Nancy Kay Anderson is passionate about the earth. More specifically, she’s passionate about organic, sustainable and biodynamic gardening, about creating an edible landscape that feeds her while inspiring others to do the same. She wants to help save the earth, one plant at a time. Sound intense? Let’s start at the beginning.
Anderson explains that gardening is essential to her heritage. “I come from an amazing line of people that have a living relationship with the natural realm,” she says. “I believe that was passed down to me.” Her father’s lineage is Scandinavian. “We’re Swedes and Fins, and avid gardeners,” she says. Her mother, who was raised on a farm, traces her lineage as Canadian, French and Indian, Anderson says. Toiling in the dirt is clearly in Anderson’s blood, but her childhood surroundings were also crucial to developing her passion.
Born in Alaska, Anderson lived in New Hampshire and New Mexico before settling in New Jersey. The extreme climates of each state have been instrumental in both her education and her way of life. Anderson says her early childhood in Alaska—the land of the midnight sun—was magical. There, she lived in a log cabin with an adjacent greenhouse. “We were surrounded by a beautiful natural realm.” As a third grader, her family moved across the country to New Hampshire. “There was wilderness all around. We skied, hiked, camped and swam,” she says. Anderson packed up her love of the outdoors and took it with her to the University of New Mexico. While there, she also independently studied the medicinal qualities of herbs. “That’s when it all came together,” she says. “I was so interested in getting to know the plants. I’d find the seeds and closely watch them grow through the season.” It was the late ’70s in Albuquerque and the holistic, homeopathic wave was just emerging. Anderson jumped on board.
Relocating to New Jersey after marrying and having daughter Melanie, Anderson embarked on her first career as a fiber artist, weaving basket forms. “It became my new passion. I exhibited my artwork all around the country,” she says. Still interested in gardening and the symbiotic relationships of plants, earth and humans, Anderson started studying biodynamics. “It’s essentially homeopathy for the earth,” she says. A new career was born.
In 2011, Anderson bought a 200-year-old house, located on a ridge in Lambertville. “It overlooks the Delaware River, high up on a steep slope,” she explains. Its terraced garden is 3/4 of an acre. “It’s not a lot but it’s plenty to manage,” she says.
Eager to sink her hands into the dirt, Anderson started planting, figuring it out one seed at a time. “I was studying the relationships of a single plant to the whole environment,” she explains. Her experiments led to developing a garden filled with fruits, vegetables and flowers, something she calls a “farmette.” “My own garden is a work in progress,” she says “It’s a Farmacy with an F.” Among the native dogwoods and privets, Anderson has a small orchard of apple and pear trees, a plethora of herbs and flowers, berries and carrots, and just about any other fruit or vegetable imaginable. She even has two beehives. “I wanted an edible landscape,” she says of the garden she eats from nearly eight months of the year.
Still, it’s a work in progress, she admits. “My own garden is a living experiment. I learn from it every day.” Her favorite assistants? Granddaughters Eila, 12, and Siri, 9. They both started gardening as toddlers, digging alongside their grandmother, whom they call Mumu. “Siri has the touch, the gift of being able to work with the land,” Anderson says. “It’s not something you can teach.”
That said, Anderson does teach—and her farmette is her textbook. She is eager to share her knowledge of biodynamic gardening with others. “I have a group of nearly a dozen women of all ages who want to study with me, so I’ve set up my property so they can learn,” she says.
Anderson launched Midnight Sun Designs, a holistic horiticulture company in 2007. Although she’s never advertised, she has a full slate of clients. “My clients come to me for my ability to go on their land and experience what it can become,” she says. “It’s something that is very intuitive.” She’s often hands on in her clients’ gardens and offers them a clear vision of what a blank garden slate can become. “I have the practical science-based knowledge but also the artistic sensibility to create beautiful gardens,” she explains. “I don’t just have a green thumb, I’m empowered to do this.” Anderson believes this is her destiny. “It’s not a job, it’s a vocation,” she says. And she’s not slowing down anytime soon. “I feel it’s important to educate the next generation,” she says. “I’m not a nut, I just want the earth to be alive in 10,000 years. Everyone needs to pick up their own portion of responsibility for the care of our planet and pass it on.”Click here to leave a comment