(Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties) – Healthy communities grow with community support. Let the harvest of your garden contribute to the health of your community this summer. Offering garden vegetables is a source of food that ensures a neighbor facing food insecurity has access to fresh produce. An arrangement of fresh-cut flowers is a beautiful gift but it also improves emotional health, for both the giver and the recipient. The vegetables and flowers of your garden can grow with great pride this summer and support the health needs of your community. Join the Illinois Extension Giving Garden with a pledge to Grow and Give Back.
University of Illinois Extension serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties are offering seeds, plants, and education to any community member who wishes to grow a vegetable or flower Giving Garden. Participants receive materials for free when they pledge to donate 50% of their garden harvest to a community member in need. Every gardener in the community is welcome to participate, whether they have an acre to grow in or a single container.
Throughout the growing season, Illinois Extension staff will deliver a monthly educational email newsletter to help community gardeners grow a healthy, productive garden. Monthly guidance will include research-based information and videos on-site preparation, garden management, donation of a harvest, and seed saving. Gardeners will also have direct access to a garden donation tracker in the monthly emails – a tool that helps Illinois Extension report the incredible impact of each Giving Garden contribution.
- Vegetable Kits
Vegetable Giving Garden kits include cucumber seeds for three planting hills, four tomato plants (two cherry, two slicer), and three pepper plants (two bell peppers, one jalapeno). Vegetable kits will also include info sheets that cover plant care and site preparation for each crop. Vegetable Giving Gardeners pledge to donate 50% of their vegetable harvest to local food pantries or individuals in need.
- Cut Flower Kits
Cut flower Giving Garden kits include seeds to grow six types of flowers: sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, dill, calendula, and cornflower. All five plants are great for beginning gardeners to grow as cut flowers in the ground or in a container. Cut flower kits also include info sheets that cover plant care and site preparation for growing each type of flower. Cut flower Giving Gardeners pledge to donate 50% of their fresh cut flowers as arrangements to a local care facility or a community member needing a “pick-me-up”.
In the first two years of the program, Giving Gardeners have experienced moments of joy and “ah-ha” that have impacted their future gardening goals. When seeing firsthand the need for fresh food access at a crowded local food pantry, a Woodford county youth pledged to donate their entire garden to the local food pantry in 2023. In the neighboring county, Livingston County 4-H Federation youth discovered the collective efforts of growing a Giving Garden helped feed their community. Across all three counties, gardeners filled vases and faces with cheer while delivering fresh-cut flower arrangements.
In the third year, Illinois Extension will offer 100 vegetable and 100 cut flower Giving Garden kits. Make your pledge to receive a kit by visiting go.illinois.edu/givinggarden. Program materials will be distributed the week of May 7 at the Livingston, McLean, and Woodford County Extension offices.
For questions about the Giving Garden program, please contact Brittnay Haag, horticulture educator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (309) 663-8306.
If you require an accommodation to participate in this program, please contact us. Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet your access needs.
WRITER: Brittnay Haag Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois Extension
Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.