Rebuilding a Life and Farm After Tragedy
Lori Anderson’s charming event center is nestled into the picturesque Rush River hillsides near Baldwin, Wisconsin. Mystical Rose Gardens is reborn from Anderson Plant Farms, a venture Anderson and her late husband, Mark, built from the ground up over 25 years.
When her husband died in an accidental fall, Anderson had to figure out what to do with the 48-acre property and 17 older polyethylene greenhouses. Because her husband had been the manager and horticulturist while she raised their 10 children, she had no idea what to do with the property.
One day, a man knocked on her door and said he was creating his dream farm and nursery 100 miles away. “I’ll take them all,” he said of the older greenhouses.
She watched with despair as the structures were deconstructed and hauled away. “It looked like a tornado, hurricane, and earthquake all rolled into one,” says Anderson. Among the scattered debris, a newer, glass greenhouse stood attractive, empty, and proud.
A New Venture
The family began to slowly heal, and Anderson’s spiritual love of nature was affirmed. The empty glass house reflected her belief in the universal need for open space, green earth, and fresh air. With the help of the community, family, friends (even strangers), she transformed the property into gardens, patios, walkways, fountains, a courtyard, and a lovely gazebo. Town and county officials supported all of the legal considerations for the project.
Within a year, Anderson had weddings booked for the spring. The wedding parties had an elegant dressing room with access to a spacious kitchen and relaxing area, garden benches for a courtyard wedding, tables and chairs, a sound system, dance floor, and romantically lit patio and gardens.
A pole barn was remodeled into a gathering and living space for retreats, family events, crafters, and hobbyists. A knotty pine stairway, built by her three youngest sons and a family friend, brings guests up to a cozy sleeping loft for 10. “Ten beds for ten kids,” she says.
Anderson also purchased a neighboring parcel of land when it came up for sale. This was the same timber and grassland where her children used to play on the hilltops and seek solitude after the death of their father. Areas of reflection, scenic trails, and cabins are planned for the 40 acres.
Repurposing and reinventing family farms, orchards, and nurseries ensure the continuation of personal connections with the environment and the preservation of sustainable land, says Anderson. She sees huge potential for rural property owners to use their land for calming retreats.
The next design plan unfolding at Mystical Rose Gardens is a woodland chapel. Anderson hopes to coincide its completion with the ordination of her son into priesthood. She imagines the chapel glowing gloriously with many miracles to come.
Mystical Rose Gardens, W5415 890th Avenue, Baldwin, WI 54002
This story was written by Angie Koebler for the Living the Country Life section of Successful Farming magazine.