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!  Please email GOFT@HCMGA.ORG with the contact information of your project coordinator.


“To help aid local food security by building relationships in our community and engaging with our neighbors to educate and encourage growing your own produce.”

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


Below is information based on the results of the trial done in Hamilton County in the Spring/Summer of 2019.


Containers Ideas:

– 3-gallon “frosting” buckets from Meijer or Kroger bakery department (can be rinsed out with a commercial dishwasher at the store or at a school cafeteria, etc.)…drill 8+~ holes in the bottom and line with newspaper, large coffee filters, burlap, etc.

– plastic 5-gallon grow bags can be found online for approx 50c each



– ProMix (Menards) — 1 bag filled approx 5, 3-gallon buckets

– ⅓ each:  Perlite, Peat Moss (or plain potting soil), Screened Compost


Seed Resources:

– big-box stores discard seeds at end of season

– seed companies may donate when the cause is explained to them


Potting System:

– drilled 8 holes in bottom of plastic containers/buckets; lined with cut burlap (a member had a free supply–can possibly get some donated from a restaurant or coffee shop); filled ½ full with ProMix, added water and mixed, then filled the rest of the way, added water, mixed thoroughly

– recommend setting up a template to have the vegetables arranged the same in all containers, with the handles of the buckets all going the same direction, keeping the handle in mind when placing any vegetables that will need to be staked…the template of setup will also aid in designing the label for the outside of the bucket

for vegetables being started elsewhere for later transplanting, use same-size empty pots as placeholders in the soil…transplanting is as simple as removing the empty pot and putting the potted plant in its place


Vegetables Chosen:

-For our trial, we did 25 buckets of bell peppers (King of the North), onions, and concept lettuce, and 25 buckets of tomatoes (Sophie’s Choice), basil, and concept lettuce.  Sophie’s Choice was not widely successful, so we are exploring other varieties to present at the November 16 kickoff.

-Most recipients wanted tomatoes, so in the future we plan to do two bucket offerings:  tomato with basil, and tomato with onions.  Also considering offering smaller buckets with herbs, several recipients requested mint.

-The tomatoes, peppers, and basil were started separately to be done as transplants; onion starts and lettuce seeds were planted at time of filling the buckets.

Container Labels:

Click here for example of a contact information label

  • We used adhesive labels in 2019.  In 2020, we plan to use weatherproof paper that can be printed on both sides and attached with a ziptie.  We then will also include the QR code to the public webpage, which includes care and harvesting information as well as info for FoodLink recipes.

– we used White Polyester Weather-Resistant Labels with Laser Printing

  • will send samples for free to test the material
  • SL521-XW, 5.5”x4.25”, for contact information label
  • SL514-XW, 8.5”x5.5”, for plant information label
  • Use promo code FREESHIP for free shipping on order over $55

An option would be to use waterproof or laminated tags attached to the handle, with contact info on one side and plant info on the other side (this is our plan for 2020):

  • TerraSlate waterproof paper, can be used in laser printer, cut and hole-punched, but not torn.  Can be printed on both sides, so could use for contact info, attached with a ziptie, instead of a label on the side of the bucket.  Could do English and Spanish on one side, with logo, and put contact info (with a QR code) on the other side.

QR Code to public webpage:






Registration Forms:

Click here for example


Selection and Distribution:

– We did two different methods.  Evaluation will help determine the effectiveness between the two methods:

  1. A month before distribution, a Master Gardener met with food pantry recipients, explaining what we were doing.  If interested, they filled out a form. These were then randomly selected at a committee meeting, phone calls of “congratulations” were made, and a letter was sent from the extension office asking them to call the office telling which date (of two offered) they will pick up the bucket.  This proved to be very laborious as far as time involved.
  2. A table, along with the buckets, was set up outside a food pantry.  Food Pantry volunteers explained the program to recipients. If interested, they filled out a form and presented it to the Master Gardeners manning the table, had the plants and the text/email requirements explained again, and the recipient left with their bucket.  This method was more time-efficient.


– We used MailChimp for email contact, and for text contact

– Our ANR compiled a calendar of evaluation messages to be sent 1x/week

– We sent out watering and harvesting messages as needed

– To view the webpage link sent to recipients, click here.  We tried to keep this page updated with care and harvesting tips, and links to recipes.


– still in process…