Vegetable varieties investigation (Vvi): Engaging Youth in Citizen Science

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A citizen science approach to preserving biodiversity and connecting with community.

Vegetable varieties investigation (Vvi) is a unique citizen science in horticulture program designed to engage youth.  Participants interview gardeners about their opinions on vegetable varieties, and submit their findings to an online database that serves as a nation-wide online library of vegetable variety data.  Contributing to this library supports science research and promotes biodiversity for healthy ecosystems, including our farms and gardens.  Findings reported by Vvi youth participants are used by gardeners, plant breeders, and horticulture researchers.

FAQ:  See if Vvi is right for you and the youth you work with.

Learning Standards and Assessment:  Learn more about how Vvi meets learning standards and engages students as citizen scientists.

Anyone Can Contribute

  1. Review and download the complete Vegetable varieties investigation (Vvi) Toolkit
  2. Conduct the Vegetable varieties investigation
  3. Submit data to

Why participate in Vvi?
Youth will gain direct experience in:

  • science research
  • data collection
  • interview skills
  • sharing findings
  • collaboration
  • connecting with others in their community
  • supporting biodiversity

“What vegetable varieties will grow best in my garden?”  Gardeners have been asking this question for centuries.  By conducting the Vegetable Varieties Investigation with youth, you will help uncover some answers for today’s gardeners and scientists, while providing a rich learning experience for your students.  You will also contribute to an online library of gardeners’ vegetable variety experiences which will serve as a tool for preserving knowledge and promoting biodiversity.

Preserving Knowledge and Promoting Biodiversity
Few gardeners grow everything, but collectively gardeners across the world grow hundreds of crops and thousands and thousands of specific varieties.  The knowledge gardeners have about vegetable varieties is astonishing, and plays a critical role in preserving biodiversity.  Through the Vegetable Varieties Investigation, youth use the interview process to gather gardeners’ opinions about specific vegetable varieties they have grown. Participants learn about traits of specific varieties of vegetables and find out why gardeners grow some varieties and avoid others.

Variety:  “The Spice of Life”
There are many different vegetable species, from asparagus and arugula to tomatoes and turnips, available for growing in home and community gardens.  A variety is a kind or form of a given species or crop.  For example, Jersey Knight and Martha Washington are varieties of asparagus, and Sungold and Brandywine are varieties of tomato.  While varieties of a particular crop species share many common characteristics, each has slightly different features.  These characteristics influence taste, yield, appearance, and also adaptability to environmental conditions like heat and moisture, and resistance to disease and pests.  Many gardeners pay careful attention to the varieties of vegetables they grow because of successes or difficulties they’ve had in the past with specific varieties or personal preference for a particular taste or appearance.

By sharing your findings via the Vegetable Varieties Investigation website, you and your students will contribute to an online library of vegetable varieties reviews that:

  • assists scientists with understanding traits of specific vegetable varieties and how they perform in various regions and garden settings
  • helps gardeners select appropriate varieties for specific growing conditions and desired outcomes
  • compiles the experiences of gardeners from many locations and backgrounds
  • serves as a tool for promoting biodiversity

Project Acknowledgments

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