Ezekiel + Zachariah~ Michigan

Every gardener faces adversity at some point, and 9-year-old Ezekiel and his seven-year-old brother Zachariah have probably encountered more than their share for their ages. It all started at their previous home in West Virginia, where they became Katie’s Krops Growers after their mom, Meg, read about the organization on Facebook. Their garden there did well until the bugs got to the green beans and peas. Still, they had a good harvest of other crops that they could donate to a senior home in the town of Rupert.

Before the 2023 growing season, they moved to Michigan and settled near Lansing to be near family. Unfortunately, their new home didn’t have a yard for growing. Hence, the family got creative and started a porch garden with tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno, and other hot peppers and cilantro. Growing in containers was a new learning experience. Still, they were doing well, picking and sharing their crop in the community while expecting to harvest even more until August 24, when the tornado came. Yes, a TORNADO! In Michigan…

Mom Meg says that losing some roof shingles and a bit of siding from their rental home didn’t disturb her nearly as much as losing some of their plants and the fruit from others. They knew they wouldn’t have as much bounty to share, but the boys wanted to continue their efforts because Zachariah finds gardening fun. Ezekiel enjoys tasting vegetables straight from the garden. Meg became creative with what they did have and started stretching it by using the ripe produce in meals that they then shared in their neighborhood with those in need. She also pickled some of the jalapenos and distributed those for the community members to use this winter. That’s good because their 2023 gardening season is over, and they’ve even had their first snowfall.

Mom is one of many in the family that are creative, though. Ezekiel and Zachariah showed that same spirit in West Virginia when they wanted to eat a watermelon, and Mom was busy with something else. They knew they shouldn’t use the knife to cut it, so they threw it on a wall. Not surprisingly, it broke open, and they enjoyed a delicious treat. While we at Katie’s Krops don’t encourage throwing food around, especially watermelons, we applaud their spirit and ability to adapt to changing growing methods, climate, and circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

We look forward to sponsoring them in the coming years.

River City Science Academy ~ Florida

Click Here to Support River City Science Academy via Their Amazon Wishlist!

Some of the luckiest people are the ones who find something they are passionate about and are able to use that passion to support themselves and others. Jarred Shaw, a literacy coach at the River City Science Academy’s Middle-High School in Jacksonville, Florida, is one of those people. An educator for 23 years and previously a school principal in New Jersey, Jarred has always worked with students and local farmers on the gardens at every school where he was a staff member. Now he serves as the head of the school garden club at this Title 1 charter school.

The garden started when Jarred brought in produce to share from his home garden and a science teacher suggested turning a small, blighted space on the school property into a garden. In addition to soliciting support and donations, a student, Donte Camacho, and Jarred wrote a grant request to Katie’s Krops and we have supported them for the last two years.

The six raised and six in-ground beds provide produce year-round. Sweet potatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, broccoli, eggplant, snow peas, pole beans, collards, spinach, and other leafy greens are some of the vegetables that complement the fruit from 15 varieties of fruit trees including lemon, lime, fig grapefruit, and herbs such as basil, oregano and parsley. They also have a butterfly garden and grow milkweed, roses, and other flowers as pollinators.

The 150 pounds of food produced so far has all been distributed to the students in need as well as some school staff. One 75-year-old teacher said the produce he receives helps keep him alive. New raised beds are being built from wooden pallets so that even more can be grown and shared.

The garden club is still small, with 5 to 10 students participating at any given time. As a STEM school, there are many activities vying for the attention of the students. They still appreciate the garden, and science teachers like being able to use it for some of their lessons.

The garden is also supported by members of the community, including Jones and Hall Garden Center, the Florida Farm Bureau, Target, Southeastern Grocers, and Wild Ones, a group that promotes the use of native plants. In the summer, support for maintaining the garden comes from Jarred himself as well as school maintenance staff and volunteers. For his part, Jarred does not mind because, again, he has a passion for gardening and for providing healthy eating options to his students. Katie’s Krops shares those passions, and we are happy to support Jarred, the students, and the school garden.

 

Jackson~ Illinois

Nine-year-old Jackson from Illinois enjoyed his first year as a Katie’s Krops Grower so much that he plans to grow again in 2024. He first heard about the organization from his mom while researching grants for her adult garden club.

It has yet to be a total success story; Jackson’s tomatoes, eggplants, and lettuce did great, but the peppers and beans were another story. Despite that, he donated 21 pounds of peaches from the family’s existing trees and 25 pounds of vegetables from his two raised beds to his neighbors and a local food pantry. He also learned about plant diseases and how the drought conditions in the Midwest affected his garden, requiring him to often water with a hose or from a bucket to keep his plants alive.

Jackson did not limit his efforts to just food. He also grew swamp milkweed to raise butterflies and was successful when three orange and black monarchs matured. He nicknamed them Milanos after the cookie container in which they
were raised.

With assistance from his mom and sometimes his sister, Jackson was able to help others, which he says is why he puts in the work to grow. We here at Katie’s Krops are happy to hear that and to help Jackson as he continues with his garden in the coming years.

Ari- The 2023 Katie’s Krops Grower of the Year!

We are thrilled to announce that Ari is the 203 Katie’s Krops Grower of the Year!

A lot has changed since we first profiled Ari Denson in October 2022. She’s now a year older, in the 4th grade, and sadly, one of her garden mentors, her great-grandmother, died in mid-2023.

Other wonderful things, such as the help she gets from her grandfather, have stayed the same. The gardens are still in his backyard but have expanded from one 20 square foot plot and some pots to 116 square feet when Grandpa replaced his deck and used the old wood to build three more 8×4 foot raised beds; even more, are planned for 2024. The garden output also changed from about 50 to over 225 pounds, including spring and summer crops of strawberries, edamame, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, and potatoes. The total will likely go up because she’s still growing in 2023 and currently has collards, kale, cabbage, and mustard greens to give to members of her community, especially those who are retired, to improve their diets. The total might have been higher if not for the plant-eating pests and if the heat, accompanied by a lack of rain while they were on vacation, hadn’t harmed some of the plants.

Ari is also encouraging others to garden. As a junior Girl Scout, she and some of her troop are working on a group project to earn their Bronze Award. They plan to have a separate garden plot at her grandparents’ home (that 6 acres they own are coming in handy!), and she works in the church garden started by the youth choir.

She still enjoys working in her gardens alongside Grandpa with help from her parents, grandma, and occasionally various cousins while learning about different beneficial and harmful bugs, experiencing the joy of giving, and just plain old having fun. We at Katie’s Krops are hopeful that she will continue growing for a long, long time.

Oh, one other thing that has stayed the same. Brother Jeffrey may be a year older, but he still hates the bugs.

~~~

For Ariane “Ari” Denson, an 8-year-old third grader at Belvedere Elementary School in North Augusta, South Carolina, it all began with a squash seed. As part of a Sunday school lesson on the mustard seed in 2021, she and her classmates were given squash seeds to take home and grow. Katie’s Krops was mentioned during the lesson, and voila, a new gardener was born.

Ari applied to become a Katie’s Krops Grower, and she grew her first garden this year in her maternal grandparents’ backyard 15 minutes away in Aiken. Her first tutor in growing was grandma, but grandpa just couldn’t sit by and stepped in to help Ari grow over 50 pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, pineapple, and herbs such as thyme, parsley, and sage this year. That total will likely go up since they have now started a fall garden with cabbage and collard greens. This productive haul was grown in just 20 square feet of raised bed gardens and some pots.

She has learned much from her grandparents, who have taught her how to grow plants from seeds and start composting for next year. Her great-grandmother is now 94 and bedridden but has also provided garden tips based on her experience, such as you should cut produce when picking it, not pulling it. In return, great grandma was rewarded with the first item harvested, a cucumber.

Ari has learned a lot this year, including that tomatoes don’t always thrive in the heat of a South Carolina summer, as well as which bugs are good and which are harmful. Another lesson learned, at this point, her 5-year-old brother, Jeffrey, will not be a good assistant in growing because he’s afraid of bugs. They make him cry before he runs away.

Ari really enjoys spending time with grandpa and getting closer to him as they help each other in the garden and with plans for next years, such as growing more in the sun rather than in partial shade. With 10 acres of land available, they should be able to find a suitable spot so they can grow even more. Together they distribute the food grown to the retired friends of the family so they can have healthier diets. She’s also found out that home-grown food tastes fresher and better than that bought at the store. We hope she continues to grow with Katie’s Krops for many years to come and that maybe Jeffrey can get over his bug phobia so he can help.  

Austin & Toni ~ Ohio

They may be young, but the brother and sister duo of Austin and Toni Carr, ages 8 and 10
respectively, are learning how to grow vegetables. Students at Amanda Clearcreek Elementary school
in rural Ohio, they began their garden two years ago after their parents heard about Katie’s Krops on
the P. Allen Smith gardening show on PBS. The siblings have grown 185 pounds of tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, green beans, and cucumbers in their 16 by 16 foot in-ground garden. The carrots they attempted did not produce, but the flowers they grow thrive,
aiding in pollination while providing beauty.

After their Dad tills the garden in the spring, Toni and Austin are responsible for planting, weeding, and
harvesting. They have had some adversity, especially this year when a wet spring was followed by a sweltering and dry summer, both of which hurt the garden. They also have to
contend with pests, such as birds and rabbits, who are more than willing to eat the produce, which is
one reason the carrots don’t do well.

The two chickens left from the original flock of 10 (blame the coyotes and stray cats) provide
droppings for composting the garden, eggs for the family, and lessons on how to care for chickens to
Toni and Austin.

Both enjoy working in the garden. Austin likes chasing mom with the worms, although he moves
the toads from the garden rather than running with them. Toni enjoys bonding with her family and says
gardening is a fun hobby where she gets to be active. Mom Ashley is happy to have a summer activity
that gets the kids outside and off their tablets. The entire family is glad they can provide fresh
produce to their neighbors and the food pantries in Amanda and nearby Stoutsville. Their goal is
to eventually raise enough so that they can put a farm stand outside their home where everyone in their small community can stop by and take what they need for free.

While no one outside the family helps with the garden, Toni has talked to her friends about what they
do and shares vegetables with them. She is hoping they will get their own Katie’s Krops gardens so they can also help the community while they learn about gardening.

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.