I’m Brad Baker, a Certified Pennsylvania Horticulturist and for the last quarter-century owner of Baker Creative, a landscape design firm. I’ve also created the community organization Grass Roots, as a way to engage kids and their families in gardening and horticulture.
It’s amazing what happens when we get youth connected to the outdoors, to where their food comes from, and to providing food and beauty for their community. They gain a greater appreciation of their environment, in the broadest sense of the word. One of our biggest Grass Roots gardens is located on the Mandel Education Campus in Melrose Park, and students in the schools there participate in the planting and harvesting. One educator commented that, in part as a result of this exposure, 80% of the kids now have home gardens and half claim to like asparagus. The children are asking their teachers, “When can we go back to the garden?” And they all nod in unison as they say, “we never pull a weed” (yes, this is correct, much to many adults’ surprise!).
Not only are they getting outside and learning about their own food sources, they are better understanding their community. They know that we live among families who cannot afford the fresh produce they enjoy, and they understand that the work they are doing brings locally grown vegetables to the food pantry to help those neighbors. I’ve loved being a designer and creating places of beauty, but nothing in my career has been more rewarding than this.