In 2017, when Happy Roots started, Executive Director Ashley Honbarrier and her friends wanted to help on a therapeutic level in the community.  Never could they have imagined where it would be at this day and time in 2020.  Ashley has “dug” in stronger than ever to make sure that if you want to learn about gardening, she is there to help. 

Being an avid gardener myself, I have been interested in what I have seen in the Rowan communities due to Happy Roots becoming involved.  I was glad to grab a few moments to chat with Ashley to hear about what is going on with Happy Roots and to learn more about the Facebook Group called the Salisbury Garden Network.”

I asked Ashley to tell me about how Happy Roots was doing during the pandemic and she shared so much with me.  Horizons Unlimited and Together Gardens have teamed up to teach an online course that school students can access, along with homeschoolers and private schoolers.  They have a Zoom meeting every Friday to address questions and share how their gardens are growing. Visit the Horizons Unlimited Facebook Page to find out more about gardening and all the cool things they are doing for the community!


Ashley Honbarrier (left) posing at the East Spencer Community Garden with a Rowan County community member. 


Happy Roots, as of this interview, has distributed over 54 home garden kits to school kids and their families so that they can grow a garden together at home.  The garden kit includes a garden frame, soil, plants, a watering can, seeds, and a garden tool.  To get a kit, it’s as simple as requesting one! If you are still interested, they are still taking orders.


Community Gardens

There are several community gardens around Salisbury. One is the West End Community Garden on Brenner Avenue.  This garden has several raised beds and different community volunteers that help tend to the plants.  You will find tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and all the summer vegetables that we all enjoy growing there.  They also have a few raised beds just waiting for something to be planted. 

Another community garden is the East Spencer Community Garden located across the street from the Town Hall.  Happy Roots started that garden in the Spring of 2019 and it’s still going!


A student from Henderson Independent High School working in the hot house. 


Ashley has also been very involved with the Hot House Program at Henderson Independent High School.  The plants that are used for the gardens mainly come from the hot house there at the school.  “It’s something special teaching a kid about growing plants. Some kids come in and don’t want to get their nails messed up, but soon they are digging in the dirt just like everyone else,” Ashley shared.

Ashley has her hands in a lot of dirt in our community.  She’s involved in the Price Head Start Program and helps with classes teaching to grow a garden.  She likes to teach them how to grow kale and then make kale chips!  According to Ashley, “Community Gardens in North Carolina bring people together!  To plant something is to believe in tomorrow…it brings hope.”

You can get in touch with Ashley Honbarrier at or find her at the Happy Roots or Salisbury Garden Network Facebook Pages if you are interested in starting a community garden where you live or want to volunteer to help in the existing ones.


Ashley’s husband working hard in the East Spencer garden!


Salisbury, Wilshire United Kingdom

While I was chatting with Ashley, she told me about a lady that had found their Salisbury Garden Network page and had shared a few things before she realized that this was a garden group in Salisbury, North Carolina and not Salisbury, United Kingdom where she lived.  She apologized and was going to leave the group, but members on the page encouraged her to stay and share her garden there with those of us here.  I was intrigued so I decided to “dig” a little deeper!

Lela Brooke and I had a nice chat via Facebook Messenger.  She said she stumbled upon the group hoping to “connect with gardeners in her area to do things like seed and seedling swaps.” She said after a couple of days, she realized the plants were unfamiliar to her and that is when “the penny dropped” that the group was based in the United States…Salisbury, North Carolina to be exact.  She said when she admitted her mistake everyone made her feel “welcomed” to stay in the group and so she did.  Lela actually started her own garden page and invited the group to join her there to share activities during the lockdown.  Her group is called “Today We Did This” and the main rule is to be kind, share achievements of any size, inspire others, and to avoid politics and a negative atmosphere. I think I could definitely benefit from a group like that!  My membership was accepted quickly!  She was kind enough to share a few pictures of her cottage and her garden with me as well.


Lela Brooke’s backyard in Salisbury, Wilshire United Kingdom!


The Garden of Eatin’

While I spoke with Ashley, two names kept coming up in the conversation.  Pastor Steve Combs and Julie Apone.  I was quite familiar with Julie so I got in touch with her first.  If you’ve ever heard of “Carolina Lily,” then you are quite familiar with Julie and you know that she has 10 green thumbs.  She can grow just about anything and she has quite the knack for creating beautiful and inviting gardens.  I knew Julie had worked hard to clean up a lot of areas in Salisbury and to take it upon herself to plant flowers in areas that had been given very little attention.  She had gotten involved with Rowan Helping Ministries in the late summer of 2019 by planting a garden that the guests of the shelter could benefit from by helping in the garden and eating the food grown there. Julie told me I really needed to speak with Pastor Steve.  She said he had a “talent” with the shelter guests and that he started each session in the garden with them by saying a prayer.  She explained that he was a very “encouraging” person.


Julie Apone (left) and Pastor Steve (right) holding up their Garden of Eatin’ shirts! 


After talking with Julie and playing phone tag with Pastor Steve Combs, we finally caught each other so we could speak about the Rowan Helping Ministries Community Garden…the “Garden of Eatin.”  They even have t-shirts to prove the name.  Pretty catchy if I say so myself!  Pastor Steve has found a passion in the garden by working with the guests of the shelter.  They planted a fall garden in August of 2019 containing collards, cabbage, broccoli, and kale.  The shelter benefited by being able to cook the food that was reaped from the garden!  Now they are tending to a summer garden of tomatoes, squash, and climbing cucumbers that Happy Roots gave them with a climbing screen on one side of a frame that will allow more space on the ground for other vegetables. 

Along with the garden, Pastor Steve is also enjoying getting to know the guests while they are there.  He had one guest by the name of Joe that told him he could build a bench for the garden if he had the materials.  Pastor Steve purchased that lumber and the bench was made.  It proudly sits in the garden now for all to enjoy.  Before hanging up, he told me the garden is called “The Garden of Eatin,” but that he prefers to call it the “Garden of Hope.”


The bench that one of Pastor Steve’s guests, Joe, made for the garden. 


Today, I harvested my first head of broccoli from my own garden. I know the pride you feel when you can work in the soil and provide for your family no matter how little.  There is a lot to be said about losing yourself for a while in the dirt and seeing things grow, especially nowadays when some see little to no hope.  The garden can definitely be therapeutic and yes…I like the sound of the “Garden of Hope.”