The Biggest Grower – A Student Gardening Competition

High school students: Are you looking for something to do this summer?

If you’re a high school student entering the ninth through 12th grade this fall, living in Nebraska*, and you want to do a fun, hands-on, outdoor activity with a bit of instruction and a bunch of flexibility, Nebraska Extension is again providing a summer gardening program called The Biggest Grower.

The Biggest Grower competition offers Nebraska (*also Texas and Illinois for 2021) high school students the opportunity to learn 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,” authored by Daryl Beyers of the New York Botanical Garden.

Additionally, high school juniors or seniors 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.

Here’s how it works:
  • This competition is FREE to students who register.
  • Nebraska students who are entering the 9th–12th grade in fall 2021 are welcome to participate.
  • Internet access will be needed.
  • Nebraska Extension and a university horticulture student, a personal GARDEN MENTOR, will be working 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.
  • Each participant will:
  • use an existing garden spot at their home (competition garden space is limited to 80 square feet, maximum) as a BACKYARD Gardener OR choose to grow in pots as a CONTAINER Gardener.
  • be given a toolkit consisting of a hand cultivator, seeds and starter plants. Students needing additional tools can request available items from the GARDEN MENTOR to aid in your success.
  • receive a free official 2021 The Biggest Grower Chill’n Tomato competition t-shirt.
  • receive a copy of “The New Gardener’s Handbook,” authored by Daryl Beyers of the New York Botanical Garden.
  • complete the activities assigned by the GARDEN MENTOR.
  • participate in each of ten weekly activities and mentoring sessions.
  • 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.
  • Participants are invited to attend The Biggest Grower Day hosted by the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture June 30 on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus. (In-person and virtual options available.)
  • At the end of the growing season, after all the data is entered, The Biggest Grower will be announced!

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.

Questions? Contact Stacy Adams at


Tomato Man-wateringcan

Scholarship Opportunity

High school junior and senior participants, who want to be eligible for a 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. 

Criteria for eligibility
To receive a scholarship, a student must enroll in a major of their choice within the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture in CASNR.

A student must be admitted to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, specifically the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture.


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Choose what grade you will be in, starting Fall 2021: *
Are you interested in applying for a scholarship? *