The University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Piscataquis County will give away over 400 cherry tomato plants as part of the One Tomato Project to increase the number of people growing food.

The One Tomato Project, which originated in Ontario, Canada, encourages people to plant, grow and eat more vegetables, and to give any extra to food banks. The mission: “To grow healthier communities, one tomato at a time.”

Tomato plants will be distributed at county food cupboards in Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford and Greenville in May and June; at the Black Fly Festival in Milo June 13; and at the UMaine Extension office at 165 East Main St. in Dover-Foxcroft the week of June 15 until gone. People will be asked to complete a short survey about their gardening experiences. Extension staff and Master Gardener Volunteers will provide information about container gardens and sign up those interested in receiving the Piscataquis & Penobscot Garden Newsletter.

“Starting a garden can be intimidating,” says Donna Coffin, Extension Educator. “But if you just start with one tomato it seems less daunting. One tomato can be grown anywhere there is full sun — in a vegetable garden, in a flower garden, in a window box, in a pot or even in a bag. With regular watering you can start harvesting in no time.”

About one-third of households nationwide grow some type of food, and the typical household spends about $70 and harvests about $600 worth of food according to the “Impact of Home and Community Gardening in America” report released by the National Gardening Association in 2009.

Walter Boomsma, president of the Piscataquis County Extension Executive Committee, supports the project. “This is the type of program that clearly has a direct benefit to our citizens and county,” he says. “One Tomato has practical value with very little rhetoric and the potential for big returns on a relatively small investment. People can try gardening with practically no risk and discover the fun of becoming more self-sufficient and eating healthier.”

Participants will be invited to post about plant progress on the UMaine Extension Piscataquis Facebook page. For more information, click here or call 207.564.3301