The Biggest Grower returns with summer learning, scholarship for high schoolers

The Biggest Grower
Nebraska Extension and the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture will again be offering a student gardening competition this summer. | Shutterstock
April 7, 2021

Lincoln, Neb. —Nebraska Extension and the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture will again be offering a student gardening competition this summer. 

The Biggest Grower competition offers Nebraska high school students the opportunity to learn how to start their own garden and small growing operation. Students will plant, grow, cultivate, harvest and distribute their own fresh specialty crops in a garden space or in containers. Participants will be randomly placed in virtual teams with one team chosen as The Biggest Grower and each team member will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card. Runner-up team members will each receive a $25 Amazon gift card.  

Each participant in the program will receive a free, 2021 The Biggest Grower competition t-shirt and a copy of “The New Gardener’s Handbook,” by Daryl Beyers of the New York Botanical Garden. High school junior and senior participants will have the opportunity to apply for a College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Department of Agronomy and Horticulture scholarship of up to $1,000. 

“Our first-year participants had great fun interacting with others that love gardening and I’m excited for this season with more activities and two additional weeks for bigger harvests,” said Stacy Adams, an associate professor of practice in agronomy and horticulture and a Nebraska Extension specialist. 

This project can expose Nebraska youth to the fundamentals of plant production and demonstrate career opportunities in agriculture. Funding is provided through the Nebraska Specialty Crop Block Grant Program as a means to enhance the competitiveness of non-commodity specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, nuts and ornamentals. 

The Biggest Grower competition is free to Nebraska high school students entering the ninth through 12th grade this fall 2021. Nebraska Extension and a university horticulture student, who will be a personal garden mentor, will work with each student virtually on a weekly basis. Participants will be randomly placed into 15, statewide virtual teams of four gardeners. These teams will compete over the summer to find out which team is The Biggest Grower. 

Registration is open now and space is limited to 60 participants. 

Each student will use an existing garden space at their home or they can choose to grow in pots as a container gardener. Competition garden space as a backyard gardener is limited to 80 square feet, maximum. Participants will complete the activities assigned by the garden mentor and will be given a toolkit consisting of a hand cultivator, seeds and starter plants. Students needing additional tools may request available items from the garden mentor to aid in their success.  

Participants will be asked to complete 10 weekly activities, develop and cultivate specialty crops in their backyard or container garden, collect and submit productivity data to the growers’ leaderboard, record the amount of harvest consumed, record the amount of harvest distributed, and participate in The Biggest Grower Day, hosted by the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. The Biggest Grower Day will take place June 25 on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus with in-person and virtual options available. 

High school junior and senior participants, who want to be eligible for a Department of Agronomy and Horticulture scholarship award, will be asked to write a 350 to 500-word essay on how The Biggest Grower competition affected them and their community, or the use of specialty crops in their future. To receive a scholarship, students must enroll in a major of their choice within the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture in CASNR and be admitted to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. 

The competition will begin May 10 and end Aug. 6. After all the data is entered and reviewed, The Biggest Grower team will be announced Sept. 4. 

Complete application guidelines and more information may be found online

Contact Stacy Adams with any questions.

News Release Contact

  • Stacy Adams
  • Associate Professor
  • Agronomy and Horticulture
  • mobile-phone-portrait(mobile-phones)402-472-2577
  • email-2(email)