Community Garden Feeds the Homeless
One girl turns one giant cabbage into a community garden that benefits others.
Katie grew a 40 pound cabbage, which gave her the idea to plant a community garden to benefit others.
Photo By Stacy Stagliano
It all started with a cabbage seedling — a science project sent home with eager third-graders in Summerville, South Carolina. Inevitably, some of the seedlings didn’t make it into the ground. Others were planted and forgotten; a few were cared for and thrived. Still one girl, then-9-year-old Katie Stagliano, made an impact with her seedling that has since affected hundreds of people.
With her brother’s help, Katie planted the seedling in her family’s backyard. She fertilized and watered it, as well as installed a chicken-wire perimeter fence to keep the deer out. It grew huge, weighing in at roughly 40 pounds.
“When she brought in that cabbage, it changed all our lives,” says Stacy Stagliano, Katie’s mother.
What does one do with a 40-pound cabbage? Katie remembered how her father told her at the dinner table to never take more than she could eat, so she asked her mother if she could donate the cabbage to feed the hungry. Stacy found a local soup kitchen that could take it. The organizer asked Katie to deliver it and later help serve the food made from it. Katie got to see the impact of growing the cabbage, and many guests at the soup kitchen thanked her for her efforts.
That day, a light bulb switched on in Katie’s head. If one cabbage could feed so many, she thought, what about a community garden? What about several gardens? Katie dedicated herself to growing fresh food for the hungry. It seemed a perfect way to make a difference and help the homeless.
“It was fun, it was easy, and it was something a 10-year-old girl could do with her friends,” Katie, now 13, says.
Katie and her family started an organization called Katie’s Krops and created six community gardens to supply fresh food for the hungry. The gardens vary in size, from her backyard garden to a school garden the size of a football field to hundreds of blueberry plants and two greenhouses at a local farm. Both Katie and her mother cannot believe that the project has grown so big; it was never their intention.
“It’s just grown and grown and grown,” Stacy says. “One door opens and you see the possibilities.”
From the sound of it, Katie always had the determination to create an altruistic gardening organization, even if she didn’t start with a deep gardening background. Her parents had often listened when Katie expressed a desire to learn. When she wanted to know more about drought, she and her mother travelled to a nearby lake that had dried up. After the trip, Katie worked with her school to boost water conservation.
Still, like all gardeners, Katie had to make her own share of mistakes. For example, she tried to establish a community garden plot on a hill where there were fire ants. The plot had to be abandoned when the ants spread through the cabbage. She also has given up trying to grow broccoli and cauliflower, crops that always stunted in her garden, in favor of plants that have brought a higher yield and have been easier to grow, such as eggplant.