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When Katie Stagliano of Summerville was 9 years old, her class participated in Bonnie Plants rdthird-grade cabbage program. Each school year Bonnie Plants contributes millions of cabbage plants to schools to encourage home and school gardening. In Katie’s class each student received a cabbage seedling to grow at home and see who could harvest the largest cabbage. Katie planted her seedling in the family garden and tended the plant by watering, fertilizing and pulling weeds. With the help of her grandfather, they built a wire cage around the cabbage to protect it from deer. By season’s end she had a 40-pound cabbage.
What do you do with a colossal cabbage too heavy for the grower to lift? Katie believed her special cabbage needed a unique purpose. Her mother contacted a local soup kitchen, Tri County Family Ministries, to see if they would accept a ‘large’ donation. When Katie watched her cabbage feed 275 appreciative hungry, a dream sprouted. What if she could start a vegetable garden to donate produce to the soup kitchen on a year-round basis and reduce hunger in her hometown?
Her first soup kitchen garden was at home. When she needed more space and additional hands, the headmaster, teachers, classmates and parents at her school Pinewood Prep and a local master gardener, helped her start a school vegetable garden the length of a football field.
Achieving the goal of producing fresh food for the local soup kitchen and families in need, Katie dreamed an even bigger dream. Could she inspire schools across the country to grow food for the homeless and hungry?
Katie’s Krops was formed. The 501(c) 3 raises funds to initiate school soup kitchen gardens in all 50 states. To date there are 60 gardens in 26 states. Along the way Katie’s Krops has garnered support and contributions from organizations like WP Rawl Farm in Lexington, Safer Brand products, Disney Friends for Change, Opal Apples, Fall Creek Farm and Nursery, and, of course, Bonnie Plants.
When Katie’s Krops posted a greenhouse on its wish list, Dutch Heritage Gardens in Colorado shipped a 48-foot greenhouse to Summerville and company staff flew in to help set it up. With the help of the Director of Food Service at Pinewood Prep, Katie’s Krops student chefs prepare and serve monthly fresh from the garden dinners for the hungry.
WP Rawl Farm is hosting the first Katie’s Krops Camp in Pelion this July. The camp brings together youth who have initiated Katie’s Krops vegetable gardens in other states to learn new gardening practices, budgeting, garden photography and skills to improve their community project. Campers will cook and serve a meal for the hungry in Lexington County.
Fast-forward five years. Katie is now fourteen with a book-publishing contract. Young Palmetto Books, a division of the University of South Carolina Press will publish “Katie’s Cabbage,” the story of how a cabbage plant grew into a national nonprofit tackling hunger at home. She is the youngest recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award.
It only takes a cabbage seedling to grow a dream for a lifetime and make a colossal difference in the local community.
Arlene Marturano is an educator, consultant, master gardener, and freelance writer. Read more of Arlene Marturano’s garden writings at suite101.com and www.scgarden learning.com