Ari- The 2023 Katie’s Krops Grower of the Year!
We are thrilled to announce that Ari is the 203 Katie’s Krops Grower of the Year!
A lot has changed since we first profiled Ari Denson in October 2022. She’s now a year older, in the 4th grade, and sadly, one of her garden mentors, her great-grandmother, died in mid-2023.
Other wonderful things, such as the help she gets from her grandfather, have stayed the same. The gardens are still in his backyard but have expanded from one 20 square foot plot and some pots to 116 square feet when Grandpa replaced his deck and used the old wood to build three more 8×4 foot raised beds; even more, are planned for 2024. The garden output also changed from about 50 to over 225 pounds, including spring and summer crops of strawberries, edamame, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, and potatoes. The total will likely go up because she’s still growing in 2023 and currently has collards, kale, cabbage, and mustard greens to give to members of her community, especially those who are retired, to improve their diets. The total might have been higher if not for the plant-eating pests and if the heat, accompanied by a lack of rain while they were on vacation, hadn’t harmed some of the plants.
Ari is also encouraging others to garden. As a junior Girl Scout, she and some of her troop are working on a group project to earn their Bronze Award. They plan to have a separate garden plot at her grandparents’ home (that 6 acres they own are coming in handy!), and she works in the church garden started by the youth choir.
She still enjoys working in her gardens alongside Grandpa with help from her parents, grandma, and occasionally various cousins while learning about different beneficial and harmful bugs, experiencing the joy of giving, and just plain old having fun. We at Katie’s Krops are hopeful that she will continue growing for a long, long time.
Oh, one other thing that has stayed the same. Brother Jeffrey may be a year older, but he still hates the bugs.
For Ariane “Ari” Denson, an 8-year-old third grader at Belvedere Elementary School in North Augusta, South Carolina, it all began with a squash seed. As part of a Sunday school lesson on the mustard seed in 2021, she and her classmates were given squash seeds to take home and grow. Katie’s Krops was mentioned during the lesson, and voila, a new gardener was born.
Ari applied to become a Katie’s Krops Grower, and she grew her first garden this year in her maternal grandparents’ backyard 15 minutes away in Aiken. Her first tutor in growing was grandma, but grandpa just couldn’t sit by and stepped in to help Ari grow over 50 pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, pineapple, and herbs such as thyme, parsley, and sage this year. That total will likely go up since they have now started a fall garden with cabbage and collard greens. This productive haul was grown in just 20 square feet of raised bed gardens and some pots.
She has learned much from her grandparents, who have taught her how to grow plants from seeds and start composting for next year. Her great-grandmother is now 94 and bedridden but has also provided garden tips based on her experience, such as you should cut produce when picking it, not pulling it. In return, great grandma was rewarded with the first item harvested, a cucumber.
Ari has learned a lot this year, including that tomatoes don’t always thrive in the heat of a South Carolina summer, as well as which bugs are good and which are harmful. Another lesson learned, at this point, her 5-year-old brother, Jeffrey, will not be a good assistant in growing because he’s afraid of bugs. They make him cry before he runs away.
Ari really enjoys spending time with grandpa and getting closer to him as they help each other in the garden and with plans for next years, such as growing more in the sun rather than in partial shade. With 10 acres of land available, they should be able to find a suitable spot so they can grow even more. Together they distribute the food grown to the retired friends of the family so they can have healthier diets. She’s also found out that home-grown food tastes fresher and better than that bought at the store. We hope she continues to grow with Katie’s Krops for many years to come and that maybe Jeffrey can get over his bug phobia so he can help.