Digging in the dirt: Student athlete finds second love in gardening

Published 12:10 am Saturday, July 22, 2023

SALISBURY — Gardening is good for the soul, no matter who you are, as one up-and-coming college football player discovered through work with a local nonprofit.

Bryan Rosado just graduated from Salisbury High School, where he played nose guard for the Hornets. His next stop is Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia.

While at Salisbury High, Rosado took a job with Happy Roots, a nonprofit organization that provides nature-based therapeutic and educational services like community gardens and urban gardening strategies.

“I was honestly going there expecting to water some plants and move some stuff around, but I am actually learning more about the plants themselves and how to take care of them,” Rosado said.

While working at Happy Roots, Rosado realized something about himself, too — that he loves gardening.

Rosado plans to study physical education at Ferrum College and hopes to become a teacher one day. Balancing a football workload with classes will take up much of his time, so gardening may go on hold for a while. However, he said that after graduation, he is already looking forward to getting back in the dirt.

“(Gardening) has a calming element that makes me want to have one,” Rosado said.

During his time working with Happy Roots, Rosado has learned much about various plants and species.

One of the plants that Rosado has come to appreciate through gardening is the purple heart plant.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s horticulture department website, purple heart is a “tender evergreen perennial native to northeast Mexico grown as an ornamental for its striking purple foliage.”

“It’s like one of those plants could live everywhere, but you don’t water it a lot,” Rosado said. “You have to make sure it gets not too much sunlight but just enough.”

Rosado had some background in landscaping. His family owns a landscaping business, so he was a perfect fit for the day-to-day routines at Happy Roots.

“I do a lot of the tedious stuff like cleaning out the beds, going around watering all the schools and moving heavy things,” Rosado said.

He’s grateful for the opportunity that Happy Roots and director Ashley Honbarrier provided for him to expand his personal horizons.

“I have honestly got to appreciate plants way more ever since I started working with her,” Rosado said.

As grateful as Rosado said he was, Honbarrier was probably even more so to have had his help.

“He was the best employee anyone could ask for,” Honbarrier said. “He’s got the physical strength, but he also supported the cause.”

According to Honbarrier, she could trust Rosado’s abilities almost immediately.

“He would text me every morning and ask what I needed that day,” Honbarrier said. “I would send him a list of things. We didn’t really need to work together. We would send pictures back and forth.”

While Rosado’s previous knowledge helped with having an intuition for what the gardens needed, Honbarrier said that work ethic and honesty were his best attributes.

Honbarrier called Rosado the “unsung hero” of Happy Roots.

Rosado balanced a full load of sports practice and school studies while still finding the time to work for Happy Roots.

Honbarrier said she is going to miss having him around but is thrilled that through their work together, Rosado cultivated what will likely be a lifelong love for gardening.