)

dwarf tomato, leafy green, basil; or pepper, leafy green, onion


Second Planting – mid/end of May

Tomatoes:  Sofies Choice (small);  any dwarf (indeterminate?) varieties

Third Planting – Late August

cool weather crops