Let’s Grow Together: Try Your Hand at Gardening

DSC_7617-2 (1)guest blog post by
Lindsey Foss, Coordinator of Iowa Food and Family Project

Gardeners and farmers have a lot in common! You get to grow stuff. You get dirt under your fingernails. You learn what it takes to make things survive in the heat, rain and cold. And you learn about the bugs and other things that can take a liking to what you’re growing; a process that can both test your patience and spark your ingenuity.

But that’s not all. Farmers and gardeners also share an intense appreciation and satisfaction in hard work yielding a bountiful crop – and doing so as a family!

April marks National Gardening Month: a time to celebrate and appreciate where our food really comes from. (Hint: it’s not the refrigerator or pantry!) Iowans are becoming increasingly interested in all things food and farming; in fact, nearly 50 percent of Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) fans have a backyard or patio garden. To celebrate, Iowa FFP and Earl May Nursery & Garden Center are teaming up for “Let’s Grow Together,” encouraging more conversation about the topics we care about – and having fun along the way!

LDSC01616et’s Grow Together will inspire Iowans to take try their hand at food and flower gardening, while also learning first-hand the many similarities gardening has with farming! Throughout the yearlong journey, fans will gain unique tips and insights from experts at Earl May, including preparing soil, planting and harvesting produce, nurturing fruit trees and establishing pollinator habitats.

Similarly, we’ll follow along as farmer Mark Jackson shares what it takes to grow grain and raise livestock on his Mahaska County farm. His top priorities include taking conservation efforts for the soil and water, managing pests, preventing disease and laying the groundwork for future generations to farm, should they so choose.

Let’s Grow Together will also offer an opportunity for food-minded Iowans to add their voice through online conversations, activities and contests with plenty of prizes to help fans discover their green thumbs by starting or sprucing up a gardening project.

As you enjoy the fresh smells and signs of new life this season brings, try this colorful Easy Pasta Bake that can be made with leftover ham from Easter celebrations and shelled edamame — a protein-packed veggie that pays homage to National Soyfoods Month, too!

Easy Pasta Bake


Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8
Recipe from: Sara Ross, farmer from Pottawattamie County


·        8 ounces wide egg noodles

·        1 tablespoon dried onion

·        1 bag (10 ounces) frozen shelled edamame

·        2 cups diced ham

·        2 cups shredded Mozzarella, divided

·        1 cup light sour cream

·        1 can (10.5 ounces) cream of celery condensed soup

·        1 cup panko bread crumbs

·        1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Cook the noodles with the dried onion according to package directions, adding the edamame to the pot in the last 3 minutes of cooking; drain.

In a large bowl, combine the noodle mixture with the ham, 1 cup Mozzarella, sour cream and soup. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

Combine the remaining 1 cup cheese with the bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the noodles, return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is golden and crisp and noodles are bubbly, about 10 minutes.

The Iowa Food & Family Project is powered by more than 30 partners, including Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, with a goal to help Iowans feel more confident about how and where their food is grown. For more information, please visit iowafoodandfamily.com.