West Carrollton High School~ Ohio

Not all Katie’s Krops gardens are grown in backyards. Sometimes they are community-based at a church or school. One such garden is the Pirate’s Patch; named after the school mascot, it’s located on the grounds of West Carrollton High School, just south of Dayton, Ohio, and is where students from the school raise food guided by Judi Brooks. Judi is officially the Computer Lab Coordinator but incorporates her love of gardening and love of students into teaching the students about growing vegetables and helping the community.

The garden got its start several years ago when Judi and Lori Balazs, a colleague at the school, were interested in creating a garden where students could experience growing vegetables and use the garden as a community service for the students to raise and donate to the homeless in Dayton. Science teacher Mike Newman was familiar with Katie’s Krops from his time in Summerville, SC, the organization’s hometown, joined in and challenged his students to write essays to use for applying for the first Katie’s Krops grant. Using the funds from the first grant, Mike and his students planted radish seeds in the classroom, experimenting with different growing methods, and later transplanted them in the Pirate’s Patch. A couple of years later, Judi assumed the leadership role and has worked with student and community members to continue the work in the garden through Katie’s Krops.

Various students are generally involved with the garden, including Environmental Science students, the National Honor Society (NHS), football and volleyball teams, and anyone interested in growing food. Unfortunately, this past growing season was not “normal” due to Covid19. All West Carrollton’s students had 100% remote/hybrid learning, so they were not able to help in the gardens. Darn Covid! That did not deter Judi and others. They continued growing to provide over 1,000 pounds (a garden record) of fresh vegetables to the St. Vincent de Paul shelter to feed their residents. This included pumpkins, squash, tomatoes (from plants provided by Proven Winner), potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, kale, beans, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, celery, radishes, turnips, and various varieties of lettuce.

In addition to helping feed the community, an important goal of Katie’s Krops, the garden provides many educational opportunities while building unique relationships for both the students and adults. Students have an opportunity to learn how food is grown and how it tastes fresh from the plant/vine without the use of chemicals. Some are leery of digging in the dirt and getting their hands in the soil, especially when it gets under their nails, but when a student harvested a 5-pound sweet potato in 2018, it was “game on” to see what everyone else could find in hopes of topping that weight. They’ve learned that as the growing season ends, you can pick the green tomatoes and let them ripen indoors as well as make a cake with them, which Judi did. They enjoyed eating it and were a bit disbelieving when they found out what was in it after they finished and had requested another one.

The students learn other skills too. They are responsible for weighing and photographing the produce as it’s harvested, entering the amounts in a spreadsheet. By analyzing the results, they learn what was most and least productive, providing the information they need to decide what is best to plant during the next growing season.

Pirate’s Patch is a 24 by 78-foot area of raised beds constructed of cinder blocks, including footpaths to reach all crops. Trellises using PVC pipes allow for vertical gardening, and even the holes in the cinder blocks are used to grow root vegetables and lettuce. Many large pots lining the walkway provide more growing opportunities. A new high school will be built within the next few years, and plans are being developed for a new greenhouse and space for gardening. In the meantime, cold frames and adding more vertical growing areas are the immediate goals for the current garden.

The Connie Sue Parsons Memorial Butterfly Garden, located in the school’s courtyard and created in memory of a school secretary, provides additional learning opportunities as the students experience the life cycle of butterflies. The students are able to observe all four stages of the butterfly’s life, from an egg to a caterpillar to a chrysalis and finally to the emergence of the butterfly. Environmental Science students receive their own eggs to care for and observe. A butterfly cage in the school library’s media center provides an additional indoor opportunity for any student or staff member who is interested in observing the process.

The students are currently learning through a hybrid model of 2 days at school and three days remotely, so the hope and plan is that they will once again be involved in the garden this coming growing season. 

Mark Your Calendar for our Soil³ Compost Fundraiser Available for our Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina Friends

Mark Your Calendars! March 16th to 30th~

Spring will be here soon, and we are all ready to get our hands back in the dirt. So, you don’t want to miss our new fundraiser perfect for gardeners in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, areas of Tennessee! Our Soil³ Compost Fundraiser offers you $20 savings on each cubic yard BigYellowBag of compost that you purchase. And while you get quality compost for your garden – you also support Katie’s Krops because we get $15 for each bag that you buy!

Please make sure you only order online at Soil3.com with our code KatiesKrops1 from March 16 to 30th – so you get a $20 discount and your purchase helps us end hunger.

We all know that soil quality is critical to successful gardening and Soil³ compost is excellent for all your plants: vegetables, annuals, and perennials, ornamental beds, container gardens, as well as topdressing your lawn. It helps retain moisture so you grow stronger, healthier plants. And it contains slow-release, natural nutrients so your garden vegetables and other plants grow bigger and faster. We love Soil³ compost!Soil³ compost comes in a BigYellowBag that means no mess! The bag is tied shut so if you don’t use the compost all at once you can keep the rain out. This makes it easy to have quality compost handy anytime you are planting something new or filling a container. Plus, it is more cost-effective than buying lots of small bags of compost and you don’t have to tote all those bags yourself. Delivery is simple and complies with social distancing.

The regular price for a cubic yard BigYellowBag of Soil³ humus compost is $199.99. With our discount code KatiesKrops1 you will save $20 and pay $179.99 plus tax. Delivery is included! The fundraiser will run from Tuesday, March 16 to Tuesday, March 30. Order online with this link and the $20 discount will automatically be applied: https://shop.soil3.com/discount/KatiesKrops1 You can share this deal with anybody you know, but they must use the code to order on soil3.com for us to get credit. Thanks for your support and happy gardening!

And I have to include a shameless plug. If anyone would like to donate a bag to Katie’s Krops, we would be THRILLED!

Garden Treasure Tomatoes & Amazel Basil Inquiries

Based on recent newspaper articles, we have received a large number of calls, emails, and inquiries asking to order tomato plants/seeds and basil plants and seeds. Katie’s Krops does not sell any plants; we are a non-profit that empowers youth across the country to grow a healthy end to hunger one vegetable garden at a time.

To inquire about ordering seeds/plants, please contact our friends and supporters at Proven Winners if you are interested in ordering seeds and plants. Please use this link to order plants and seeds or call 815-895-8130. https://www.provenwinners.com/plants/search?keywords=tomatoes&hardiness_zone=All&duration=All&flower-color=All&light_requirement=All&available_online=All

Please DO NOT Accept Any Facebook Friend Request from Katie’s Krops

As we are working hard to feed our neighbors in need, a hacker has cloned our Facebook page to access your personal information. Please know our Facebook will never send out a friend request. It is only a page that you can “like” or “follow.” We ask that you please report it and block it if you received a request. Thank you.

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.

The Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program~ Sign up today & help inspire the next generation of gardeners

When I was in the third-grade a tiny cabbage seedling forever transformed my life and sent me on the most remarkable path. That cabbage seedling was a part of the Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program, a free program designed to inspire the next generation of gardeners. And inspire it did!

I am excited to share The Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program is relaunching in 2021. I would personally like to invite third-grade teachers and parents across the country to sign up! It is a hands-on science lesson, students will learn about backyard ecology and plant life cycles by growing colossal cabbages and reaping hefty harvests. Students also vie for “Best in State” bragging rights — with a $1,000 scholarship awarded to one student in each participating state and perhaps be a life-changing moment for a third grader as it was for me.

Bonnie Plants has designed the 3rd Grade Cabbage program with COVID-19 safety in mind. With the added stress of learning during the pandemic – getting outside to connect with gardening is more important than ever for the physical and mental well-being of students.

Participating in the 3rd Grade Cabbage Program is completely free! Simply click on the link below to register your class or student by March 1st, 2021. The cabbages will be delivered by mail during your selected shipping window. After you’ve signed up, Bonnie Plants will follow up with instructions just in time for planting, growing, and harvesting, and a ton of other useful resources to help students learn and succeed along the way. For more information, visit: www.bonniecabbageprogram.com

Happy Growing,

Katie

Help Us Launch The Seeds of Change in 2021~ Sponsor Needed~

UPDATE~ Thank you I Heart Hungry Kids for stepping up to sponsor this initiative! We are so excited to partner with you!

In 2020, in the midst of a pandemic and quarantine, we launched the very first Seeds of Change program to provide children with a positive outlet. The program was a huge success!

In 2020 we engaged:
~302 families
~112 kindergarten students
~Shipped the seeds of change to 23 states and Canada
~Over 2250 seed packets have been shared!

Our efforts with the Seeds of Change were highlighted in USA Today and on the front page of numerous newspapers across the country. We heard from the families, and they share photos of their efforts. It is exciting to see what grew and how the seeds provided children with a positive outlet in uncertain times.

We plan on offering this program again in 2021 but require a sponsor to do so. This sponsorship will provide vegetable and flower seeds to children across the country and allow them to start a garden at their home to feed their family and their neighbors in need. The cost of the sponsorship is $850. If you would like to help launch this program in 2021, please email Stacy@KatiesKrops.com. Thank you for your support~

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.

Megan ~ Florida

Two continents, two gardens? Yes, that’s what Katie Krops gardener Megan Godwin has accomplished. When she was twelve years old, Megan moved to South Carolina, where her mother, a teacher, taught Katie’s brother and was Katie’s eleventh-grade homeroom teacher. At the time, the Katie’s Krops flagship garden was located at the school. With a heart for service even then, Megan participated in garden workdays in the large garden and helped cook and serve Katie’s Krops dinners using the produce from the garden. Megan became a core volunteer who embraced every volunteer opportunity Katie’s Krops offered and connected deeply with the people at the dinners.

Megan left South Carolina to attend Stetson University in central Florida, where she is currently a sophomore pursuing a double major in Health Science and Public Health. This did not dim her desire to serve and help people by providing fresh, organic produce and seeing the positive impact on their lives. Aloma Church, which she attends, gave her a plot of land for growing, and she received an annual grant from Katie’s Krops for creating her garden. As a result, she has provided an abundant harvest to the church’s Single Women’s Ministry and the Orlando Union Rescue Mission, a faith-based homeless shelter that runs homes for women and children and men, and volunteers her time to work with the children. Her efforts won her the honor of Rookie of Year with Katie’s Krops in 2018.

Gardening in Florida presents challenges, including only two seasons, at least with regards to weather. In winter, collards and swiss chard grow in abundance and are used by the shelter in soups and stews. Summer is longer – much longer – and her best crops so far are okra, eggplant, peppers, and squash. The high summer heat is problematic for many other vegetables, but Megan perseveres and keeps trying. One of those improvement efforts is rebuilding the raised garden beds. The beds will now be twelve inches high, rather than six inches, and use cinder blocks so they will not rot. Her 2021 grant from Katie’s Krops will fund this effort. As with all the garden work, the rebuild is being done by Megan, a group of college friends, and even the parents of the friends.

Now, about that second garden… Compassion International visited Aloma Church and shared their Compassion Success stories at camp. Megan prayed for guidance in helping people in an African country, and through the Mishono Foundation, she was afforded an opportunity to travel to Kenya to create a garden. Just five days after turning 19, she obtained a grant from Katie’s Krops and flew to Kenya by herself. She supplemented the Foundation’s efforts to feed, clothe, and educate children, thereby teaching the children how to garden. These homeless children work in the garden to share the harvest, but they’re happy and excited to do it since they are rewarded with fresh food that they produce themselves under the guidance of supervising team. The supervisors even say the kids are independent in doing the work. Megan is looking forward to returning to Kenya once Covid-19 does not affect travel.

In the meantime, Megan’s work truly reflects Katie’s Krops mission to fight for a more generous world. To think, it all started because her mother taught Katie in school…

An update on our 2021 Grower Search~

We wanted to thank all of the amazing kids across the country who applied to become a 2021 Katie’s Krops Grower. Applications are continuing to arrive; some were postmarked over a month ago. We have also received phone calls from parents asking if applications have arrived as they had tracking on them and are still in transit. We recognize that the postal service has been overwhelmed this year.
Applications will continue to be accepted. If you are concerned that your application has not arrived, please email Katie@KatiesKrops.com with the applicant’s full name and state. We will let you know if your application has arrived. We promise to work to make sure every child who wants to become a 2021 has the opportunity to do so.