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OSU Extension program aims to plant seeds across the state

Small pots and spray bottles on shelves, with a sign reading "Welcome to our Classroom Garden"
Amanda Loman
Oregon State University
Tobey said people can order more than one kit. In fact, the program encourages kids to order kits for home in addition to participating at school.

In 2020, OSU Extension started a gardening from seed program, in part because people worried that grocery stores wouldn’t be able to stock fresh produce during the pandemic. The “Grow this!” challenge is now in its fifth year and expanding.

Lauren Tobey works with the Oregon State University program, which aims to bring more fruits and vegetables into Oregonians’ diets. She said, early on, the Garden Challenge teamed up with Bi-Mart, who has supplied the seeds every year.

Tobey said people can order seed kits as an individual, as the leader of a group, or for school use.

“We’re working with hundreds of teachers in all counties of Oregon with these teacher’s kits," she told KLCC.

A tortoise eats a piece of tomato
Oregon State University
Tobey said kids already go to the cafeteria every day to get a carrot for Mookie the tortoise

Tobey said one Philomath teacher has a specific audience in mind: a classroom pet tortoise.

“We are working with them to see if we grow greens and berries and lettuce for Mookie if the kids in the classroom will be even more excited about the classroom kit and eating fruits and veggies,” she said.

In addition to the seeds and the growing kit, participants receive a monthly email with recipes, gardening information, and storage tips. Everything is available in English and Spanish.

Tobey said when asked why they’ve chosen to join the program, "learning about pollinators" was a common refrain. For that reason, flower seeds are also included with every kit.

Last year, more than 122,000 Oregonians participated in the Grow This! Garden Challenge, an increase of 31 percent over the previous year.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.