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

DCIM\100MEDIA\DJI_0131.JPG

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!

Zion, Zielle, and Ziriah ~ South Carolina

Goose Creek, South Carolina, is a great place to grow a Katie’s Krops gardens. Just ask the Bryant sisters, Zion, Zielle, and Ziriah. The girls tried gardening last year with some success but have produced in 2021 after signing up for Katie’s Krops and receiving a starter kit with a soil testing kit, pots, a hose, shovels, gloves, seeds, and a gift card to buy anything else they needed to grow their garden.

Their front yard now includes a vegetable plot with multiple crops, including the three sisters of corn, squash, and beans, because three sisters pretty much need to grow the three sisters, wouldn’t you agree? They haven’t limited their garden to that, though. They also grew bumper crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and green beans along with basil. But, on the other hand, the watermelon did not do so well and never got bigger than a baby squash.

The girls first learned about gardening from their late grandfather, who taught them skills such as turning over the soil, checking the sun pattern in their garden, and how to grow tomatoes. Zion and Zielle also volunteer in the Green Heart Garden at their school, Meeting Street Academy in Charleston, where they are in the 4th and 2nd grades, respectively. 

The girls are supported in their efforts by their parents, Marcus and Brittany. Brittany is also on the board of Green Heart. They help them package their produce to deliver by hand to elderly neighbors within walking distance, just as their grandfather did, and for the sister of one of their teachers. Each of the girls has their own reasons for gardening. Nine-year-old Zion feels closer to her grandfather when she is in the garden and likes helping people and sharing, while Zielle, 7, likes getting dirty. Ziriah enjoys being outside with her siblings AND getting dirty. 

Gardening in South Carolina presents both challenges, such as the heat and advantages, including being able to raise very productive spring and fall gardens in addition to the usual summer garden. The Bryant family’s fall garden will include beets, carrots, broccoli, kale, peas, lettuce, spinach, and onions. In addition, they’ll be continuing their efforts battling destructive bugs, pests, and diseases without harming the beneficial bugs they’ve seen, such as ladybugs or dragonflies.

Plans are already in the works for next year. The family will be expanding with the addition of a baby boy, and the garden will be expanding from 36 to 72 square feet by increasing the plot from 12 x 3 to 12 x 6 feet. That garden might not include sunflowers, though. Dad was not impressed by them. Fortunately, he and the rest of the family do like the fresh produce. 

Aspen ~ Indiana

Aspen Anglemyer, nine, might be a new Katie’s Krops Grower, but he is certainly not inexperienced. Aspen started in the garden as a toddler, working with his grandfather. Grandpa still helps him grow vegetables and flowers by tending the garden when Aspen’s family is out of town. Aspen and his mom and dad, Valerie and Kelly, grow cucumbers, radishes, peas, green beans, carrots, and flowers in three raised garden beds, along with tomatoes in individual buckets. Even the family dog, Ruby, gets in the act by eating the weeds as they are picked and tossed in a corner.

Currently a third grader at Wakarusa Elementary School in Goshen, Indiana, Aspen first heard about Katie’s Krops from his mom, a middle school teacher. She read about the organization in an e-mail from Youth Service America (YSA) that featured the group’s work being done to help alleviate hunger through the growing efforts of children.

Not every crop has been a success. Aspen managed not to grow zucchini, which, as most vegetable gardeners know, is quite a feat. The blame for this can be laid squarely at the feet – or should we say roots – of the Cosmos flower plants. They love their raised bed spot so much that they are now over 5 feet tall and prolific enough that they blocked both the sun and water from reaching the zucchini plants. Making lemonade out of lemons, he and his mom cut the flowers and make bouquets for the other teachers at her middle school to brighten their days. Who doesn’t like to see some pretty flowers at their door when they get to work? To avoid this same thing happening next year, the family already has plans to add a fourth raised bed to give the zucchini a fighting chance. Fortunately, there have been very few other problems or pests other than some Japanese beetles.

Aspen has fun working in the gardens from May until the first frost in October or early November, and he also enjoys helping people save money. Besides providing food for his own family, he puts out produce for his neighbors to take and enjoy. He has given baskets of cucumbers and tomatoes to the Family Christian Development Center. This foodbank serves the families living in his school’s neighborhood. They are now working on harvesting radishes and green beans for the food bank.

Aspen also enjoys the light-hearted moments in the garden, such as the carrots that grew a little too close together and managed to wrap themselves around each other and the bees on the flowers that were so still that both he and his mother thought they might be dead. Of course, they weren’t a slight shake of the flowers, and they buzzed right off. Katie’s Krops looks forward to Aspen buzzing into his garden for many years to come to help feed his community.

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.