April 19, 2011

Director of Ag Encourages Schools and Communities to Grow Gardens

The Missouri Department of Agriculture's 10,000 Garden Challenge now includes a special category for school, church and community groups, including great prize packages and the opportunity to promote their local garden on the new AgriMissouri.com. Gardens tended by groups of all sizes are eligible to be named the top school, community or church garden in the state.

Last week, during an event at the Midtown School Garden in Springfield, Director of Agriculture Dr. Jon Hagler highlighted the importance of community involvement and announced the new contest for schools, churches and communities to highlight their gardens and have the chance to win great prizes from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Stark Brothers Nursery.

"Whether it's a home, community, church or school garden, we are challenging Missourians to get out and garden this spring," said Director Hagler. "The 10,000 Garden Challenge encourages people to connect with agriculture, promotes local foods and healthy eating."

Dr. Hagler was joined by Ruell Chappell, member of the Urban Ag Task Force and Well-Fed Neighbor Alliance, Melissa Milsap of Urban Roots Farm and the Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition, a kindergarten class from Boyd Elementary and community leaders supporting gardening efforts.

When school, community and church gardens are registered in the 10,000 Garden Challenge, they have a chance to win the new School/Community Contest. To join the contest, simply include a 1,000 character description of the garden and photo, which will be used to create your garden profile on AgriMissouri.com. The profiles will be available for public voting through June 30.

The top 10 gardens will be recognized at the Missouri State Fair in August and will each win a prize package valued at $500. The packages include $150 gift certificates and gift boxes from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, 20 fruit trees from Stark Brothers Nursery, 50 passes to the Missouri State Fair and gardening tools and supplies.

Since launching the 10,000 Garden Challenge with the support of Governor Nixon and the First Lady, nearly 2,000 people have logged on to AgriMissouri.com to become part of this local food promotion. Missourians can register their gardens as individuals or as groups at AgriMissouri.com. The 10,000 Garden Challenge website offers helpful gardening resources, including tips on vegetable planting, calendars and health and nutrition facts.

Whether consumers are growing fruits, native plants, ornamental flowers or vegetables, they are encouraged to register and learn more about planting. As an added incentive, all gardens who register are eligible for a $500 gift certificate from Tractor Supply Company.

To register your garden, visit AgriMissouri.com. To learn more about the Missouri Department of Agriculture, visit mda.mo.gov.