Helen~ Georgia

Helen Rhymer, 17, of Brooks, Georgia, is learning that as far as gardening goes, “it’s different here.” Her older brother, Jared, was the first Katie’s Krops grower in the family when he started his garden at the family’s home in Colorado eight years ago. He donated his produce to a local food pantry in Monument. Helen helped him and then took over when he aged out. This was also just in time for the family’s move to the land of red clay and a different climate.

The 2021 garden was not “that big,” but it still produced 100 pounds of vegetables, primarily tomatoes, and green beans. She has a much bigger garden in 2022, and it shows. Seeds were started in February, and as of Labor Day weekend, she’s produced about 220 pounds of a large variety of vegetables, including zucchini, squash, tomatoes, green beans, honeydew, and silver wave melons and cucumbers. It’s important to note that this is “so far” in the year because, as a southern gardener in zone 8a, she is able to have spring, summer, and fall gardens. This year’s fall garden crops are peas, radishes, beets, onions, and lettuce, and planting them has now started.

Helen has a couple of big helpers in growing her garden. One is her brother Colin who loves gardening as much as she does. Another is the compost produced by the family’s ducks and goats, which they raise on their 10-acre hobby farm and provide eggs and milk to the family. They need that compost to augment the soil in the eight one-foot tall raised garden beds and the additional beds comprising dirt dumped over weed block.

Moving to a new area can be difficult, and Helen misses the mountains and snow. She’s found she no longer has to battle the squirrels that plagued the Colorado garden but have had to confront squash bugs for the first time. However, she started working at a garden center over a year ago and can ask for advice. She now picks her squash when they are smaller.

Helen loves being outside when she is not home-schooled by her mother or attending her in-person class at the local community college on her path to earning an associate’s degree in biology. Gardening provides her that outdoor time and the bonus of helping her local community when she donates her produce to the Southwest Georgia Food Bank.

Ethan Pappas – West Carrollton garden growing, giving back to community.

WEST CARROLLTON, Ohio (WDTN) — A garden behind West Carrollton High School is helping students grow while also giving back to the community. 

West Carrollton Computer Lab Coordinator Judi Brooks is the green thumb behind the Pirate Patch Garden, guiding its growth.

“I’m here pretty much every day doing something–if it’s just spraying for a squash bug or looking at what’s going on,” says Judi. “I’m always outside.”

Stemming from an idea to connect with nature, the first seeds were planted roughly seven years ago outside of the high school. Judi and another teacher started the garden to show students where their food comes from. 

“I had an interest in gardening and foraging,” says 10th grader Ethan Pappas. “I saw Judi working in the garden one day, just walking by, and I wanted to help do that.”

The Pirate Patch Garden started with a small “L” shape, first producing tomatoes. It’s since grown every year, now producing more than 1,000 pounds of food.

“We have pumpkins. We have kale, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes of course,” lists Judi. 

Roughly 20 students help with maintaining the garden. 

“I started to pick some of the carrots, and I fell in love with it, and it was so fun,” says 7th grader Connie Pappas, who volunteers in the garden. “On some days I’m ready to get dirty, and I don’t even go out with gloves.” 

Grant money from the nonprofit Katie’s Krops helps keep the garden growing. 

When crops are ripe, they’re harvested, weighed, and then donated. This year, the fresh food is going to West Carrollton’s food pantry. 

“This is how we’re supposed to live our lives to give back to others. I’m a very service-oriented person, and I like sharing my knowledge, but I’m a very earthy person,” states Judi. “My mom was a farm girl. I lived in West Carrollton my entire life. My grandmother was very much a plant person. But it’s just who I am. I mean I just feel so comfortable and so relaxed and I want the students to be able to experience too.”

The produce is taken to West Carrollton’s food pantry on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Norah ~ South Carolina

For Norah Drumming, a 12-year-old rising 7th grader at Aiken Intermediate School in Aiken, South Carolina, growing for Katie’s Krops is a family affair. Her Aunt Shania was the first in her family member to join grow with us. She spent seven years tending the garden beds in her mother Selma Sullivan’s backyard after they heard about the organization from a church member. Although this is Norah’s first year as an official gardener, she has been helping with the garden since she was three. That tradition is being passed on with seven-year-old sister Eva, who will be in the 3rd grade at East Aiken School of the Arts this fall, and is now helping Norah.

The girls, assisted by their grandmother, are growing a variety of fruits and vegetables in the raised beds and pots that they’ve affectionately nicknamed “Pickers Patch.” These include carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, soybeans, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and bok choy. Cucamelons are a first-time crop this year, but Chinese noodle beans are out. Even though they were successful last year, the recipients weren’t used to eating them, as they have a rubbery texture. So they’ve been replaced by pole-style green beans grown on an archway.

Those recipients include elderly members of their church, Shaws Creek Baptist in nearby Trenton, and their neighbor Miss Mary. Norah and Eva supply baskets of their ripe produce and bouquets that are grown both for pollination and giving. They also share some dozen and a half egg that their hens produce each week.

Living in USDA growing zone 8 provides many advantages, such as an extended growing season. It’s not without its problems, though. For example, a late frost killed all the blueberry blossoms this spring, and deer ate the peas. Squash bugs have damaged some plants as well.

Norah and Eva both said they like to help others when asked why they do it. Norah and Selma have found it to be a good bonding experience, and Eva said it’s fun to be outside and see things like the cats lying in the flowers. College student Shania still helps when she can, and parents Demetrick and Mandy support and encourage their daughter’s passion for gardening and giving back.

The garden has been so successful over the years that they’ve inspired their church to start its garden. The children at the church are now learning how to garden, too, and loving it.

Bree & Madelyn~ Alabama

Bree Estes, 16, has been a Katie’s Krops Grower since her father heard about the organization, and Bree applied, at nine years old, to become a Katie’s Krops Grower. Then a fourth-grader at Alabama Christian Academy (ACA) in Montgomery, Alabama, she, her parents, and her younger sister, Madelyn, now 15, started a Katie’s Krops garden at the school with advice from their local extension office. That garden is growing today with support from students from all grades tending it and using the outdoor classrooms that have been added.

Soon after starting the garden, the family moved to Birmingham. To satisfy their desire to help their community while being outside and active, they created a new garden at Bree’s new school, Brock’s Gap (then for 5th and sixth graders and now for grades 3 through 5).  Both girls still tend the garden with assistance from the students led by teacher Terri Davis through the informal Katie’s Krops club she has established. The club members help with weeding, watering, and other tasks. This garden also includes outdoor classrooms as well as a pavilion.

The family, including parents Robert and Melinda, also have other gardens. In addition to two beds at the University of Alabama Birmingham’s downtown community garden, where they grow a small portion of their vegetables, they have a large garden at home. As southern gardeners with a growing season that extends from March to November and an initial harvest in April, they grow peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, melons, peas, kale, and pumpkins. One pumpkin vine even decided to use a tree as a climbing pole; nothing like picking pumpkins 5 to 6 feet off the ground! The gardens are flourishing despite sweltering summers, problems with bugs, and initially bad soil that was improved by adding compost to break it down into good growing dirt. As a result, the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama receives its bounty. In contrast, the Montgomery Area Food Bank receives food from the ACA garden. 

Korbin ~ South Dakota

Korbin Leddy, 18, from Stockholm, South Dakota, is a senior at Milbank High School and in his 5th year as a Katie’s Krops Grower. Korbin lives on a farm in South Dakota, and besides tending his 1/3 acre garden, he shows cattle through 4-H. Korbin will be attending South Dakota State University at Brookings, starting in the autumn of 2022, to major in Agricultural Business with a minor in Ranch Management. He has also participated in 4-H Achievement Days for the last ten years in the horticulture project area with activities such as having his produce judged for quality and uniformity.


His planting season starts in late April or early May, but before that can occur, he uses a skid steer to prepare the soil by incorporating the cattle manure and compost he has applied in late fall through late winter. This gets the soil ready for planting. He grows and harvests sweet corn, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, beets, squash, and zucchini to donate to the Grant County food pantry and his church. Both groups distribute the fresh produce to those in need over the vast geographical area they cover.

Besides gardening and tending to his cattle, Korbin also does worm farming in bins in his basement. He has red wiggler worms that he provides vegetable scraps to and augments his soil with the organic matter produced by worms. This past year, June and July of 2021 were primarily dry, but the growing season was extended to late October after a large amount of rain fell during the fall and the weather turned colder a lot later than usual. Since Korbin lives in the central northern plains, his garden season is usually short, with spring frost ending mid-May and fall frost that can occur as early as mid-September. However, he was fortunate to have the later fall harvest this year, which produced a bumper crop.

Our 2021 Grower of the Year – Cece ~Maryland

Many things have changed since we first profiled Katie’s Krops grower, CeCe Harford of Urbana, Maryland, in April 2020 (CeCe – Maryland – Welcome to Katie’s Krops ! (katieskrops.com). Her family has moved to a new home on 2 acres of land, so she was able to give up her five community garden plots and the grow bags she used at her old home to concentrate on creating a half-acre garden in her new backyard. She also has turned fifteen and earned a $500 college scholarship by being named the Katie’s Krops 2021 Grower of the Year!

Some things haven’t changed, though. CeCe is still is passionate about helping people in her community by donating produce to the local senior center and rescue mission. During the height of the pandemic, she shared her harvest directly to people in the community who were in need and/or having difficulty finding fresh vegetables in the grocery stores due to supply chain issues. She does this because she likes helping others, meeting people, and inspiring others, such as a young family friend who is now getting into gardening as well. Hopefully, that’s a future Katie’s Krops gardener!

With the space she has at home, and with the assistance of her parents and brothers, Jaxson, 12, and Kingston, 9, CeCe grows a bountiful harvest including but not limited to tomatoes, broccoli, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, radishes, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkins, beans, squash, zucchini, and various berries. Her parents have planted fruit and citrus trees to help with her vision. She faces the same issues that other gardeners do, including those various leaf eater bugs.

Before Covid, CeCe helped teachers and the Garden Club students with the garden at her old elementary school, Centerville Elementary. Over the past few years, she was able to help with funding to revitalize the garden at the school. As a 6th grader in 2018 and using a $5,000 grant from Lowe’s, she sponsored a youth service day at the elementary school for Martin Luther King Day to encourage the students to help in the garden and thus help others.

Covid restrictions have also affected CeCe’s ability to reach out to the community to encourage other youth gardeners. Now Zoom’s speaking engagements are being done, including an upcoming presentation to 6 to 9-year-old children for which Katie’s Krops supplied t-shirts. In addition, CeCe will provide gift bags with gardening items and fun activities.

A sophomore at Urbana High School, she has many interests besides gardening, including dance (both ballet and contemporary), painting, video games, working on the stage crew and with props for high school theatrical presentations, and simply hanging out with her friends. Katie’s Krops is privileged to have such a well-rounded dedicated gardener on our team, and we wish CeCe an excellent growing season this year and always.

Claire~ South Africa

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Claire Brown, a 30-year-old missionary in eManzana (also known as Badplaas), South Africa, is just a little bit older than the age range for Katie’s Krops gardeners. When our Ohio Growers introduced Katie’s Krops to Claire’s efforts after visiting her garden in Africa we were compelled to help. She was in such dire need of funds when her garden was first started that an exception was made. That has made a difference in how she and her employees at https://lydiasmission.org have grown to feed 1,600 children daily at their Hope Centers.

The organization began in 2017. The garden itself was started in 2019 and has grown in size to cover 43,000 square feet. It has gone from producing 3,000 pounds of vegetables in 2019 to 11,502 pounds of fruit and vegetables through the first ten months of 2021. The climate allows the garden to produce year-round with shade cloth used to prevent crops from burning. In addition, generous donors funded an irrigation system using water from the river at the property’s bottom. Although electricity to run the pumps is not always consistent, the irrigation system is much needed. It is not uncommon to have no rain at all for three-quarters of the year once the rainy season of a few months has ended. Claire and a team of 19 local women grow food based on the local diet and crops that grow successfully in the area, including tomatoes, pumpkins, cabbage, onions, beets, butternut squash, peppers, lettuce, spinach, and green beans. Other items that have been less successful and less well-received include avocados, baby marrow (a type of zucchini), carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, watermelon, peas, and kale. Orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees started bearing fruit in 2020.

The workers are also involved in raising 1,500 chickens whose eggs are sold to raise funds for the organization and breed worms. In addition, they create their compost using the chicken and worm droppings along with cow manure to which they have access.

Gardening in eManzana is not without challenges. Monkeys steal food from the garden (definitely an African problem!). The rain is sometimes accompanied by damaging hail. Six of the workers cannot read or write, and Claire has had to learn the most prominent language, Siswati since that is the only language 16 of the 19 garden workers know. She does use an interpreter when the conversation exceeds her basic knowledge. The level of need can be discouraging. Even before Covid hit, the area was a food insecure community. With COVID it is dramatically worse. Claire regularly meets children, families, and senior citizens who have not eaten in days because they do not have the money to buy food. Many times, they are so discouraged that they have given up even caring for themselves. When workers from Lydia’s Mission show up with a box of fresh vegetables from the garden, their hope is restored, and their faces light up like a small child on Christmas morning.

Bristol & Kinsley ~ South Carolina

Working in their backyard garden has provided many fun moments this year for the Morris sisters of Goose Creek, South Carolina. Their mom, Jackie, found out about Katie’s Krops through Facebook. The family volunteered in the group’s flagship garden in Summerville, South Carolina, in 2020, where they enjoyed helping nurture and harvest vegetable crops.

Nine-year-old 4th grader Bristol and eight-year-old 2nd grader Kinsley have many things in common, including attending Devon Forest Elementary School and being on the autism spectrum. So their parents thought that growing a garden at their home would be a good thing to do since it allows them to work on their own and to do those tasks they love the most, such as getting dirty and playing in the mud. Mixing dirt, fertilizer, and peat moss was not a chore for this team; they loved doing it!

Their mom has been their primary gardening instructor. She taught them to plant seeds, one of Bristol’s favorite tasks, water with a hose, weed, and harvest when the crops are ripe. The primary beneficiary of their efforts has been retired elderly neighbors who no longer drive and are dependent on others, including their family members, to take them to the store. They were very grateful to receive cabbage, kale, tomatoes, bell peppers, and, soon to come, watermelon once they ripen.

There would have been more to share if not for a couple of problems. It turns out that the squirrels liked the seeds and ate them. Once the garden was replanted and started growing, rain flooded their raised beds not once but twice, and they had to be replanted again. It was at this point that Kinsley cried and who could blame her. The rain also affected the cucumbers, which didn’t produce because of the flooding.

Kinsley didn’t mind the vegetables not growing for her own sake because she doesn’t like eating them and prefers apples; she was just disappointed that there would be less to share since she likes giving them away. On the other hand, Bristol loves vegetables and has been known to eat fresh-picked beans straight from the vines. However, she lists flowers, including sunflowers, as her favorite thing to grow. 

Cassie ~ Massachusetts

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.

Clayson ~ Nebraska

One thing you can say about the Katie’s Krops garden that Clayson Thayer, 9, of Champion, Nebraska, grew in 2021 is that it’s big – really big – 817 square feet big! The other thing you can say is that he grows a wide variety of vegetables and grows a lot of them, such as 25 pounds of squash.

After his dad learned about Katie’s Krops through the city of Imperial’s Facebook page, Clayson applied for and was selected as a 2021 Katie’s Krops Grower. Using knowledge and guidance from his father and grandfather and with help from the entire family (parents Chance and Chandra, seven-year-old brother Cryder and four-year-old sister Cayven, and even Grandpa on occasion), the garden was planted with acorn, spaghetti, and butternut squash, carrots, green beans, radishes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, and lettuce. The spring lettuce did exceptionally well, as did the tomatoes, although the latter were grown a bit too close together, making harvest a challenge.

Clayson had problems familiar to all gardeners. The cabbage did not do well at all due to bugs. A summer drought became another issue. Even though there was finally a downpour of 5 inches of rain, it was too late for the spinach at the end of the garden that unfortunately wasn’t getting watered. 

Even as a fourth-grader in the Chase County school system with school work to do, Clayson has shown a lot of dedication to his garden and maintaining it throughout the growing season. A 43 by 19-foot garden takes a lot of time, even when it’s located in your yard. However, he likes helping people and making them happy, and the abundant produce he’s grown does just that. In addition to giving food to family and friends, especially the elderly, both the Imperial Community Center and the Crossroads Wesleyan Church pantry have benefited. Most donations have gone to the community center, where they use the produce for daily meals. Any produce not used is set out for people to take as needed.

When his parents recently asked Clayson for thoughts on his garden, he responded with several lessons learned. The tomatoes need to be spread out more, so they are easier to pick. The corn needed to be planted at the same time for better pollination. The sunflowers were a big success, and he’s hoping to save some seeds for next year. The pumpkin pie pumpkins, and squash did great. He also experienced that feeling familiar to all gardeners: It’s so hard waiting for the plants to produce vegetables ready to pick!