Gerri Veldman smiles June 5 in one of the gardening areas at St. John’s Lutheran Community. Her job as garden coordinator is to assist residents with gardening projects. – Hannah Dillon/Albert Lea Tribune
Gerri Veldman smiles June 5 in one of the gardening areas at St. John’s Lutheran Community. Her job as garden coordinator is to assist residents with gardening projects. – Hannah Dillon/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

Green thumb at St. John’s loves aiding residents with plants

Published 9:56am Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gardener to the golden

Gerri Veldman has been gardening for most of her life. Now she gets to do it for her job.

Veldman is the garden coordinator at St. John’s Lutheran Community. She works with residents to plan out a variety of flower and vegetable gardens, and it’s clear that she loves her job. She assists residents with their green thumb endeavors.

She was born between Clarks Grove and Hollandale, and attended elementary school in Clarks Grove. From seventh to 12th grade, she went to Albert Lea.

Once Veldman graduated, she went to Gustavus Adolphus University and the University of Minnesota for a year and a half before she got married and had children.

Since she was staying home, Veldman said that’s when she started getting into gardening. That was 40 years ago. Now, people at St. John’s refer to her as a master gardener — even though she is quick to remind them that she isn’t an actual Master Gardener through the University of Minnesota Extension program by that name.

The gardening seed was planted within her, however, from her youth. Veldman participated in 4-H, and her parents were farmers. She said they were the ones who started her out. She has also ready many books about gardening and attributes that to her knowledge.

Veldman went back to school in her 40s to work in health care. She said that her personal belief is that if people don’t like what they’re currently doing, they should find something they like more.

She got on-the-job training at the Medicare office and medical coding at Mayo Clinic Health System. Before working for St. John’s, she worked as a physical therapist assistant for six years.

Jackie Richie and Avis Luebke, residents at St. John’s, said that Veldman does a great job with the gardening program and that they’re happy to have her.

“We’ll keep her,” Richie said.

St. John’s marketer Diane Wichmann said that for someone who loves people and loves gardening, that garden coordinator is the perfect job. She continued to say that Veldman fits that description perfectly.

Veldman, in her personal garden, likes to grow tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, spinach, snow peas, onions and sugar snap peas. She said some of her favorite flowers to grow are snapdragons, roses and pansies.

“Don’t be afraid to try it,” Veldman said, encouraging others to try gardening, stating that there are many books and Internet resources available to help.

 

Gerri Veldman 

Age: 64

Address: 1428 Penn Ave., Albert Lea

Livelihood: garden coordinator at St. John’s Lutheran Community

Family: husband, James; three children, Kristi, Chad and Kelly; nine grandchildren

Interesting fact: She went to elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse.