Someone You Should Know: Running a commercial garden for 45 years

Dakota news now at 4 p.m.
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 11:03 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Jan Sanderson spends a lot of time driving around, seeing how things are growing.

“Everyday is new and different. You go out and look at the garden and say ‘I swear this couldn’t have happened overnight.’” said Jan.

He owns Sanderson Gardens near Aurora, or four miles east of Brookings.

“Asparagus and rhubarb in the early season. And then we go to strawberries. And I used to have sweet corn. But now everyone does that, so I got out of that. And then raspberries in late August. And then pumpkins start in early September. So that takes us through the whole year,” said Jan.

Running a commercial garden, wasn’t his original plan. The three-time state wrestling champion out of Brookings High School, would go on to be a two-time Big 10 champion at the University of Iowa. His first job out of college was as teacher and coach in Cedar Rapids.

“Of course my summers were free. So I thought, well what could I do. So I thought I’d come back to the farm, and start a garden,” said Jan.

Jan never went back to that job in Iowa.

“I started this when I was 25, 26. I guess and I’ve been going it ever since. This is year forty-five for me,” said Jan.

Sanderson Gardens is open seven days a week, sunrise to sundown, for people to pick their berries or pumpkins.

“We’ve had generations of people of people coming here. And actually generations of people who have worked for me, and then bring their families here. And the kids enjoy it. It’s all on the honor system. People come here, they go out and pick as much they want, and then weigh it themselves up, and leave their money, and take off. The last people that were here said I’ve got the best kept secret in South Dakota. And it’s all word of mouth, that’s what we depend on for advertising.

Now 70, this former wrestler, isn’t slowing down.

“I’ll fall over dead one day doing it. And that will be fine with me. Who knows, I have five kids and they help. So one of them may take it over, otherwise I’ll just sell it and let someone else do it,” said Jan.