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Educator wins for garden that ‘is about sustaining life’

January 26, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — After a hard day’s work, few of us want to come home and spend our leisure hours consumed in the same labor.

Rahn Broady does just that.

An educator and lead gardener for Edible Schoolyard New Orleans who spends his work days helping city children build and tend gardens, Broady relishes the time he gets to spend working in the yard of his 1426 Touro St. home. That passion for gardening paid off: He won second place in the Jazzin’ Up the Neighborhood gardening contest sponsored by NOLA.com ′ The Times-Picayune, the LSU AgCenter and the Metro Area Horticulture Foundation.

“It’s something I love to do. I never get tired of what I do,” Broady said. “Having my hands in the ground helps me to ground myself. Everything I do in my life weaves in and out of the natural world -- and growing things.”

He gardened as a boy growing up in his native St. Louis, but his commitment to gardening didn’t begin until after he graduated college and began teaching algebra and general sciences in Brooklyn.

The New York City borough is not known as a hot bed of agricultural activities, but Broady received a grant through the Green Math program, which promotes enhancing student mathematics skills through the use of tools and other activities.

After nine years in Brooklyn, and a short stint in Arizona, Broady was living in San Francisco when he learned of the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans program in New Orleans. It was about the same time he was deciding he wanted to shift from teaching high school to working with younger children.

“So I bought a car and took a risk,” he said. “I moved here and have been with the program since.”

Broady’s passion for the soil is part of his philosophy of life.

Contest judges called Broady’s yard a “true gardener’s garden.”

“I think I know what they mean,” Broady said. “My garden is not like a landscape architect’s garden. It’s not driven by design.

“There’s no such thing as a weed. Every plant has a purpose. Everything in the garden is about sustaining life -- human and otherwise.”

Herbs to use in seasoning food or natural remedies blend with flowers to attract pollinators and other creatures in what Broady described as an English-style garden.

Carefully selected shrubs provide cover for birds that visit a birdbath nestled beneath, the judges noted. And nooks in planting beds allow neighborhood cats a spot for an afternoon nap.

Broady not only encourages his neighbors to share in what his garden produces, but provides them instructions on how to best harvest various plants and will leave tools in the yard for the neighbors’ use.

Still, Broady’s garden is relatively new. He and his partner, Caitlin Morgenstern bought the Touro Street house in 2014 and work on the garden didn’t really begin until the following year.

“I started building up the soil in 2015 and have been working on it each year, kind of letting things evolve,” he said. “I expanded to the backyard in 2016. It’s been a lot of work and research with friends. When I came down here, I really didn’t know how to grow things in the Deep South. I just never had that experience.”

Broady doesn’t do the work alone, however. His daughter, Fisher, who will turn 3 in March, insists on helping and “wandering around the garden catching worms.” She’s learning quickly, her father says, and already knows which caterpillars to avoid and which ones are harmless.

The solicitations for entries in the Jazzin’ Up the Neighborhood said the contest was looking for that yard that stood out among the others on the block, Broady believes his garden certainly meets that description.

Now, he’s eager to show off the award, especially to friends and veteran gardeners Denise Richter and Megan McHugh, owners of flower growing business Pistil and Stamen who live nearby and drive by his yard everyday. He says Richter has been a mentor, “my garden mother.”

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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