Cassie Gordon is a 16-year-old Junior in Quincy, Massachusetts, growing at Houghs Neck Congregational Church. Her efforts to grow a healthy end to hunger began at age eleven. The garden initially started when a local teen, Alex Samsel, built raised garden beds for his Eagle Scout project. He was followed by another Eagle Scout candidate who added rain barrels to the garden. Cassie is now working on obtaining the Eagle Scout rank and the Girl Scout Gold Award herself, expanding the garden this year by adding potato bags to improve the variety of food grown and the overall yield. She also has created a whole curriculum and website, Healthy Home Gardening – Home (weebly.com), dedicated to teaching young folks about the benefits of healthy eating and growing their vegetables.
This year, Cassie serves as the garden coordinator, developing a watering schedule for the 8-10 youth participating and ensuring the garden is tended. After Covid prevented group activities from taking place last year, the kids look forward to getting out in the garden as they complete planting and then weed, water, and harvest their crops. In addition to the potatoes, they grow cucumbers, carrots, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, onions, scallions, chives, green beans, and parsley. Their methods include growing the green beans up a triangular teepee shape formed by eight poles and growing onions in a separate planter. They also have help and support from the congregation, including obtaining tomato plants from a member who starts them in their basement under grow lights. This work produces hundreds of pounds of food for the Interfaith Social Services Food Pantry, where the food is distributed to those who need it.
Planting starts at the end of May, but this year potatoes went in the ground on May 1. The first frost is typically in November, but most plants start dying before then. This is not altogether bad since the gardeners are caught up in their studies, school activities, and other obligations by then. It does mean, though, that Cassie no longer gets to enjoy seeing the things that her group grows; she takes a lot of pride and pleasure in being able to grow food from seed and from something that they see in the garden, such as a nursing mouse that had made her nest under a rubber tile this past April. After oohing and aahing over the sight, the gardeners gently put the pathway tile back in place to give them their privacy and keep them safe. Things like this make up for the not-so-nice things that happen, such as the destruction of growing trellises on Halloween night several years ago.
All told, this church Katie’s Krops garden is a team effort from start to finish. The garden is thriving with supportive church trustees, Eagle Scouts donating their efforts, youth group members doing a lot of physical labor, and, of course, support from Katie’s Krops.