Those of you who think veggies are “yuck” should meet 11-year-old Katie. Katie is the founder of Katie’s Krops (http://www.katieskrops.com/) that works to start and sustain vegetable gardens of all kinds and sizes, and donate the produce to help feed people in need. And to inspire others to do the same.
Although it’s hard to imagine anyone in the United States going hungry, Katie, who lives in Summerville, in South Carolina, knows that the problem of hunger is a very real one and uses her veggies to make a difference. She started when she was nine and, till date, has donated pounds of vegetables to soup kitchens and needy families.
The inspiration behind it all? A 40-pound cabbage!
“When I was in the third grade I received a tiny cabbage seedling for the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Programme. I went home and planted it in my backyard. I cared for that cabbage a lot: watering, fertilising and weeding around it. When I heard there were deer in the neighbourhood, I called my grandfather and asked him to help me build a cage around it. We measured posts and put chicken wire around it and built a very sturdy and strong cabbage cage. No deer touched my cabbage.
“My cabbage grew and grew until it reached an amazing 40 pounds! I knew my cabbage was special and therefore wanted to find a special home for it. I donated it to Tri County Family Ministries, a soup kitchen, where it helped feed 275 people. I will never forget how many people stood in line that day waiting for a meal. It’s really sad,” says Katie.
Plant a seed
Katie believes helping with vegetables is simple, since all it takes is a seed. “I learned to garden from my ‘master gardener’, Mrs Lisa. After I had donated my cabbage, I wanted to do more to help the people at the soup kitchen. I decide that if one cabbage could feed 275 people, a whole garden could do so many more. I knew I needed help to learn everything I would need to know about gardening. Mrs Lisa volunteered to be my ‘master gardener’ and my teacher. She has taught me pretty much all I know about gardening. Stuff like what I can and can’t plant next to each other, how far to space plants, when to plant my seedlings, what type of fertiliser to use, how to test the soil, how to stop bugs from eating my plants,” explains Katie.
And that was just the start. Katie has many helpers, including her family; together they are a formidable gang of ‘green fingers’.
Friends and more
Katie says: “I have a close friend, Mr Bob, whom I met at my first food drive. He came to the food drive with vegetables and offered me some land at his farm in Ridgeville. He has built me a greenhouse, planters, and a chicken coop out of recycled pallets. I even went to a chicken auction with him down in an interesting part of South Carolina where I purchased Yokoso and Pork Chop, my two chickens that will provide eggs for the soup kitchens.”
Her school, Pinewood Prep, is K-3 through 12th grade, so she has got a lot of kids involved. The school is even working on a school-wide composting programme.
Katie speaks in schools, trying to get more people involved. “I went to speak to a group of kids at a summer camp. After I finished, a little girl in the back of the room raised her hand and said: ‘I just wanted to say I think you are really nice.’ She gave me a big hug and put a little sticker that she had on her shirt on my shirt, over my heart. The sticker said ‘Love’. After she left the room I was told that she was homeless and last night for dinner she had eaten some vegetables that I had grown.” This has been Katie’s greatest achievement till date.
School is fun
School keeps Katie busy. Her favourite subjects are geography, history, science, math, and writing. Katie says: “I enjoy science because right now we are doing a soil unit and I am learning a lot about soil that will help me in my gardens. We even tested the soil in my garden. The soil tests will determine what type of fertiliser we will need to use in the garden. Mr Stjern my teacher makes geography and history really fun. Math is cool because we do a lot of interesting projects. I like writing because when I grow up I want to be a non-fiction author, and this helps me improve my writing skills.”
For keen gardeners Katie’s tips are simple. “Start small,” she says. “I would start with either a couple of pots or a small plot of land. Tomatoes are easy to grow and they yield a lot of harvest. Know your area’s growing seasons. If you live in a sunny place like South Carolina, you can garden almost year round. Gardening is such a fun and easy thing to do. It is fun to watch the plants grow from a tiny seedling or seed to a big beautiful plant that yields a great harvest.”
There is a bit of Katie in all of us. Wouldn’t it be fun if we didn’t have to eat the veggies on our plate and give them away to earn some good karma points? But that’s not the way to do stuff. See what Katie has to say for all those who want to make a difference: “Follow your heart. You should help a cause that you truly believe in, or even start your own like I did. You will be amazed at how easy it is to make a difference in the world! It does not matter what your age is, just the fact that you want to help is all it takes.”
(Paromita Pain is a senior reporter and sub-editor with The Hindu and its feature supplements Young World and NXg)
Infochange News & Features, October 2010