@story TONYA MCCOY
@images COURTESY OF KATIE STAGLIANO
In this month’s Ignite series, we’re showing you how one little seed can feed hundreds, and how one child’s dream is now feeding thousands.
In 2008, Katie Stagliano, now thirteen, brought home a cabbage seed from her third grade class to plant at her home in Summerville, South Carolina. She watered it. She cared for it. And in return, it grew to a hefty forty pounds. “I was absolutely blown away by my cabbage plant growing that big, because I thought, ‘I brought this cabbage seedling home and it was so tiny, and now look how big it is,’” Katie says.
Her class got the seeds from Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program, a program that works with schools to teach kids about gardening. Bonnie Plants gives classes O.S. Cross cabbage seeds, known to grow oversize cabbages, sometimes nearing fifty pounds.
Katie’s forty pound cabbage was more than her family and friends could use. But Katie already had other plans for her cabbage. “I think it was kind of meant to be, because after it grew that big, I decided to take it to a soup kitchen. And I learned there aren’t always people that have enough food to eat. Some people have to rely on soup kitchens for their food, and I thought, well, that would be great if I could donate my cabbage to them. And so that’s kind of how Katie’s Krops all began.
“When I went to the soup kitchen there were a lot of kids there. That’s what really got me thinking – hey there’s so many kids here and they’re around my age. They’re like me and my brother and my family. And I thought, ‘what if that was me?’ And it could have been if we had fallen on hard times or if we [my family] had a medical issue, or a house fire.”
That day, Katie’s cabbage helped feed 275 people. That day Katie decided there was more she could do to help.
With newfound inspiration Katie decided to expand. She started at her school.
“I said, ‘I’d love to start a garden here.’ And I thought maybe they’d let me have a bed or something very small, because I was only in fourth grade, and they weren’t expecting me to ask anyway, but they gave me a plot of land the size of a football field.”
Katie’s idea to raise crops for those in need grew exponentially with the help of classmates and teachers, but Katie didn’t stop there. In 2011, Katie set up a website called Katie’s Krops and, with the help of her parents, started a grant program so that kids all over the nation could grow gardens to help those in need.
The grant program is for kids and teens between the ages of nine and sixteen, and focuses on growing plants for donations that have high yields like squash, okra, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Now Katie’s Krops has grown to forty-nine gardens in twenty-two states.
“I love having so many kids excited about starting gardens and I love being able to kind of pay it forward and allow them to start a garden, because I’ve had support from so many amazing people that really helped me do what I’m doing, and I wanted to help other kids too.”
Listening to her speak, it’s hard to believe Katie’s only thirteen. She’s certainly wise beyond her years. However, she’s still a typical teenager in some ways: she loves listening to Taylor Swift, reading The Hunger Games, swimming for her school team, and just hanging out with her friends. When she grows up she wants to be a teacher, or a chef, or an interior designer. No matter what the future holds for Katie, she says one thing is for sure. “I definitely want to incorporate Katie’s Krops, no matter what I decide to do, and keep working with Katie’s Krops for as long as I can.
“When I first started this I never imagined it would grow to be this big and impact this many people, but I followed my heart. I followed the cause that I believe in, and it’s gotten me really far. I have the amazing support of my community, my family, my friends and people across the country. If you follow your heart and follow a cause that you believe in, there’s nothing you can’t do. And it doesn’t matter how young or how old you are, you can make a difference.”Katie currently does not have participating gardens in Arkansas and would like to help start one in our area. To qualify for a Katie’s Krops Grant, you must be between the ages of 9 and 16. For more information and to apply, log on to katieskrops.com. Or if you’d like to make a donation to help fund the grant program, go to katieskrops.com/supporters.html. There’s also a wish list included if you’d like to donate things like seeds, soil or gardening tools.