Awesome Iowa Teen Grows Food to Share With Locals

Lauren wants to fast-track fresh vegetables to people in need.

Dec 6, 2023
Awesome Iowa Teen Grows Food to Share With Locals | Lauren wants to fast-track fresh vegetables to people in need.

Caring 17-year-old, Lauren Schroeder, was inspired to help bring healthy food to needy families in her community. Volunteering during the pandemic at a food shelter when she was just 14, and tasked with helping fill boxes for households in need with canned and packaged food, this Iowa teen felt that something was missing from the donated groceries; fresh vegetables. “I thought it would be great to change that,” Lauren told the Washington Post, devising a plan to grow and donate homegrown produce. “I wanted people to get the nutrition they needed from fresh vegetables.” she remembers saying.

This kindhearted teen then told her parents of her desire to start a garden on part of their family farm in Dixon, Iowa, in order to supply local families in need with fresh produce including lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and zucchini, as MSN details. 

From little acorns…
As the saying says, something big can grow from modest beginnings. Coming from a farming family, Lauren had some familiarity with agriculture, and had helped raise rabbits and lambs, but had never tried vegetable cultivation at scale, though the Schroeders plant soybeans and corn each year on their 150-acre farm. 

The work involved in realizing Lauren’s plan was no walk in the park. Initially, while proud of her daughter’s vision, and keen to support her project, her mother, Katie Shroeder, admits to some foreboding about the work involved: “I also had a little bit of the devil’s advocate on my shoulder, wondering, ‘Oh my gosh, how much work is this going to be’?”

This was one determined young changemaker, however! Lauren researched plants online, checking which species needed more shade, how much water was required, and about the optimal times to harvest each crop. She then secured a grant from the National FFA Organization, which supports agricultural education, to cover seeds and gardening supplies. 

And importantly, Lauren didn’t shy away from hard work and significant time investment. During Iowa’s hot and dry summers, she tells MSN that she had to water her crops by hand for around two to three hours daily, which she did on either side of softball practice. She also checked daily for weeds, and bent down to pick her green bean crop, the most challenging vegetable to harvest in her opinion.

With help from her family, especially from her three younger siblings, she planted half an acre of land, with 15 varieties of vegetables in 2022, as Sunday Roast reports, harvesting and weighing her first crops, with a first batch of 40 pounds (18 kilograms). The eight initial beneficiaries included food banks, a nursing home, and a soup kitchen.

Encouraged to continue and expand her efforts, this year, Lauren doubled the size of her garden to an acre, adding ten more plant varieties including herbs and cauliflower.  

In the past two years, this admirable high school junior has donated more than 7,000 pounds (3175 kilograms) of homegrown produce, with an estimated value of US$15,000 as reported on Insider Edition

She has also won the admiration of her community. Jenna Kingsley, a Future Farmers of America advisor at Lauren’s high school tells MSN that  “Her innate self-confidence and generous hand to help those in need has left an impact larger than she could have imagined.”

Branching out to create tomorrow’s community fare
Discussing her plans, the Washington Post reveals that Lauren would like to grow another 13,000 pounds (5897 kilograms) of produce so bringing her veggie total to 20,000 pounds (9072 kilograms) when it’s time for her to go to college in 2025, expanding her garden to two acres to feed more local people.

She is inspired by moving anecdotes from local beneficiaries of her food. Lauren’s mother reports that on one trip to deliver her daughter’s fresh produce to locals, when they stopped off at a women’s shelter, it was not the usual nonprofit volunteers who greeted them but a mom who came to thank Lauren. This mother was emotional. She explained that now that she couldn’t have a garden, she was so grateful that Lauren’s donations gave her kids the chance to enjoy the foods they used to grow themselves.

Explaining her motivation to local media channel, KWQC, Lauren says: “I wanted to have something that would impact people. I want to impact community members. Many people help you out, but it makes more difference when you help other people out. That’s what makes me most happy.”

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.