O'Rear, Bethany A.1; Kelley, Mallory K.2; Edwards, Lucy E.3; Smith, Kerry P.4
1Regional Extension Agent - Home Horticulture, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Birmingham, AL, 35223
2Regional Extension Agent - Home Horticulture, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Autaugaville, AL, 36033
3Regional Extension Agent - Home Horticulture, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Ozark, AL, 36360
4Team Coordinator - Home Horticulture & State Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn, AL, 36849


Harvest for Health


Harvest for Health (H4H) is an at-home gardening intervention for older Alabama cancer survivors who have completed their primary cancer treatment. H4H aimed to provide participants the means to grow an at-home vegetable garden during a 2-year program. The rationale of the study was that gardening interventions could improve diet and exercise behaviors of cancer survivors who are at greater risk of other disease and poor diets. H4 intended to identify physical and behavioral responses a cancer survivor might have to gardening. Effects measured included diet, physical activity, physical function, quality of life and healthy eating measured by periodic medical assessments.



The program consisted of 8, 2-year cohorts, beginning with a spring or fall vegetable garden. Cohort survivors (eligible only if they had no prior gardening experience) were divided into two groups – 1st year participants and controls, who would participate in the 2nd year.  Resources for the participants included Extension publications related to growing practices and disease and insect management and a garden kit with raised bed or gardening boxes and soil, vegetable plants and seeds, fertilizer, and gardening accessories. Master Gardener mentors met on-site monthly with their survivors. 


A survey of the H4H participants showed:

  • 92% indicated that they would “most definitely” continue gardening in the future.

  • 89% were “most definitely” going to expand their garden size.

  • Effects of the intervention on motivating behavior change on 1 to 10 scale: eat a healthier diet (8.9); eat more vegetables (8.1); be more physically active (6.8).



 H4H has initiated 8 cohorts across 29 of Alabama counties with 91% (387/426) completion.  A year later 85% continued their new habits.  Fresh produce consumption increased by 1 serving per day. Average BMI change was negative 5.63. Physical function improved for 70% of the survivors. Statewide impact includes media coverage on the success of H4H, which was featured on Alabama Public Television’s “Spotlight on Agriculture”.



The home vegetable gardening intervention among older cancer survivors was feasible, could be easily replicated and demonstrated improvement in health, behaviors, and well-being of older cancer survivors.   


All Accepted Posters