Butterfield Gardeners

Harvesting the Best of Life, in All Its Seasons

Several Butterfield Trail Village residents stay actively engaged in tending their garden plots in the nearly 44,000-square-foot fenced area. They share garden tools and equipment stored in a central shed. Residents and staff can buy surplus produce at their own farmers market.

The garden itself is analogous to what this community offers, echoing the seasons of life and embracing residents’ myriad experiences. Gardening is about growth, loss, renewal, trial and error, making mistakes, learning lessons, presence, perseverance, patience and faith. It brings with it seasons, currents, cycles, nourishment and community.

As they stay in tune with nature, monitoring the changing weather and temperatures, they’ve come to understand that gardening is about so much more than gardening.

Faye Edmondson

Faye Edmondson is usually the first one in the garden each morning. In the intense heat of early August, she took advantage of those first hours of daylight to trim and clean up her blackberry bushes. She has more garden beds than anyone, after taking over two flower-filled beds, and she makes floral arrangements for areas across the BTV campus.

“I think that the beauty of a garden is sharing what you grow,” she said.

Faye moved to BTV in 2013, just after they’d completed the current garden area. She and her husband, Charles, a physician, who has since passed, always had a farm and gardened. She was grateful to be able to continue gardening.

When she was around 5 years old, Faye’s father created a small garden just for her – showing her how to neatly plant the rows of onions, radishes and lettuce. He was a sharecropper in Junction City, north of the Louisiana line. It was the Depression, and their garden and farm sustained them. In addition to standard garden fare, they grew sugar cane, sorghum and peanuts for commercial use.

After 90 years of experience, she said that a successful garden comes mostly from “work and a desire to work.” Continually improving the soil is also critical.

“I think God put us here for a reason. And we’re to improve this place, not deteriorate it, which is what’s happening right now with this climate change,” she said. “I feel like that is part of our problem.”

The first in her family to go to college, Faye got a degree in Bible and English, with a minor in home economics, at Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in Batesville. She’s always had a competitive side – with others and with herself.

“I push myself, or I wouldn’t be 96 and doing what I’m doing. And I know that.”


Lyle Gohn

Lyle Gohn grew up on a dairy, corn and soybean farm in northern Indiana. All farms had large gardens, and homegrown produce and meat from cattle were used to feed the family throughout the summer and winter months. After finishing his degree in Agriculture Business from Purdue, Lyle considered returning to the farm with his older brother – but chose instead to pursue higher education student affairs administration. “Thinking about milking cows for the rest of my life was perhaps the deciding factor,” he said.

His wife, Sue, returned to her gardening roots during their six years in Montana. After moving to BTV, Lyle picked up the gardening bug and started seeing what he could grow.

Lyle, a retired University of Arkansas administrator, said his best successes are sweet corn, which he likes to freeze, and the sunflowers he grows for his wife, a Kansas native. Disappointments have been watermelon and cantaloupe.

Along the way, he’s cultivated friendships over the shared experience – including Bob Hendrix, whom he considers a best friend. And working in the garden helps Lyle feel more youthful.

“I think it’s the opportunity to be outside, to get your hands dirty,” he said. “Maybe something you’ve done in your past, and you get to redo it now, and have time to do it.”

Two years ago, he and another resident, Lanny Ashlock, planted blackberries in a plot they share. Last year’s crop was bigger than this year’s, and Lyle keeps an eye out for good cobbler recipes.

He’s found that one of the most important components to successful gardening is to get the ground in good condition, which can require a lot of work over many years. He mixes mulch into his beds to counter the compacted nature of the native clay soil. Keeping weeds out is also an ongoing battle.

He’s picked up a few tricks from fellow gardeners and noted, “I always listen to what Faye has to say.”

Jim & Judy Cole

In 2018, Jim and Judy Cole moved from Paragould to Northwest Arkansas, to be closer to their daughter. They were both high school math teachers – algebra for her, mostly geometry for him. He later ran a company that supplied school districts with substitute teachers.

In all those years, they’d done little gardening, other than flowers around their house and a small bed for tomatoes and herbs. Judy learned much about gardening from her mom and brother-in-law, who always had big vegetable gardens. Her mom would can and freeze produce.

After she and Jim married, Judy canned green beans, tomatoes and purple hull peas. When she got home from teaching school, it was quicker to open a jar of peas for dinner rather than thaw them first.

Jim is really in charge of their garden plot at BTV. He has planted it with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, purple hull peas, sunflowers and zinnias. Last year, they planted purple hull peas three times – and, nothing. This year, it only took one planting for bountiful results.

“We feel very successful this year,” Judy said. This summer, they’ve harvested scores of tomatoes from varieties such as Cherokee Purple, Big Boy, Better Boy and Celebrity. They’ve enjoyed countless bacon and tomato sandwiches and have given many tomatoes away.

Although they both took the Master Gardening training course in Greene County, they’re still learning every day. Jim calls their garden plot his “sand box,” where he gets to play in the dirt. “It is therapeutic,” he said. “You get to be outside and in the sun, and the exercise is just great.”

Ken & Jan Hargis

When Ken and Jan Hargis moved to BTV in September 2021, they immediately signed up for a garden plot. They were in a one-bedroom apartment for a while before moving to a Village Home in July 2022. But they brought with them jonquils, peonies and other heirloom plants, and planted them in their plot for safe keeping.

They’d most recently lived on a farm in Bentonville, with acreage that supported several varieties of berries — such as elderberries, gooseberries, blueberries — along with native trees that included sugar maples, pin oaks and poplars. They both took the Master Gardeners course in Benton County, and in 2005, their home was on a garden tour.

Ken learned from his grandfather about improving the soil by amending it with manure. At their farm, they had help from some pigs who “piggy tilled” the soil, mixing it up and rooting out the rocks. They also added mulched leaves to the soil, leaving it so vibrant that it retained moisture and didn’t require watering. They’re working on doing something similar with their BTV garden plot.

Jan likes to grow produce for basic country cuisine: green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers. Ken enjoys ratatouille — with ingredients including eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes — so they’ve tried growing eggplant for the first time this year.

Each morning, after they walk their dog, Harry, they typically head to the garden. They value the camaraderie with fellow gardeners and still being able to garden in their new home. The adjustment can be hard enough, but coming from a farm was a significant change.

“It’s just a continuation; it’s something familiar that you can bring,” Jan said. “It gives you a familiar outlet of something that connects you to your old life,” Ken added.

Paul Rountree

Growing up in Longview, Texas, no one in Paul Rountree’s family gardened. After the Army, college and medical school, he spent a career working in pediatrics, then family practice, and finally preventive medicine and occupational medicine. It was only after he married and had a home that he took an interest in gardening.

“I found it to be a pleasant distraction from what I did all day,” he said.

His wife, Susan, encouraged him to do Master Gardeners training in Texas. They’d come to Northwest Arkansas for years to visit family, including Susan’s mother, who was a BTV resident. So, when they moved to BTV in October 2021, they knew they wanted to keep gardening.

With their much bigger 600-square-foot plot this year, they did well with tomatoes, cantaloupe, cucumbers and yellow squash. They’ve grown more onions and baby red potatoes than they could ever eat, so they gave much of the produce away and made French onion soup quite a bit. He typically gardens in the mornings, using an upside-down milk crate for a stool.

“There are lots of friendships that are established when people see each other working outside,” he said.

Paul has found that it’s a waste of time and garden space to struggle with crops that just don’t seem to work. He focuses on improving the soil – loosening it with peat moss and compost, adding fertilizer, and getting soil samples to determine what it needs.

“Every season is a new opportunity to learn new things and do things better,” he said. “And there’s always work to be done in the garden. If it’s not weeding, it’s improving the soil, doing what you want to protect your plants, or harvesting. There’s all kinds of stuff; it just goes on and on and on.”