From Small Town Farm to Summit Avenue

Lorinda Balfanz

Lorinda Balfanz’s fascination with horticulture started in early childhood, as she explored and helped maintain her family’s vegetable garden and hobby farm in rural Minnesota.

As an adult, she worked at a tree and shrub nursery in France before returning to the States to earn a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Horticulture, with an emphasis on landscape design, then a Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture, both at the University of Minnesota.

Lorinda Balfanz

“The MPS degree emphasizes the science and art of growing plants. I focused my studies on organic methods in order to build a sustainable system by using Best Management Practices. The goal is to put the right plant in the right place, not only for plant health but for aesthetic purposes as well.”

Balfanz spends plenty of time in her element now, flexing her landscape-design muscles as the groundskeeper of the Minnesota Governor’s Residence in St. Paul.

Her position affords an insider’s view of the gardens and residence (and yes, Governor Dayton does live there), including how closely the grounds are tied to greater Minnesota and local agriculture.

  • Hostas, daylilies, lilies, and peonies are featured throughout the gardens, donated by Minnesota horticultural societies. 
  • The Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association incorporated biochar (charcoal used as a soil amendment) in the organic vegetable garden.
  • The University of Minnesota Horticulture Department, Turf Science Division, donated and planted salt- and drought-tolerant turf in the boulevards.
  • The Daffodil Society of Minnesota donates daffodils and other bulbs every year to adorn the front planting beds.
  • The annual plants are grown every year in greenhouses at the Stillwater Correctional Facility.

From high heat and humidity to bone-dry, below-freezing temperatures, Minnesota's climate can deliver unexpected tests of knowledge and experience. But Balfanz enjoys "working through the challenges that are unique to each season and weather condition.”