I was one of four children raised by a single mother who did her best to support our family. We moved eleven times from state to state, including Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada, looking for better opportunities. I went to several different schools throughout my childhood, and I longed for stability and roots — which I eventually found through gardening. No matter how many different homes we lived in, my mom and I always built a small vegetable garden in our backyard, and our tiny house was filled with more houseplants than you could count. The garden was always a safe place, where my mother and I bonded and worked, and at times it was the only thing that made sense to me. The garden was also a source of food for our struggling family, and by the time I was a teenager, we were cultivating plants in both our front and back yards. I felt a great sense of pride when strangers would stop and take photos, particularly because I had spent so much time making the garden neat and organized — an aesthetic sensibility that I still possess to this day.
My passion for gardening continued in high school, where I read books on botany and joined botany clubs; I later received my associate’s degree in Urban Horticulture. Looking back now, I can see how numerous lessons I had learned in the garden took me down this path. My mother taught me that even though we had to be frugal, we had everything we needed. Through gardening, I learned the value of simplicity — learning from the earth and appreciating the small things in life. As a result of my upbringing, I also was unable to tolerate laziness; working hard, and often alone, in the garden instilled a strong drive and work ethic in me.
“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do. Plus you get strawberries.”