Growing Indiana’s Future Together     

Want to learn about our committee?  Click here for a short PDF about GIFT.  


In-Depth GIFT Kickoff Presentation

January 12, 2020

  Download PDF Version here     Download  Powerpoint Version here 

What was known as GOFT – Growing Our Future Together – was a service project that was to be the planned focus of the 2020 State Conference to be held at Hamilton & Howard Counties, Sept 10-12, 2020.  A “trial run” was held in 2019. 

In August of 2020, the committee name was changed to GIFT – Growing INDIANA’S Future Together!   Please email GIFT@HCMGA.ORG for more information.

Join our Facebook group, Indiana MG’s Growing Indiana’s Future Together for tips and support.  You can also Like and Follow the Facebook page “GIFT of HCMGA” for posts from GIFT and (hopefully) some updates from recipients!


“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.”

Committee Chairs

Committee Chairs 2020:  Rob Furgal, Karyn Wayman

Committee Chairs 2021:  Rob Furgal, Karyn Wayman, Peggy Johnson

Committee Chairs 2022:  Karyn Wayman, Peggy Johnson, Joan Feamster

Committee Chairs 2023:  Peggy Johnson, Joan Feamster, Sarah Brelage

Committee Chairs 2024:  Joan Feamster, Sarah Brelage, Tammy Marrs


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. 


Getting Started 

        Click here for checklist in Word format

  • Meet with your local Extension Master Gardener Coordinator and County Wellness Coordinator (CWC) to discuss the feasibility of the project locally
  • Contact Hamilton County Extension Master Gardener Association to express interest
  • Work with your local CWC to engage local food pantries and to determine best method of selection and distribution
  • Consider timeline needed (i.e., starting plants offsite, potting containers, transplanting starts into containers…and distribution dates when plants will be ready)
  • Find sources of containers
  • Decide on soil and fertilizer preference
  • Start any produce offsite that will be transplanted at a later date
  • Make plans for your potting day (location, volunteers, gathering supplies)
  • Make arrangements for watering, etc, of the containers between potting day and distribution day
  • If doing pre-selection of recipients, begin working on that about a month before planned distribution day
  • Make plans for follow-up and evaluation (we formulated a weekly message from our ANR of basic questions, such as “how are your plants doing? Send a pic!” and “have you ever gardened in a container before?”), as well as sending out care and harvesting information, watering reminders on hot weeks, etc.  Feel free to refer recipients to HCMGA’s webpage.
  • D-Day!
  • Follow up with regular communications.  


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 a grocery 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


– basic potting soil (we like to use ProMix from Menards)

– 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 soil, added water and mixed, then filled the rest of the way, added water, mixed thoroughly

– We decided to paint the buckets with spray paint.  Not only was this to cover up labels and various stickers, but it made for a fun team-building project within the GIFT project!

– 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.  We sprinkled a bit of slow-release fertilizer in the top layer of soil before planting.

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 (we used Sophie’s Choice), basil, and concept lettuce.  Sophie’s Choice was not widely successful, so we are exploring other varieties to present at the statewide kickoff.  It needs to be a patio/dwarf bush type cultivar.

-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 a copy of the contact information label in WORD format.

  • 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 sample registration form in Word format

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 web page link sent to recipients, click here.  We tried to keep this page updated with care and harvesting tips, and links to recipes.


Selection and Distribution
We did two different methods. Evaluation will help determine the effectiveness between the two methods:
>Pre-registration about a month ahead of distribution. This proved to be very laborious as far as time involved. (sample registration form is on web page) – 20% response rate overall
>On-The-Spot distribution. This method was more time-efficient. – 11.8% response rate overall
Again, two methods were used:
>MailChimp – 19% preferred email
 – 23% overall response rate to emails
>EzTexting – 81% requested texting
 – 11.25% overall response rate to texts
Recipient Feedback
We distributed 34 TOMATO buckets and 24 PEPPER buckets between two locations
> 14 recipients said they would try container gardening again, and that it was worth their time
> 10 recipients said that they enjoyed participating
> 10 recipients said that this allowed them to have more access to fresh produce


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