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Growing his community earns Melgaard Citizen of the Year honors
He's a gardener, not a musician, but it's fitting that Nels Melgaard helped to re-charter the Sallal Grange in 2009, when a musical group was looking for a gathering place. Melgaard has a lot in common with the revitalized service group.
"One of the tenets of a subordinate Grange is to create programming that's relevant to its community," he explained.
In other words, anyone with a good idea can usually find the support they need to make it a reality, he says. "They just make it happen."
In recognition of Melgaard's own good ideas and efforts to make things happen for his community, from creating the youth Snoqualmie Valley Wrestling Club to re-chartering the Grange, the city of North Bend honored him Jan. 3 with the 2011 Citizen of the Year award.
"He is known as a man who does not seek out the spotlight for himself, and his actions exemplify a man of honor and integrity, a role model for youth and community action," Mayor Ken Hearing said in his announcement, adding that he "is a non-stop supporter of youth activities, local music, community service organizations, and helping people in need."
"I've been blessed with a lot, and I know that the only way I keep it is by trying to give back, so I do what I can do," Melgaard said after being surprised with the award. "I saw some people looking for community, I guess."
Melgaard owns the 10-acre Nursery at Mount Si, with his wife of 20 years, Anne, and two sons, Wilkins and Christian. He created the nursery 14 years ago when his own business needed new life. He'd been running "a big truck farm" on the land, then about 5.5 acres and called Fortunate Farms, and selling produce at farmers markets, with two partners. When they moved north, the business became too much for one person to manage, "so I started growing hanging baskets and perennials," he said. "I still did all the farmers markets, but with a product that was much less perishable than lettuce!"
One day he had another good idea, and set up a stand to sell flowers from his home, and "eventually that became the nursery," Melgaard said.
The nursery is now home to six greenhouses, and many community events, school tours, and, until about four years ago, a fall pumpkin patch.
"Then the elk found us," Melgaard said.
A resident elk herd has destroyed most of his pumpkin crop each year, he said. Combined with two cold springs, a time the nursery usually does most of its business, the effect has been hard on the nursery. However, Melgaard looks forward to state funding he was promised to build a fence to keep the elk out, and has already started retooling his business again, for the coming year.
"We're here, we'll be here, we're trying to focus things differently," he said.
That's the same approach he believes the Sallal Grange has. "What can happen through the Grange, things are really pretty limitless," he said.
Before starting the nursery, Melgaard also worked as an electrician, and as a real estate agent, so he knows he could "mothball" the nursery, short-term, if he had to, but not forever.
"The last real estate deal I did was I bought a fixer-upper in North Bend, with some land. I decided I wanted to grow something here."