PELION, S.C. — A nine-year-old’s dream to feed the needy from backyard gardens is blossoming even more.
At Katie’s Camp, July 16-18, a group of 14 teenagers learned how to plant and manage vegetables at a specially constructed garden at Walter P. Rawl & Sons Inc. The camp is named after Katie Stagliano, who founded Katie’s Krops in 2008.
Campers worked with squash, tomatoes, watermelon and other produce, learning about water use, pests, maximizing growing space and food safety practices.
In grade school, Stagliano of Summerville brought a cabbage seedling home from a school project. After the cabbage grew to 40 pounds, she donated it to a food bank.
“When I was eight years old, I really wanted to start more gardens, feed more people and inspire people to do the same,” Stagliano, now 14, said. “Hopefully, we have inspired these kids and they’ve inspired other people. People really see the difference you can make whether starting a garden or whatever they want to do.”
Shawna Hettick, a 14-year-old from Gig Harbor, Wash., grows zucchini squash, lemon cucumbers, radishes and cherry tomatoes in her garden.
“This event has taught me a lot and has made me a completely new person,” Hettick said. “It has given me a broader perspective on how everyone else lives. It makes me think more about what I’ve been given and how I’ve been given so much.”
Ted Colwell, 12, of Hubertus, Wis., said the camp taught him some new gardening methods to increase production.
Colwell, who donated 1,200 pounds of vegetables to his churches’ food pantry, said the program helped him identify a need in his community.
“It’s amazing how far this program has come since she (Stagliano) started it,” Colwell said. “When I started three years ago, there were only a few growers.”
Through the program, youth in 25 states are growing more than 60 gardens.
Ashley Rawl, Rawl’s director of sales, marketing and product development, said he knew he wanted to help Stagliano’s community service program when he first met her in 2012.
“Something that’s really important to our company is how we are losing a generation of kids that know and understand agriculture,” Rawl said. “Because we’re very passionate about agriculture and we want to try to educate as many people as possible especially the kids that can try to carry that on for future generations.”