We Are Expanding! A Large Expansion of Our Flagship Garden is Underway

To meet our community’s growing needs, we have launched a vast expansion of our flagship garden that will increase our growing space by one-third. The development is being made possible with Boeing Employee Community Fund of South Carolina’s generous support. “I am so grateful to the Boeing South Carolina teammates for their support of Katie’s Krops and allowing us to increase our growing space to feed even more of our neighbors in need. Our outreach has expanded dramatically in the past year due to the pandemic. The Boeing teammates are helping us meet the increased demand,” Share Katie Stagliano, founder of Katie’s Krops.

Volunteers from Leadership Dorchester executed the project. Susan Cox, the lead volunteer for the Katie’s Krops Garden, build shared, “Our biggest hurdle for Leadership Dorchester this year was not being able to fundraise for a big community service project like other classes have done in years past. It just was not the right time to be asking small businesses for donations when so many haven’t survived the pandemic or are scraping the bottom now. We had to get creative and went on a search to find projects that were already funded but needed some sweat equity. We did set some criteria though. We were looking for a project that was achievable and sustainable. It needed to be an urgent need that would have an impact on our diverse community. So, when Katie’s Krops submitted a proposal, it was a unanimous vote to help. They had turned a monthly dinner into a weekly dinner for much of the first year of the pandemic to help anyone in need within our community. We knew we had to return the favor (like that Mike Rose show) and make sure they have everything they need to continue to help the community.” 

The Katie’s Krops flagship garden is located on the campus of Crossroads Community Church in Summerville. If you are interested in volunteering to grow a healthy end to hunger, please visit the  https://katieskrops.com/volunteer/.

Bradley – New Jersey

New Jersey resident Bradley Ferguson, 20, did not set out to be a gardener. When he was in the 7th grade in 2014, he helped renovate the 1950ies building that housed American Legion Post 295, providing a place for the members to hang out and rent out for events, providing some income post. Bradley looked at the vast expanse of land on the post’s grounds and realized it could be used to grow food for veterans.

Bradley applied to become a Katie’s Krops Grower in 2015 and attended one of the week-long camps, which was a tremendous help with learning how to grow. Fast forward a few years, and Bradley’s group, Post Crashers, now yields 1,000 pounds of vegetables per year in 26 raised beds. In addition to being used in advocacy meals at the post, the food is donated to Enphront to help veterans in transitional housing.

Several people from his middle and high schools volunteer to help with the gardening, and it takes quite a few of them. As with many other things last year, COVID presented challenges. While colleges and universities sent students like Bradley, who attends Harvard off-campus to learn remotely, changes also had to be made to keep volunteers safe. Outside the box, thinking provided the answer. Volunteers registered through Signup Genius and were assigned total responsibility for one of the raised beds. They prepare, plant, weed, water, and harvest their particular bed, which allows them to remain safely distanced from anyone else working in the garden at that time. The system worked so well in 2020 that it will be used again in 2021. Thirty-one people have signed up so far this year, including some who will work together on a bed because they are siblings or friends.

Using this system, the 2020 gardens were as productive as ever, with everyone remaining committed to their particular garden bed. As was done in prior years, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, lettuce, and kale were grown and donated. One change for this year will be an attempt at high-intensity gardening for spinach, lettuce, and kale by planting the seeds closer.

Rocky Branch Elementary – Georgia

So what do you do when you’ve spent the last eleven years as a teacher coordinating the Katie’s Krops garden at your elementary school, using it as a tool for STEM curriculum, but COVID shuts down the school? You start a summer camp program at your home on your farm, of course! That’s what Shawna McGrath, a 3rd-grade teacher at Rocky Branch Elementary in Georgia, did.

The Katie’s Krops garden at Rocky Branch Elementary started eleven years ago when Shawna applied to several organizations for grants to start a school garden. After not receiving a single grant, Shawna saw Katie Stagliano, the founder of Katie’s Krops, on a Disney Channel show. She immediately changed tactics. Her students wrote the grant request to Katie’s Krops. Their application was successful, and, yes, they did feel rather superior since their teacher had not been. The funds that the class received were used to build the first school garden at Rocky Branch. The students planned what to grow and did the planting. This was not only a new venture for Shawna and the school; it was a new venture for Katie’s Krops because this was the first school to receive funding to start a garden. The garden has been very successful, and Katie herself visited the school several years ago to see the students in action and share her book, Katie’s Cabbage. The students who were awarded that very first grant graduated high school last year, leaving behind a tremendous legacy.

As the years passed, the garden expanded using sustainable funding from Katie’s Krops. Members of the school’s gardening club tend to the garden, while the cooking club used the produce to prep meals for five families associated with the school.

Shawna’s classroom includes a grow light to grow seedlings while others are grown in the school greenhouse. A multitude of crops are grown year-round, and everything was going great until 2020, and COVID hit, and the school shut down on March 16, 2020.  Everyone thought it would be for just a week or two, but as we all know, it was not. The school remained closed until the start of the 2020-21 school year. Teachers were given a three-hour window to retrieve all the supplies they needed from their classrooms for remote learning. Shawna and other teachers used part of that time to plant the seedlings that had been started at the school. They were also allowed on campus in June to harvest the crops, including kale, snow peas, lettuce, and spinach. No other school gardening was permitted during the summer.

As in most, if not all, areas of the United States, the need for food exploded as businesses shut down and people were out of work. That’s when Shawna had the inspiration to start her summer camp focused on gardening. People were already seeking her out for advice on planting backyard gardens, but she wanted to do more than that. During the spring, she had her land rezoned and obtained a permit to run the camp. Parents were eager – okay, desperate – for some activity for their children, and there were no problems finding students in the 1st to 6th grades to attend. Each week of the five-week camp saw a different group of 8 to 10 attendees, with the older students helping the younger children as needed. They grew a “giving garden,” and the vegetables grown were combined with grocery store donations to help families in need via the local “Food for Kids” program.

In addition to the food grown at the school, the farm allowed them to grow crops that take up more space, including melons, corn, and sweet potatoes, the latter in towers made of old tires. Shawna taught other strategies, such as “Three Sisters Planting,” where corn, beans, and squash are grown together and benefit each other. 

In-person instruction resumed last fall, but things are not the same. School clubs are not permitted this year, so Shawna’s class and other interested students work in the garden during recess and incorporate this activity into their math and science curriculum. Their fall garden produced lettuce, peas, cabbage, broccoli, and radishes and the spring garden is well underway.

May Katie’s Krops Dinners

For the month of May, we will host Katie’s Krops Dinners on Thursday, May 13th, and Thursday, May 27th. Dinners are held drive-thru style outside the Fellowship Hall of Summerville Baptist Church located at 417 Central Avenue in Summerville, South Carolina. Dinners will be served starting at 4:30 pm and wrap up by 6 pm, or when all meals have been served, whichever comes first. We look forward to seeing all of our guests.

Join us for the April 29th Katie’s Krops Dinner

Join us for our free-garden-to-table dinner on Thursday, April 29th. On the menu, beef & vegetable chili, cornbread, a tossed green salad, and homemade desserts. We will also have a giveaway to help our guests. We will start serving at 4:30 pm. The dinner will be served drive-thru style at Summerville Baptist Church, located at 417 Central Avenue in Summerville, South Carolina. We look forward to seeing you on Thursday.

Join Us for Our April 15th Katie’s Krops Dinner

Join us on Thursday, April 15th, for our free Katie’s Krops Dinner. In addition to a free dinner, every family will receive a bag of fresh produce to bring home with them. This week, on the menu, baked chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, a fresh vegetable medley, fresh bread, and desserts. The dinner will be held drive-thru style outside the Fellowship Hall of Summerville Baptist Church located at 417 Central Avenue in Summerville. We will start serving at 4:30 pm. We look forward to seeing everyone on Thursday.

May Katie’s Krops Outdoor Classroom Programs

We are thrilled to continue to offer programs in our outdoor classroom in May. Below you will find a list of upcoming classes and a description including age guidelines for each class. All of our programs require advance signups. Every program will have a limited number of spaces available. Our programs are not drop-off programs, and we require a parent or guardian to stay in the garden area during class time. We ask for programs that involve elementary-age students, adults to step away from the classroom to allow children to work independently with the instructor and fellow students. This does not apply to storytime.

As we are in an outdoor setting, all classes are weather-dependent. We are a working garden that includes bugs, sticks and stone, and all of a garden’s wonders. Closed-toes shoes are required at all times.

Storytime in the Garden with Katie- Monday, May 3rd 10:00 am to 10:45 am. 

Join Katie for three stories and explore what is growing in the garden. A parent or guardian must stay in the garden during storytime. Closed-toed shoes are required, and masks are optional. Thank you, Main Street Reads, for sponsoring this program.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054DA5AE29A6FE3-story

Safety Talk with Summerville Police Officer – Friday, May 14th 10:15 am

Summerville Police Officer James will teach a safety class for kids ages 4-8! This class will go over important safety measures, talk about what a police officer does and answer any questions the kids may have. We ask that parents stay in the garden during the class, but let the children sit by themselves in the outdoor classroom.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054DA5AE29A6FE3-safety1

Science in the Garden- Tuesday, May 18th 1:00 to 1:45 pm

Join Mrs. Boykin in the garden as she teaches a gardening-based science class! Students will be learning about plant structure and function, creating their own plant models, and exploring the garden for some hands-on learning. This class is opened to students 4 to11 and we ask that parents stay in the garden with their children for the duration of the class. 

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054DA5AE29A6FE3-science

Family Yoga in the Garden- Saturday, May 22nd 10 am to 11 am

Join Three Keys Yoga instructor in the garden for family yoga. This class is open to participants of all ages and we ask that families remain together for the class. Participants must bring a yoga mat or towel. This program is free of charge thanks to our friends at Three Keys Yoga.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054DA5AE29A6FE3-yoga1

Storytime in the Garden with Katie- Monday, May 10th 10:00 am to 10:45 am. 

Join Katie for three stories and explore what is growing in the garden. A parent or guardian must stay in the garden during storytime. Closed-toed shoes are required, and masks are optional. Thank you Main Street Reads for sponsoring the program.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054DA5AE29A6FE3-story1

Mother’s Day Arts & Craft in the Garden- Friday, May 7th 10 am to 11 am

Create beautiful crafts just in time for Mother’s Day on Sunday. This class is open to children three and up. There is a $5 charge which includes all supplies. Funds will be collected at the start of the class. A parent or guardian must stay in the garden during arts and crafts. 

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054DA5AE29A6FE3-mothers

Storytime in the Garden with Katie- Monday, May 24th 10:00 am to 10:45 am. 

Join Katie for three stories and explore what is growing in the garden. A parent or guardian must stay in the garden during storytime. Closed-toed shoes are required, and masks are optional. Thank you, Main Street Reads, for sponsoring this program.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054DA5AE29A6FE3-story2

Photography in the Garden- May 15th at 10 am

Join local photography expert Matt Cavanaugh as you explore the garden through your camera lens. This class is open to new and experienced photographers. The class is open to ages twelve and older. Adults are encouraged to join. Please bring your camera and wear closed-toe shoes.

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409054DA5AE29A6FE3-photography

Our classroom is located in our flagship garden on the campus of Crossroads Community Church, 505 Gahagan Road in Summerville. Please follow the driveway to the rear of the church where you will find the classroom.