Asingle seed from 2008 is still providing food for Gig Harbor.
As the head of the community service program for her 4H group, incoming Peninsula High School freshman Shawna Hettick completes monthly service projects. A story online about Katie’s Krops, a national nonprofit organization that gives grants to start gardens, piqued Hettick’s interest.
“I enjoy gardening and helping people in the community,” she said. “I feel privileged to be able to do something and give back to the community I love so much.”
The program provides funds to grow a garden that donates fresh produce to a local organization. It was an opportunity to combine both of Hettick’s interests.
Shawna enlisted her older sister Erika to help, and the girls applied and were awarded a $400 grant to start planting a garden in their backyard.
“It was a chance to be involved in a whole process,” said Erika, who will be a sophomore at Peninsula High when school starts next month. “I like the feeling of knowing what we grow from a seed feeds people.”
Katie’s Krops, a national Global Initiative Award-winning project, was started by 8-year-old South Carolina native Katie Stagliano in 2008. A 40-pound cabbage she grew from a seedling at school fed so many at a soup kitchen that it inspired Stagliano to start the program.
A gift card to Home Depot through the organization started the process for the Hettick sisters.
The only help they got was with tilling the 25-foot-by-25-foot plot of land.
“The girls put in all the work and committed to the time it takes maintaining the garden,” said their mom, Elaine Hettick. “They have learned from helping each other through the entire process of success and failure with bugs, watering and weeding.”
The grant is open for whatever produce the grantees choose and only stipulates the harvest is donated. The girls’ garden consists of zucchini, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, beets, radishes, green beans, peas and strawberries.
The sisters support each other during the growing season and work as a team. They learn by trial and error.
“I do the most weeding,” Erika said. “It isn’t Shawna’s favorite thing to do. I also watered and took care of the garden when she was in South Carolina for camp.”
Shawna was selected to go as one of a dozen grantees to attend the first Katie’s Krop Camp. The all-expense-paid trip, sponsored by WP Rawl’s family farm, allowed Shawna to meet the now-14-year-old benefactor and other kids involved nationwide. The three-day event in July focused on growing techniques, budgeting and local outreach.
“I learned about irrigation, pesticides other ideas to help improve the garden,” Shawna said. “It was great because we also got to prepare a meal for the community using produce they grow.”
This is the second year for the garden. The girls had money left over from the original grant to use for another growing season, and they continue to donate their harvest to the Gig Harbor/Peninsula FISH Food Bank.
“Fresh fruit and vegetables are a welcome addition to our food box and delight our clients,” said Jan Coen, president of the food bank. “The girls do so much work behind the scene to make it happen. Besides the entire growing process, they clean, sort and deliver the produce.”
The sisters intend to apply for a new grant next year for the garden’s third season.
“I want to add irrigation techniques and all the other things I learned at camp to increase the garden’s volume and keep it going,” Shawna said.
Monthly service activities will continue for the girls, but the garden is a long-term commitment to the community.
“The girls are working with kids from Yakima interested in a grant from Katie’s Krops and hope to inspire other kids locally to do the same,” Elaine said.Kim Eibel is a volunteer contributor for The Peninsula Gateway. To learn how to volunteer, call Editor and Publisher Brian McLean at 253-358-4150 or email email@example.com.