UACES Facebook Free soybean seeds available to school, community gardens to grow-your-own protein
skip to main content

Free soybean seeds available to school, community gardens to grow-your-own protein


By Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Feb. 23, 2024

Fast facts:

  • Request free seeds at
  • Grow-Your-Own-Protein program teaches Arkansans about state’s largest crop and promotes healthy eating
  • Soy is inexpensive, complete protein
  • Keith Harris named new Soybean Science Challenge coordinator

(603 words)

(Newsrooms: with art)

LITTLE ROCK — When you’re planning your community garden this year, save space for some soybeans. They’re good for your health and your wallet.

Soybean plants in garden
Grow-Your-Own — Schools and community gardens can get free soybean seeds through the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service’s Grow Your Own Protein program as long as they donate their produce to food-insecure populations. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

Through May 25, school and community gardeners can get free soybean seeds through the Cooperative Extension Service’s Grow Your Own Protein program as long as they donate their produce to schools, churches, food pantries, or other nonprofits serving food-insecure populations.

Request forms are available online at Requests should be completed and emailed to Seeds will be mailed to recipients.

The seed giveaway has been part of the Soybean Science Challenge program for eight years. It started in 2016 with 12 gardens in Arkansas. While Arkansas has been the main outreach for community gardens, the Soybean Science Challenge has expanded to include educational and community gardens across the country. Last year, more than 150 gardens participated nationwide.

Many teachers use the seeds in their school teaching gardens, and several Arkansas Master Gardener clubs grow soybeans to donate to food banks, said Deidre Young, Soybean Science Challenge coordinator.

“I have noticed that teachers and community leaders are starting to focus more on natural whole foods for students and citizens, and as such our garden numbers have increased accordingly,” Young said. “Schools are using the soybeans they grow in their cafeteria food, adding soybeans to soups, casseroles, and salad bars. Communities are using soybeans for similar meals plus there have been several inquiries into dehydrating and roasting the beans.”

Why soybeans?

Part of the goal of the Grow You Own Protein seed giveaway and the Soybean Science Challenge is educating people about the value of Arkansas soybeans to the Arkansas economy, to the labor force, and ultimately to feed and fuel the world.

Complete proteins come from animal-based products, soy and quinoa. Soy contains all nine essential amino acids, meaning it has as much protein as animal products such as eggs, meats, poultry and seafood, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It’s also inexpensive, versatile, and easy to grow. Seeds should be planted between late April and early May and will be ready to harvest in 80-85 days.

Commercially, soybeans are grown in 41 of the state’s 75 counties and rank as one of the top three crop commodities in cash receipts for Arkansas farmers, generating about $1.7 billion.

New Leadership

Young has worked with the Soybean Science Challenge program since it began and will retire this year. Keith Harris has been hired to coordinate the Soybean Science Challenge, which includes the school and community garden seed giveaway.

"I am excited to continue to educate students, teachers, and the public about the benefits of soybeans through the Soybean Science Challenge," Harris said. “Soybeans are one of the most versatile row crops and are used in a variety of products, from cleaning supplies to candles and biofuels to food for farm animals, pets, and people. The planting of soybeans in home and community gardens has grown tremendously in recent years, providing a low-cost, protein-rich, plant-based food to local growers and consumers.”

The Soybean Science Challenge is sponsored by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and the Cooperative Extension Service. The Cooperative Extension Service is the outreach arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on X and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on X at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on X at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


Media Contact: Tracy Courage
Director of Communications-Extension