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Andersons mark 25 years of growing

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TOWN OF MARTELL -- Finding Anderson Plant Farm can be a challenge for people not used to traveling country roads, but the owners say those who love gardening will be glad they came.

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Lori and Mark Anderson have nicknamed their rural sales building -- actually three greenhouses built as one -- "The Gardener's Destination."

As they kick off their 25th year in the nursery business, the Andersons invite customers to an open house and tropical party 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 28 and 29. The open house will feature leis, tropical drinks and drawings for prizes.

"People kept just basically coming in here and wanting to buy from us," said Lori of the Anderson's decision a few years back to add retail sales to their booming wholesale nursery business.

"I thought if we do it, I want to do it nice," she said. "We really have good product. We always have."

Plants grown in the Anderson's 17 greenhouses stock the sales building. The store offers pottery, hanging baskets, fountains and other garden features. Shrubs, trees, annuals and perennials are moved into the selling area as they become ready for sale.

The aisles are kept wide enough for two carts to give shoppers room to stroll through, said Lori. And the coffee's always on.

For years the Andersons, their family and employees grew plants to sell to independent garden centers, who in turn sold to the public. While they heard second-hand compliments, the Andersons rarely witnessed the pleasure customers found in the plants they bought.

"Now we get to see them be happy," said Lori.

Mark is originally from Hastings, Minn., and Lori, whose maiden name is Huppert, is from Prescott.

Mark started working at Sargent's Nursery in Rochester, Minn., at 19. He and Lori met at the University of Minnesota-Waseca, where he was a horticulture student and she was studying veterinary medicine.

"We were having our first baby and we decided we wanted to go home," said Lori of the couple's decision to move to Prescott. They planted shade trees in rural Prescott and in 1982 opened Ashbough Nursery, selling trees and shrubs out of their home.

A year later they built a greenhouse on Orin Road and moved their gardening center there. Four years later, the owner needed their leased property to build his grocery store.

The Andersons bought wooded and open land in rural Baldwin and began to build their business and home from the ground up.

The three greenhouses from Prescott were torn down and rebuilt on the new property. The Andersons, now with five children, moved into a mobile home.

"When we moved out here, we were pretty tight," said Lori, recalling moving her growing family into the mobile home.

Mark, who had worked in construction for Lori's uncle, promised to build the family's house once the business was established.

In the early 1990s the family moved into their new house. By that time, the Andersons had six children and eight greenhouses. For the first decade at their new location, the couple sold their plants only to other garden centers and at the Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers' markets.

Construction on the store began in the fall of 2004. The Andersons, their children and faithful friends laid the entire 38,000-brick paver floor.

In early spring 2005, the Andersons began heavily advertising their first open house with no idea how many customers they would attract.

Lori remembers the day well. It was April 21, and it was snowing.

As the clock inched toward opening time, they watched the empty road, and Lori nearly gave up hope.

Then just minutes before 10 a.m., they looked out to a surprising sight.

"There was a stream of cars lights coming down the road," said Lori. "Mark said, 'Field of Dreams.'"

Lori said the customers descended on the store like a family reunion.

"I thought no one would come, and it was so packed."

Apart from family, the Anderson staff now includes two employees who are certified nurserymen. The family itself has grown to 10 children, five of whom are at home and two others who will return from college soon to help at the nursery during the summer.

Lori said the stock in the store is constantly changing as new plants are shifted from the greenhouses into the shop.

While the Andersons don't move plants into the store until they're in peak condition, having the greenhouses so close is a definite advantage, said Lori.

"If we have three flats of purple petunias in there, and you want 10, we can go out and get you seven more."

How to get there

Address: W5415 890th Ave. (also Harmony Road)

From Hwy. 29:

Take Hwy. 29 east out of River Falls for 10 miles. Take a left on County Road Y for 1.5 miles. Take a right on County Road Y for half a mile. Cross the Rush River and take immediate right on 4th Avenue W. Go a half mile and take right on 540th Street.

From I-94

At the Baldwin exit take Hwy. 63 south for five miles. Take a right on Harmony Road. Go one mile and take a left on 540th Street.

(Phone number: 715-684-4622. Directions also available at www.andersonplantfarm.com.)

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