By Katie Stagliano
Isn’t it wonderful when your expectations are exceeded? When all is said and done, everything went better than you could have ever imagined? That’s exactly what happened with the very first Katie’s Krops Camp.
I have amazing friends and supporters in the Rawl family. W.P. Rawl is a third-generation family farm that has grown to become a grower/shipper/processor specializing in year-round bulk and leafy greens and vegetables. My story, my dream of ending hunger one vegetable garden at a time, appeared on their produce bags of Nature’s Greens Collards and Kale. My smiling face greeted customers in fresh produce aisles around the country.
The Rawl family wanted to do more than just sponsor our efforts, however. They wanted to bring together the young Katie’s Krops growers, the youth who are helping to end hunger in their communities, coast to coast. My wonderful friends wanted to help create the first Katie’s Krops Camp.
I had always had a dream that children could grow a healthy end to hunger in their communities by growing vegetable gardens at their schools, in their backyards, at their neighborhood parks. I dreamed that these children would be a “growing” family that would support one another and learn from each another. I had a dream that one day I could meet my “growing” family and celebrate our efforts.
As plans for the camp began to form, I became increasingly excited to meet the young Katie’s Krops family that had grown from my dream. When applications started to fill our post office box, it was time for the difficult task of choosing grantees. I had to take piles of applications and whittle them down to just 12 young growers. These gardeners, ranging in age from 9 to 16, would make the trip out to W. P. Rawl for the three-day camp. Accompanying them would be their parents, grandparents, and mentors. Best of all, this trip would be made at no expense to them. Our sponsor, W. P. Rawl, would cover all of the costs.
The day of the camp finally arrived. As the campers made their way to Columbia, South Carolina, by plane and car, I headed to meet our campers -- along with my mom and my Master Gardener -- to unite the Katie’s Krops family.
We first gathered at a welcome dinner. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. As I sat at the table, doing an ice-breaker with some campers and parents, I realized what an awesome group of grantees I had. I discovered that everyone at my table had so much in common -- beyond gardening and giving back, we all swam for a competitive swim team over the summer.
Everyone had an amazing story to share, especially Emma, who brought tears to everyone in the room with her incredible story of overcoming obstacles. She shared what an honor it was to be chosen to be part of the Katie’s Krops family.
In the morning we were off to W. P. Rawl Farms in Pelion. The Rawl family spent months creating the most amazing prototype dream Katie’s Krops garden. Two bamboo bean tepees towered over the garden. Recycled tires overflowed with plants. Cinderblocks became an herb garden. It was truly the recycle/reuse garden of our dreams.
The day started off with group projects. My favorite was constructing a wheelbarrow and getting to ride around in it! We also learned how to make compost, work with drip irrigation, and deal with pests organically. These workshops were taught by professional growers who have years of experience. Most importantly, the workshops were taught so we could duplicate the results in our own gardens when we returned home.
Keeping true to the Katie’s Krops model, the campers hosted a Katie’s Krops dinner in Columbia, serving over 125 people a healthy, fresh, free meal with the harvest from the prototype garden as the inspiration for the menu. Cooking with the harvest was a wonderful experience for many of the campers.
By the time the camp came to an end, I had made 12 new best friends. The Katie’s Krops family had truly grown. I learned the interests we shared and the issues we all faced with our gardens, and I knew in my heart I was truly inspired to bring what I had learned from the camp and from my fellow gardeners back to my gardens.
The campers left with a book filled with Katie’s Krops gardening tips, funding to implement what they learned at camp, a new sense of what it is to be part of the Katie’s Krops “growing” family, and, I hope, a renewed passion for ending hunger in their communities.
If you’d like to attend the Katie’s Krops Camp next year or become a Katie’s Krops grantee, go to our website at KatiesKrops.com to learn how kids, ages 9 to 16, can become part of the Katie’s Krops “growing” Family.
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