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Nance Klehm

Nance Klehm has been an ecological systems designer, landscaper, horticultural consultant, and agroecological grower for over three decades. She works to instigate change by activating existent communities and embodies a lifelong commitment to redefining the way humans coexist with Earth’s natural systems.

The oeuvre of Nance Klehm lies at the intersection of land politics and soil health. Her work as a communicator, translator, curator, translator, provocateur, and medium is internationally recognized in communities ranging from publishing to fine art, environmental activism to philosophy, growing to podcasting. She seeks to embody the ordinary enchantment of relationships between land and place, to honor and educate others on social ecology, and to bridge the gaps between the layman’s everyday activism and the theoretical practices of the academy, gallery, or studio.

Nance’s practice is organized under two structures: Spontaneous Vegetation and Social Ecologies. Through Spontaneous Vegetation, she communicates visions of the future of land and soil. She hosts a monthly podcast of the same name showcasing those whose work, like her own, merges activism and art. Her books, The Ground Rules – A Manual for Deep Mapping and Bioremediation of Soils and The Soil Keepers, bring together a decade’s-worth of interviews with leaders in soil healing and land politics. 

Social Ecologies L3C acts as an umbrella for a variety of ecological and system-regenerating projects, trainings, workshops, and consulting jobs both nationally and abroad. Social Ecologies offers soil and compost assessments, consultations in bioremediation strategies, hands-on workshops in soil health and fertility, and compost system buildouts.  

Nance’s work has received extensive national and international media coverage. Among other things, she is referenced in Leila Darwish’s Earth Repair and Sandor Katz’s The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. She won the 2012 Utne Visionary Prize and has been a two-time finalist for the Curry-Stone Design Prize. In addition, she has lectured broadly in museum and university settings with leading thinkers including Timothy Morton. Most recently, she was the subject of the independent documentary Weedeater.

Currently, Nance splits her time between Little Village–a densely packed, urban neighborhood in the heart of Chicago–where she facilitates The Soil Keepers, a 60-hour certificate training in community soil science, and fifty acres of land in the Driftless Region of northwest Illinois, where she stewards a prairie, cultivates medicinal and edible plants, keeps bees and a fruit orchard, raises quail, and grows seed for an indigenous food sovereignty project. 

45 | Finding Nature Beneath our Feet


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "Casey's garden" by Nestor Torres from his album "Treasures of the Heart."