Nance Klehm

Nance Klehm is a “radical ecologist” whose many projects include designing landscapes and large-scale composting systems across the globe, leading urban foraging tours, and challenging urban composting policy in Chicago and beyond.

Klehm is an ecological systems designer, landscaper, horticultural consultant, and permacultural grower. Her work is always focused on soil, ecology and community, and she has worked for clients as diverse as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago Park District, the Field Museum, and the Farm Lab of the Annenberg Foundation.

Klehm is probably best known for her ‘urban foraging’ workshops that she leads in Chicago and other cities. The tours serve as a basic primer in soil health. Beyond just tours, Klehm also leads interactive workshops to further foster connections between the participants, the urban environment, and the natural ecosystems beneath: The “Living Kitchen” cooking series, for example, “uses foods that are locally cultivated, as well as foraged, in order to explore our environs and our relationship with what’s growing around us.” The tours and workshops are about much more than just trying to find pockets within the city where people can find green things growing. They are in fact about helping people to see and value the ecologies that grow all around them – underneath their feet, in empty parking lots, and in their own backyards.

A further focus is really about community. Her tours and workshops help people understand that they too are part of an ecosystem – one which they occupy symbiotically, even with the neighbors they don’t know. By enhancing a citizen’s understanding of their relationship to urban nature, and the connectedness of urban ecosystem, Klehm hopes that her work fosters a deepened sense of community, even as the forces of urbanization often force us to become strangers with one another.

Her work has carried her to Qatar, Haiti and beyond, always with a universal message about the shared space that we occupy with the natural world.

We spent some time with Nance on Social Design Insights, where she shared with us some of her experiences in connecting modern urbanity and ecology.

And after the podcast, check out the links below to learn even more about Nance’s important work.

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