Carbondale native prefers to keep turning the pages
April 17, 2003
For Greg Forbes, Wendy Anderson’s partner of three-plus years, the best thing about Wendy is her passion.
“She’s passionate about everything,” said Forbes, a cabbie and carpenter who owns a house with Wendy.
“I think it’s great that she’s been here all of her life, seen the changes, good and bad, and is still here working to make it the kind of place she wants it to be,” he continued.
Wendy Anderson is the sociologist who never went into sociology, the bookstore owner who would rather not be, and the organic farmer who wishes she could find a way to make a living at it.
Even so, Wendy is also an optimist at a time when so many like-minded friends and acquaintances see the world these days as a pretty glum place. “People are becoming aware of what’s really going on in the government,” she says.
Referring to the worldwide day of protests on Feb. 15 against the war in Iraq, she says, “I think that was a phenomenal moment in the history of the world – protests of that size before a war.”
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Wendy’s relationship with Greg looks and feels a lot like a marriage, but it’s not. It looks and feels a lot like a boyfriend-girlfriend, live-in thing, but it’s not that either. After all, they own a house together.
“‘Boyfriend’ doesn’t seem to do the trick and he’s not a husband. He’s my partner,” Wendy explained.
Wendy is a native of the Roaring Fork Valley, a graduate of Roaring Fork High School and a resident of Carbondale.
“It was so different when I was a kid,” she recalls. Main Street was the only paved road through town she remembers. Ranches and empty fields, not subdivisions and golf courses, surrounded the town. Her senior class at Roaring Fork High School was only 60 kids, about two-thirds the size of the class of 2003.
She is among a handful of “old-timers” who shows up at the seemingly never-ending town of Carbondale trustee meetings to testify against making Carbondale look like everywhere else, and in favor of keeping its spirit alive.
“As much as we don’t want to be Aspen, we’re not doing much to make it any different,” she says.
Wendy was born in Aspen in 1971, the third child of Twirp and Barbara Anderson. In 1976, the Andersons moved downvalley to the Ranch at Roaring Fork, the subdivision and par-3 golf course located on Highway 82 between the Catherine Store and the intersection of Highway 133. She started first grade at the elementary school in Carbondale.
After graduating from Roaring Fork High School, Wendy went on to Colorado College, a private school near Colorado Springs where she studied sociology.
Following college she signed up to do a year of volunteer service through The Brethren, an ecumenical religious organization. In exchange for a one-year commitment, Wendy chose the cause and The Brethren covered her living expenses.
Wendy volunteered at the Pesticide Action Network in San Francisco, an international advocacy group that works to educate farmers against the misuse, overuse or, in certain cases, any use of pesticides.
She worked on a project involving the Dirty Dozen – the 12 most deadly pesticides in use. “It was really an eye into the corruption of the petrochemical industry,” she said. “I decided to go into organic farming after that.”
Wendy spent a year as an apprentice on an organic farm before going into business for herself farming two acres in Palisade owned by her uncle. She spent summers farming and winters in Carbondale.
“It was the most insane thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “I worked my butt off.”
Wendy reckons she broke even, which is pretty good in light of the fact she was a novice doing a job that even in good years isn’t exactly lucrative.
Wendy’s life took an unexpected turn in 2000 when her mother, Barbara, came down with an auto-immune disorder and, in a matter of weeks, ended up in a wheelchair and was suddenly unable to run her business.
“That’s when I gave up the farm and came back to work at the bookstore,” Wendy said, referring to the Novel Tea Shop, the bookstore her mother started on Main Street.
Wendy actually didn’t give up on farming right away. After moving here year-round, she started a cooperative community garden with her friends Katherine Ruston and Carol Weiss. For the past several summers, Wendy, Katherine and Carol have sold their bounty once a week at a table set up outside the Main Street office of the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities.
“We thought we could dovetail with other farmers, but there was a wall there,” Wendy said. “The plan was for it to build and grow, but it just didn’t do what we had hoped.”
The women aren’t running the garden/farm this year. Carol has since moved to Paonia, Katherine is raising two young children, and Wendy is busy with the bookstore.
Wendy says she and her siblings were shocked to see Barbara lose control of her body so quickly. “We kept holding out that it would turn around,” she said.
The month or so she thought she would spend in the bookstore turned into several months, and then years. “Two and a half years later, I’m still in here,” she notes.
In January 2001, Wendy decided to turn her mom’s store into her own. She withstood the criticism of her family members, switched the inventory toward environment- and woman-focused books, and has turned it into a business of her own.
But being a retailer in a small town, even if it’s her small town, was never her dream. She wants to continue the path she started before circumstance intervened. So the bookstore is up for sale, and Wendy is currently negotiating with a number of potential buyers.
“There are undone things for me – like a life I haven’t lived,” she says.
Editor’s note: Faces of the Roaring Fork is a feature of The Aspen Times that appears each Thursday. The goal of these stories is to put the spotlight on people in the Roaring Fork Valley who don’t usually make the pages of our daily newspapers.
Stories focus on “regular folks” who have interesting stories to tell. We hope they will run the gamut: people with unique hobbies, people who have overcome some obstacle in life to pursue a dream, people who quietly help others in need, etc.
Though we have plenty of stories in mind, we are sure there are many, many people out there worth writing about who will never cross our radar screen. So we are asking our readers to tell us about folks they know who deserve a little recognition, who have interesting tales to tell.
Anyone with ideas should call Editor Mike Hagan at 925-3414, or send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, in advance, for your help.