Rose ~ North Carolina

Katie’s Krops Growers begin with the organization for various reasons. In 15-year-old Rose Stoehr’s case, it has become a family tradition. Older siblings Jackie and John preceded her, and while both have moved on to college, the garden they helped tend for years at Hawk Ridge Elementary, a public school in Charlotte, North Carolina, is still growing. Mom Carrie is a teacher at the school as well as the garden coordinator, and Rose started participating in 1st grade; eight years later, she has moved on to high school but is still an active Katie’s Krops Grower and the youth lead responsible for the Hawk Ridge Garden.

The first Stoehr sibling to join Katie’s Krops was Jackie. She and some 4th-grade classmates at Hawk Ridge wrote the grant application, and she continued working in the garden for many years until she left for college. John then spearheaded the garden for a year until he left for college as well, leaving Rose to take charge. Both Jackie and John say they learned a lot about gardening, whether they were lugging bags of dirt, planting seeds, watering, weeding, picking produce, and performing all the tasks involved in maintaining a healthy garden. Both also learned a lot about their community, its needs, and that the fresh produce is very much appreciated at the food bank since most of the food they have is canned.

With her siblings off at school, Rose is now the lead Katie’s Krops Grower. From starting seeds in the wooden raised beds in March to the final harvest in November, the garden produces tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and various greens. These crops are donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank, whose recipients are thankful for and enjoy the 400 to 500 pounds of fresh produce grown annually. This bounty is produced in 9 raise garden beds totaling 336 feet; herbs grown in pots are also donated. Growing the food provides students with an opportunity to volunteer while working outside in the dirt, weeding, and planting. Rose enjoys that and feels good that these donations help others.

Volunteer gardeners are recruited from the student population each year. Carrie recently made a video to recruit volunteers this growing season and now has six students per day helping in the garden. Limiting the number of students is needed to ensure that they are socially distanced while they work. It’s a fun learning experience for those who participate each spring and fall; as with most school-based gardens, students do not participate when school is not in session, but Rose and her mom keep the garden going during the summer.

The Charlotte area has a relatively long growing season. The heat of summer definitely results in a bumper crop of bugs, too, which must be dealt with along with some damage to the garden in the form of trash and uprooted crops that is done by a few kids. Fortunately, those issues are not too frequent or harmful. The gardeners do have a source of water for their crops, making watering in the Charlotte heat a lot easier. Rose estimates that she personally spends 5 to 7 hours a week while the garden is being established in the spring and then 2 to 3 hours each week during the summer and fall growing and harvesting seasons.

Rose is the last in the line of the Stoehr siblings, but even when she graduates high school and heads off to college in a few years, she hopes to continue helping in the garden during the summer and to do her best to remain a part of the garden and work to engage future students in learning about gardening and continuing the work of Katie’s Krops.