The Million Tomato Compost Campaign is declaring success with its goal to grow a million tomatoes in soil improved with locally produced compost.

The campaign, launched last April by the U.S. Composting Council (USCC), sought to boost the soil health of community gardens across the country and produce healthy and fresh food for local food pantries.

Tomato plants grow big and strong, thanks to compost.

Gardeners in more than 100 community gardens from Washington state to Florida grew 1.2 million tomatoes last summer, USCC said in a press release. The USCC is a national non-profit trade and professional organization that promotes recycling of organic materials through composting.

More than 85 compost manufacturers donated to the campaign 2,888 cubic yards of compost that met the USCC's Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) standards—the industry's seal of approval.

Campaign organizers say the gardens illustrate how private companies, community organizations, chefs, kids and nonprofits can work together toward a common goal of healthy soil, healthy food and healthy communities.

“The one million tomatoes that community gardeners grew in compost are testament to the growing power of compost and the people power of dedicated sustainable gardening champions,” said Lori Scozzafava and USCC executive director. “We’re proud of our work to spread the knowledge that using compost is nature’s way to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and build healthy soil.”

Tomato plants grow big and strong, thanks to compost. Photo credit: U.S. Composting Council

One participating garden was sponsored by the Tulalip Tribes Health Clinic in Washington state and was planted with the help of the clinic's patients. Another community garden in Santa Maria CA and grown by Vocational Training Center, produced tomatoes for needy families through the local food bank.

Nathan Lyon, chef and spokesperson for the campaign, worked to encourage gardeners to grow their own tomatoes in soil improved with compost. Lyon, co-host of PBS’ Growing a Greener World and author of seasonal cookbook Great Food Starts Fresh, also offered healthy tomato-based recipes.

“The Million Tomato Compost Campaign has proven that people across the country are hungry—not only for fresh and healthy sustainable food, but also for the tools they need to grow healthy food on their own. That starts with good soil and compost,” Lyon said. “Starting with the soil is so important because healthy soil leads to healthy food, which builds healthy people and communities.”

The Noga family tends to their tomatoes planted as part of the Million Tomato Compost Campaign. Photo credit: U.S. Composting Council

Tomatoes are one of the most popular items grown at home, but they can be difficult to grow for beginning gardeners, the USCC said.

The USCC advises using compost as key to building productive soil. Adding compost can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and allows soil to hold water well, which means plants need less water and gardeners can spend less time caring for their plants.