Anderson, Coleman, Lewis ~ Kansas

Outside Kansas City, Kansas, and a short walk to the Kansas/Missouri state line, Anderson Strom, 12, and his brother Coleman, 14, have been official Katie’s Krops Growers for three years. In 2021 younger brother Lewis will ‘officially’ join them and hundreds of children across the country as a Katie’s Krops Grower. Their adventure in growing with Katie’s Krops began after reading a magazine article on Katie’s Krops. The siblings applied and started raising food in multiple 4 foot by 10-foot beds that give them between 150 and 200 square feet for Katie’s Krops and additional growing space for the family’s own food needs. However, mom Amanda and the family canned so much food in 2019 that nearly all of the produce raised in 2020 was donated to others.

What produce it was too! Okra, lettuce, watermelons, pumpkins, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, kale, parsley, green beans, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, and strawberries have all been grown. However, Lily the dog THINKS the strawberries are hers and eats them accordingly. One crop that did not work out for them, though, is corn. What, corn didn’t work? They’re in Kansas; how could corn not work?  They did get some great stalks but no actual ears of corn. It could have been a pollination issue; it was a lesson learned that not everything planted is successful in every garden.

While many Katie’s Krops gardeners use raised beds to produce more food, they are pretty much an imperative for Anderson. Trauma at birth resulted in his paralysis from the chest down. That doesn’t keep him down, though. Despite his core and lower limb paraplegia, he has use of his arms and is able to do every garden chore needed; Coleman and younger brother Lewis do not cut him any slack in that area. After all, if he can – and does – kayak and play wheelchair basketball, why should he get out of weeding? In fact, Coleman, Anderson, and Lewis believe that no matter what limitation a person may have, everyone is worthy and able to give, love, and donate their time and energy in whatever way they can and suits them best.  

It’s too bad Lily the dog doesn’t also like Japanese beetles because she could feast on them and probably some caterpillars too. These are two of the pests that the Stroms battle, mainly by using Neem oil. To have a successful crop, they also need to battle hot and humid weather that requires frequent watering, clay dirt, which is one reason they have raised beds and some famous – or should we say infamous – Kansas storms. The hail and wind they produce make it imperative that crops be staked and tied up.

Planting and growing run from the first summer seeds hitting the ground in late March/early April until around Thanksgiving in late November when the fall crops are done. Throughout the year, the harvest is distributed to those who need it through various organizations. The Shawnee Community Center runs a food pantry, and fresh produce is always welcomed.  Sometimes it’s welcomed a little too much, such as the time Coleman and Anderson were stocking the shelves with their vegetables, and the waiting crowd started to mob them to get to it. It was both a little scary and eye-opening to see what it meant to people to get food that was fresh.

Food is also donated to the First Baptist Church in Stilwell, Kansas. The church, as well as some other churches and corporations, partner with Harvesters, a community food bank that currently runs drive-through food distribution events. Harvesters has access to refrigeration and is better able to keep the food fresh until the next distribution day.