Madi S. loves her vegetables. She doesn’t just eat them. She grows and gives them away.
For the past five years, Madi has donated thousands of fruits and veggies to families in North Carolina who do not have enough food.
“I like being able to use my abilities to help others,” Madi says.
While other teenage girls are hanging out with friends, Madi is planting, weeding or harvesting. She wasn’t born with a green thumb. Her grandmother helped her develop one.
Madi says she’s been in a garden for pretty much her whole life. From an early age, she helped her grandmother grow vegetables in her garden. They learned how to nurture different seeds and care for each plant.
“Madi is a blessing to our family,” says her grandmother, who lives next door. “She is a hard worker and cares about others.”
Filling the Pantry
In fourth grade, Madi heard about Katie’s Krops, an organization that works with kids to use their gardens for good. It was a perfect fit. She applied for a $400 start-up grant to purchase extra seeds and tools.
Madi tackled her garden with a new purpose. In addition to her grandmother’s quarter-acre, she broke ground on a second garden in her family’s backyard. Both gardens produced food throughout the year. Over the summer, she grew radishes, kale, squash and beans. During the winter, the crops changed to cabbage and lettuce.
Madi donated half of her harvest to MANNA FoodBank, which feeds hungry families in 16 counties in western North Carolina. She brought in fresh vegetables before the first Tuesday of each month. The rest went to her church and local charities.
“We take a lot for granted,” Madi says. “Many of the people we give to have gone through much worse than we have. It’s sad.”
In her first year, Madi grew 510 pounds of fresh food. During the next year, that total jumped to 2,400 pounds. Last year, she broke her own record, growing 5,210 pounds of fruit and vegetables!
Madi’s mother knows her daughter has a special gift, which goes beyond the garden. Several years ago, Madi won a $25 gift card at school for raising the most money in a fundraiser. “She noticed a girl in her class who was in the lunch program,” Madi’s mom says. “Madi realized the girl needed the card more, so she gave it to her.”
Madi donates any money she receives from her crops to Broyhill Baptist Children’s Home in Clyde, North Carolina. She visits the home for foster children a few times each year and has grown very close to a group of girls in one cottage.
“They are normal kids,” Madi says. “They’re like a family, even though they had horrible past experiences.”
Madi first learned about Broyhill at vacation Bible school. She knew immediately that she wanted to help. Since she began gardening, she has donated more than $5,000 to the children’s home. She also raises money for Katie’s Krops to help other kids start their own gardens.
In 2015, Katie’s Krops presented her their Grower of the Year award. The organization honored Madi at a special event and awarded her a college scholarship. Last year, she joined the Katie’s Krops youth advisory board, where she mentors new garden growers.
Madi knows it’s important to give wholeheartedly. “Don’t scavenge through what you don’t want,” she says. “Give your better stuff… It will feel good in the long run.”
Through all the time Madi spends in the garden, she still maintains a straight-A average in school, runs on the cross-country team and volunteers at the Carl Sandburg Home, a national historic site. For the past four years, she has won awards for showing goats at the agricultural fair. She also enjoys watching Christian movies with her grandmother.
“Every year, she wants to do more,” Madi’s mother says.
Madi’s interests go well beyond her backyard. Last summer, she took a trip to the Florida Keys with a local aquarium. “I want to be a marine biologist,” she says. “Maybe I can work at a big aquarium someday.”
Until then, she’ll keep working hard in her garden.
“Even if you don’t realize it, there are always needy people around you,” she says. “There’s not really much that I can do to show people that I care except to give it all away.”
Favorite vegetable: Potatoes. “There is so much you can do with potatoes, and they are easy to grow.”
Favorite Bible character: Esther
Favorite school subject: Science
Favorite animal: Dolphins
Favorite breakfast: Muffins
Favorite family activity: Playing board games
Favorite color: Teal blue