Mark Anderson, Anderson’s Seed and Garden
SOME OF MY EARLIEST MEMORIES of my father are working out in the garden. Despite his long hours and continuous work at Anderson’s Seed and Garden helping other gardeners succeed, he loved working in his own garden most. For him, it was his opportunity to get away from work responsibilities, disconnect from outside distractions of the world, and find peace. It was his happy place.
Potatoes, cantaloupe, and corn were his favorite things to grow, but then again, I think all vegetables were his favorite. As a young child, I would help plant potatoes and seeds, water young transplants, and definitely help harvest. I learned early on, that it was so much easier to work a little in the garden every day, than to try to do it all on the weekend, then turn around and do it all over again the next weekend. We’d work a little in the garden every night when he got home from work. For Dad it was 20 to 30 minutes of weeding, a little watering, a little fertilizing, and a lot of stress relief. For me, it was a true lesson about how work can be fun. Dad knew how to make a hard job easy, enjoyable, and rewarding. That’s the best way to experience gardening.
When harvest time rolled around, we always had 10 times more produce than we could ever use. My mother canned and froze enough food to feed three families each summer and fall, but we constantly had an abundance of everything from the garden. Dad loved to share that bounty. He’d take cases of vegetables to his friends in Montana who let him fish on their property. He shared cantaloupes with anyone who wanted a taste. No one could ever leave his house without tasting his new potatoes covered in butter, that he would painstakingly peel with a hose and nozzle because the tuber’s skin was so tender it would just blow right off. His corn patch was big enough to feed the whole neighborhood. Generosity must run in the family, as I’ve heard so many stories about my Grandfather Rone’s penchant to help others to a fault. Dad was the same. Very few people he shared his crops with ever had to pick anything; he loved the picking and sharing as much as the growing. It’s funny, but I do the exact same thing.
My parents never pressured me to work in the family business, but the opportunity was always there. As a teenager, I was helping at the store one holiday season, and a very large shipment of artificial flowers arrived. Upon looking at
the invoice and packing list, I quickly realized that instead of sending us 144 each of eight varieties of poinsettia, they had sent us 144 cases of 12. We’d only been billed for the 144 each, so we had 12 times more product than what we were required to pay for. My father immediately called the company and explained what had happened, and promptly shipped the excess product back to the manufacturer. We worked with that company for another 20 to 25 years, and every time I met with our sales representative they spoke of the incident, my father’s honesty, and how so few businesspeople had the integrity to do what is right. I’ve never forgotten how important it is to stay true to the trust that is given by customers, as well as vendors.
Dad loved baseball and played organized softball until his mid 30’s when he broke his Achilles’ tendon rounding first base trying to stretch out a double. He instilled that love of baseball and all sports in me. So many nights, after work and after working in the garden, he would spend the time catching for me so I could perfect my pitching form, increase the velocity on my fastball, and master the art of throwing a knuckle curveball. He could throw the elusive “riseball” in softball and taught me how to throw it with a baseball, which resulted in an off-speed sinker that was nearly unhittable. He knew persistence and practice paid off, and he made sure that I had someone to practice with every day. Those are sacrifices that I will never forget.
After Dad retired at age 70, he still loved working in his garden, mostly he did it all by himself, with minimal help from Mom or his children, until just last year. At 90, he just couldn’t do it all on his own anymore. He’d still move the water and hoe weeds, but the planting was strenuous, all the up and down strained his back and knees, so I would help get it all planted. It wasn’t until he was 89 that I think he quit using his trusty Troy Built tiller he had
for nearly 40 years. He just couldn’t stand not being productive or making a difference. That is probably the very best lesson I learned from my father: Never stop working and making a difference. It kept him youthful, engaged in a good work, energetic, and focused, right up until his very last year or two. I want to be just like him and continue doing the things I love to do for as long as I can. Maybe I can garden until I’m 90 as well.
Clyde Anderson, a well-known Cache Valley businessman, passed away last month at the age of 91. We invited his son Mark Anderson, current owner of Anderson’s Seed and Garden, to share some lessons learned from him here.