A Place Called Home: Every home needs a garden

Feb. 23, 2012, 7:35 a.m.

Darren Butler, pictured above at center, teaches A Place Called Home's gardening class every Tuesday afternoon. He's been involved in landscaping and gardening since he was five.

A Place Called Home -- a local non-profit located on the corner of Central Avenue and 29th Street -- realized that their place couldn't really be called home without a garden.

The organization provides its kids, whose ages range from eight to 20, with educational programs, counseling, art classes and athletic opportunities. There's also a garden -- and a weekly class on how to tend to it.

That's where Darren Butler comes in. Butler is A Place Called Home's gardening class instructor, and he's what one might call a gardening professional -- he's earns most of his income as a consulting arborist and ecological landscape designer. He also teaches and speaks regularly on gardening, landscaping, urban agriculture, trees, irrigation, permaculture and sustainability.

Butler was gardening in upstate New York at the age of five, picking fruit as a pre-teen and working professionally in landscapes by the time he was a teenager.

The garden he helps the kids to manage includes fava beans, radishes, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli and chard.

"We often eat it right out of the garden after we wash it," he said. "Some of it goes in the kitchen, and they take some home. We're kind of in the middle of winter so we're not as productive as we are at other times of the year."

"I would see [this] as really, really basic literacy about nature and agriculture," said Butler. "A lot of kids have come in not realizing vegetables came from plants. I had a kid see a fig on a tree and ask if he could pick the onion -- just very basic education is a lot of what goes on here, and--" He stops short, looking to a boy holding a strawberry. "Is that one ripe, Kevin? Almost?"

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