Chris Schulz Published

World Record Attempt Brings Attention To Home Gardening, Food Access 

A young boy wearing a pink shirt and khaki shorts hands a freshly picked carrot to a young girl holding a bunch of fresh vegetables. The pair appears to be standing in a greenhouse, with green plants and vines climbing a wood frame covered in plastic behind them.Courtesy of Kate Long

History could be made Friday night at a baseball game in Morgantown — but it won’t have anything to do with the ball game. 

The West Virginia University Extension Family Nutrition Program will attempt to break the record for the “world’s largest gardening lesson” when the West Virginia Black Bears play the Mahoning Valley Scrappers Friday night.

Zack Harold, the multimedia specialist with the WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program, said the attempt is a way to increase awareness of the Grow This: West Virginia Garden Challenge program that sends free seats to West Virginians. 

“We thought, ‘What better way to get people excited and try to make history with home gardening?’” he said. “As much as it is about getting outside and enjoying the process of gardening, it’s also a food access issue for us.”

Harold said the main objective at the Family Nutrition Program is to teach West Virginia families how to feed their families better and healthier. One of the best ways to do that is to feed your family fresh fruits and vegetables. 

“As we all know, that’s gonna be really hard to come across in West Virginia. We have a lot of areas of the state that are food deserts,” he said. “But if you learn to grow that food, it becomes not an issue of getting in the car and driving an hour to the nearest grocery store, it becomes just a matter of walking out to your backyard and picking it off the vine.”

The focus of the gardening lesson will be using recycled materials in the garden, which Harold said is meant to dispel the misconception that gardening requires a lot of upfront investment and cost.

“But really, if you got seeds, and you got some soil and water, you can use containers around your house to start seeds and grow them in,” he said. “You just got to get a little bit creative and West Virginians are great at that kind of creativity.”

The lesson will be taught by Sherry Weaver, winner of the recent Grow This Has Talent contest, and will aim to beat the current record, set in Turkmenistan in October 2022, where 569 people learned how to plant grape vines.
Editor’s note: Zack Harold also works as a Folkways reporter for the Inside Appalachia Folkways Project.