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Katie Stagliano, 2010 Garden Crusader

Katie Stagliano, 2010 Garden Crusader

Katie Stagliano, 2010 Garden Crusader

Katie Stagliano on a tractor

Katie tends one of the fields in a program called Katie's Krops.

Working on a row

Volunteers at work on Katie's Krops, which has already provided thousands of pounds of produce to homeless shelters.

Can one cabbage feed 275 people? If it weighs 40 pounds and was grown by Katie Stagliano of Summerville, SC, the answer is "yes"!

In most respects, Katie Stagliano is a typical 12-year-old girl. She's in sixth grade, and she loves to play tennis, swim and hang out with her friends. But Katie is not your average pre-teen. Over the last three years she has taken on a challenge that most adults find daunting. To help address homelessness and hunger in her community, Katie started a gardening program called Katie's Krops, which has already provided thousands of pounds of produce to homeless shelters. And she's only just begun.

"My ultimate goal is that there are no more hungry children or other people for that matter," she said. "I want to grow food to feed people and to help other people to do that too."

In recognition of her inspiring work to feed homeless people in Summerville, Katie has been honored with a Garden Crusader Award from Gardener's Supply.

First, a Giant Cabbage

When Katie was just nine years old, she came home from her third grade class with a tiny cabbage seedling. She planted it in her family's backyard garden and meticulously watered, weeded and fertilized. When deer threatened, her grandfather helped her build a wire cage to protect the plant.

The cabbage grew and grew and grew. In late May, when the weather got too hot, Katie harvested the head of cabbage. She was shocked by its size — 40 pounds!

She brought the giant cabbage to a local soup kitchen called Tri County Family Ministries. The staff was very impressed with the size of the cabbage. And Katie was very impressed by how many people that one cabbage helped to feed.

"The cabbage helped feed 275 people. It was amazing," she said. "That day I knew I could and I should do more to help."

Since then she has gotten more involved in her community, and as a result, has come to realize that homelessness and hunger happen to people just like her. "I had never known homeless people before, it turns out they are just like me," she said.

Katie's Krops

After growing that first 40-pound cabbage, Katie convinced her school to start a garden. Students in all 12 grades help tend it, and all of the produce is donated to local food shelves.

Katie has organized food drives to collect excess produce from home gardens and started a garden at a local homeless shelter. She founded a nonprofit organization, called Katie's Krops to help fund and promote her projects. The site includes her blog and a CNN interview with Katie.

All in the Family

Of course, Katie isn't able to accomplish this without a lot of support from her family. They have a big garden at home, that "just keeps getting bigger and now is kind of taking over the backyard," according to Katie.

Her parents started the gardens and they still do a lot of the heavy lifting, tilling and cultivating. "Plus they drive me around a lot," Katie conceded.

Now her seven-year-old brother has picked up the community service mantle. He began by helping her plant and water the gardens. Now he has his own project called Pumpkin Mountain. He is growing pumpkins to sell and plans to donate the proceeds to the homeless shelter.

With all that Katie has accomplished at just 12-years-old, what does she want to do when she grows up? "That changes every day, I see so many amazing jobs that people do," she said, noncommittally. Then she perked up, "I know I want to continue my garden."

Not surprisingly, cabbage is Katie's favorite crop to grow, but not to eat. "I don't really like cabbage that much. I'd rather eat broccoli, mushrooms and green beans."

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