Addison & Ian ~ Texas

Sibling rivalry? It’s not always a bad thing; in the case of Ian and Addison from Austin, Texas, it’s a fun incentive to grow more food through Katie’s Krops.

Ian, a 16-year-old high school senior, started a garden on his grade school grounds when he was eight and in 4th grade. That was not especially easy since he needed to make sure the plants were watered – Austin summers are sweltering and dry – and protected from storms that sprang up. This entailed riding his bike or getting rides to the school, which involved some planning and coordination. Two years later, he heard about Katie’s Krops and applied for a grant. The funds he received enabled him to start growing his garden at home, which is much more convenient and easier during adverse weather and grow he does. His vegetable garden includes tomatoes, root vegetables, Armenian cucumbers, sweet potatoes, various greens, okra, and bullet head wax melons, which taste like a sweet squash and can grow rather large; his biggest one topped out at almost 100 pounds.

Addison, a 14-year-old high school freshman, decided to join her brother in the garden to see if she could grow more. Her efforts are concentrated on fruit, such as strawberries and [potted pomegranates. She has grown cantaloupe in the past, and she and Ian share a fig tree, but it’s not old enough to produce fruit yet. Addison also tends a butterfly garden to aid in pollination and grows edible flowers.

The sibling rivalry is not Ian’s primary reason for his garden, but he’s quick to laughingly remind his sister that he currently produces more food than she does. Ian is more motivated by fulfilling a need for food and the reaction of people who receive it.  He initially started distributing food by setting up a table in a food desert area without many fresh produce options, which let him see the people he helped. Ian also donated to food banks and set up a table at a local food pantry. With the Covid-19 virus, he has had to decrease the direct distribution to people and now works with a parent support specialist at a local school who gives out the food to those in need. On occasion, Ian can join them at their community events or deliver directly to people whose names come from some non-profits with which he is in contact. In all cases, hearing the food recipients’ stories provides even more motivation to garden.

As any gardener knows, there are challenges in growing. For Addison and Ian,  these include the lizards that love to feast on the strawberries. Squirrels, birds, rats, and other critters also like to help themselves to the produce. The oppressive heat in July and August means that most crops will not grow during that period, but freezing rain in winter can also impede crop production. Storms provide another challenge with their heavy wind and rain. When Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, much of the garden was flattened, including the okra plants. Even though the storm pulled them out of the ground and they ended up laying flat across the raised garden beds, they proved their resilience by growing new roots, bending their stems at a 90-degree angle, and producing more okra as they once again pointed to the sky and grew.

The siblings are very much supported in their efforts by their mom. They have also had friends help in the past. Due to the pandemic, they had had to work independently.

As for what’s next, well, Ian will be heading to college next year where he would like to continue gardening; it’s one of his criteria for selecting a school. Addison is looking forward to taking over the garden and winning the competition.