Harvesting Hope: Iowa Teen’s 7,000-pound Garden Bounty Feeds Thousands, Aims to Triple Impact by 2025

Lauren Schroeder standing by a Ranger loaded with fresh vegetables from her garden

In this week’s Funeral Potatoes & Wool Mittens podcast, we’re heading to rural Dixon, Iowa to meet Lauren Schroeder on her family farm to talk about how and why she did all the work to grow 7,000 pounds of produce and then gave it all to charity.

Her mom, Katie Schroeder, and Lauren’s FFA advisor and ag teacher, Jenna Kingsley join us to shed a little more light on the beauty of Lauren’s heart.

Meet Lauren Schroeder

Lauren is a junior at Calamus-Wheatland High School. She shows sheep and rabbits at county fairs, plays softball and volleyball, she’s the junior class president, and somehow, Lauren, who is a 3-time National FFA grant recipient and a My Impact Challenge Special Award winner, has found time to grow more than $15,300 in retail value of fruits and vegetables over the past two years and donate them to local nonprofits. 

Having already donated more than 7,000 pounds from her bounty of 25 different crops for her FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), Lauren will triple her impact when she meets her goal of expanding to 2 acres and growing and donating a total of 20,000 pounds of fresh produce to at least 10 organizations by the end of her community service project in the summer 2025.

We have a lot to talk about like where in the world Lauren came up with this idea, how many green beans she’s donated, (and how she likes to cook them at home), why she’s watering it all by hand with watering cans, how Jenna sees Lauren’s project inspiring others, and what impact her generous bounties have had on communities. 

Lauren’t fried green beans with Lawry’s and bacon bits.

Fry until blistered.

Her mom, Katie shares her recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce, how Lauren gives with the goodness of her heart, and, a heartwarming story about the time she saw firsthand how the fresh produce affected a mom and her children at a domestic violence shelter.

What did Lauren grow in her garden?

In the past two years, Lauren has grown 25 different vegetable and fruits in her garden.

She may add more as she expands to two acres by 2025.

Lauren’s Garden of Fruits & Veggies

  • Basil
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Jalapeños
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Oregano
  • Peas
  • Peppermint
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins and gourds
  • Rosemary
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Thyme
  • Tomatoes

TOTAL : 25 products

Where did Lauren donate her produce?

In Lauren’s first year of this FFA project, she donated her garden bounty to five nonprofits. In 2023, she gave her veggies to eight places in the community.

We are extremely grateful for Lauren’s generosity and commitment to the area food banks,” said Nancy Renkes, President & CEO of River Bend Food Bank. ”Not only is she helping our mission of ending hunger but she demonstrates the selflessness and philanthropy that is so wonderful to see in younger people.”

River bend food bank

This year, her goal is to feed people in 10 organizations, and by the time she harvests in summer of 2025, she hopes 12 nonprofits will benefit from her service. The following organizations have been recipients of Lauren’s garden donations:

  • Wheatland Manor/Nursing Home
  • River Bend Food Bank
  • Café On Vine
  • Community Action of Eastern Iowa
  • Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat
  • Carroll Assistance Center
  • Lost Nation Food Pantry
  • Family Resources

This was Lauren’s second year providing fresh vegetables to our residents. It really is a wonderful treat for our residents! We are so grateful to her and thank you Lauren for your generosity. It means a lot!

Wheatland manor/nursing home

Speaking of a garden, here are a few of my favorite recipes for using fresh fruits and vegetables.

Cauliflower Broccoli Ranch Salad and Chicken Black Bean Salsa

Chris’ Salsa

big bowl of salsa with a side of tortilla chips

Watch Lauren on ABC News: Teen harvests huge vegetable garden for charity.

Here’s a fun article about Lauren in the Washington Post: Iowa teen grew 7,000 pounds of veggies, then gave them all away

Be sure to listen to Lauren, Katie, and Jenna on Season 2, Episode 12 of Funeral Potatoes & Wool Mittens on all major podcast platforms. And enjoy Katie’s homemade spaghetti sauce recipe and Lauren’s fried green beans below.

Sweet wishes,

signature

Lauren’s Fried Green Beans with Bacon

Staci at Random Sweets
Fried and crispy green beans are already worthy of sneaking hot out of the pan, but add bacon and butter and they'll never make it to the dinner table.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

  • Fresh green beans
  • Chunk of butter – ¼ stick or less to taste
  • Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • Bacon bits

Instructions
 

  • Cut ends off green beans. Wash and drain well.
  • Place the chunk of butter in a 10-inch pan and fill with green beans.
  • Season with Lawry's. Toss to fry until blistered.
  • Add bacon bits and serve hot.

Notes

This recipe is courtesy of Lauren Schroeder. 
Keyword bacon, green beans, vegetable garden, vegetables

All text and images © Staci Mergenthal • Random Sweets

Tried this recipe?Mention @RandomSweets and tag #OurSweetMidwestLife

Katie’s Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes

Staci at Random Sweets
Fresh is best. This spaghetti sauce is so easy and delicious, we may never buy the jarred stuff again.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 10
Calories 91 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 4 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic powder; cook and stir until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes, sugar, basil, parsley, and salt; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. 1-2 hours.

Notes

This recipe is courtesy of Katie Schroeder. Note from Katie: With a ton of fresh tomatoes at once, I typically double this and combine with 1 pound of spaghetti (boiled, drained, prepared).

Nutrition

Calories: 91kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 2gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 243mgPotassium: 464mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1518IUVitamin C: 26mgCalcium: 32mgIron: 1mg
Keyword garden produce, pasta salad, tomatoes

All text and images © Staci Mergenthal • Random Sweets

Tried this recipe?Mention @RandomSweets and tag #OurSweetMidwestLife

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