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Katie's Krops: My Mentors Have Made a Difference

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Two very special mentors have made a difference in Katie Stagliano's life as she tries to feed those in need, one vegetable garden at a time.

Katie and mentor in garden

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. -- Robert Frost

Katie and mentor in sunlight


I was just 9 years old when I began to dream of ending hunger, one vegetable garden at a time. At that age, I didn't have a true grasp of what my dream would truly involve. What I did know was that there were families battling hunger every day -- and that a vegetable garden could feed them.

There have been two amazing individuals who, despite my young age and my huge dream, believed in me, supported me, and mentored me. Without their support I would not be where I am today.

Lisa Turocy. Ms. Lisa came into to my life when I was in the fourth grade. She was a recent graduate of the Clemson Exchange Master Gardener Program and had volunteered to help a young girl with a small garden. Four years and 50 gardens later, she has done so much more than help me with a garden.

Ms. Lisa, right, has taught me nearly everything I know about gardening and so much more. Her passion for gardening is infectious. Her love for what the earth can provide has become my love.

Our relationship has grown along with our Katie's Krops gardens. Our work together was founded on the basics: tilling the earth, planting seedlings, maintaining our garden, and harvesting the fruits of our labor.

As our relationship evolved, so did our gardens. Our rows are now raised beds created from recycled lumber and filled with the richest garden soil. They're set with a wide variety of plants that range from "volunteers" rescued from compost bins to plants sown from seed to Bonnie Plants seedlings. Intertwined between the okra and peppers are marigolds to ward off deer and other pests. Our tomato rows are filled with basil, the perfect companion plant to enhance the flavor of tomatoes.

How did I learn how to grow an amazing garden and produce a robust harvest? From a book or a lecture? No, I learned by working with Ms. Lisa. She listens to my ideas and shows me how to execute them by working together with our hands deep in the soil. What has grown from my dream and from my garden I owe to my mentor, my teacher, my master gardener, and my friend, Ms. Lisa.

one of Katie's mentors volunteering in food pantry

Cory Fuller. In sixth grade, I was blessed with an amazing environmental science teacher. She had a passion for the outdoors and believed the four walls of our classroom should not restrict our learning. The Katie's Krops garden at my school, Pinewood Prep, became our outdoor science lab.

Instead of reading from a textbook, we learned what creates the soil on our campus by digging in the garden and testing it on our own. We determined that our garden lacked nitrogen. In order to restore this vital component, the class -- with Ms. Cory's guidance -- implemented a school-wide composting program to benefit the garden.

During my sixth grade year, I formed an amazing bond with a teacher who shared similar interests and who fully supported my dreams. At the end of the school year, Ms. Cory, above, made an incredibly bold decision: She left her teaching position to follow her heart. Where did her heart take her? To Katie's Krops.

What made her decision a bold and brave move was that Katie's Krops could not pay her. She would take on the position of director of education as a volunteer. It was then that I realized how courageous my former teacher was -- and still is. My dream was always fostered and backed by my parents. Ms. Cory took a giant leap of faith on her own.

Katie and mentor in kitchen

What my relationships with Ms. Lisa and Ms. Cory have meant to me and to Katie's Krops is hard to put into words. They believed in me, but it is so much more than that. They have supported my dream and allowed it to soar. My new dream is to make my mentors, my friends, proud of the little girl they believed in.