Burien News is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Today there are thousands of readers, but many of you may have missed some of the early stories we loved. Over the summer, we will be republishing a few of the best. Enjoy, and thank you to our loyal followers!
This article was originally posted on June 11, 2022.
By Vicki Krage, Director of Operations at Sunrise Financial Services and Sunny Gardens Volunteer
When Sunrise Financial Services moved into our new location in the old Southwest Suburban Sewer District building at the end of 2018, the team was too busy settling in to take notice of the empty, unused acre at the back of the property. We didn’t have a plan for it, and really didn’t give it much thought. It was a field of weeds for two years.
Looking back, it was a somewhat prophetic epiphany that got the ball rolling. In late fall of 2020, the owner of Sunrise Financial, Janice Hammond, had an idea of how the “back forty” should be used. She told the team we’d think she was crazy, but she had a feeling we were supposed to develop an urban farm so we could provide produce for our families. She’s right, we do think she’s crazy; but this idea was brilliant! Everyone was on board and excited about her idea.
Naturally, in our excitement, additional ideas of how we could use the property to benefit our neighbors, local schools, and the community in general began to blossom and abound, along with hopes and dreams of lush harvests, chickens, pigs, and goats – but those were ideas for the future because we had a lot of work to do, as well as our regular day jobs. Spring would come quickly, and we knew we had to act fast in order to be prepared – just getting started was our primary focus.
Even though the idea was great, and the team was excited, we very quickly realized none of us had any relevant experience. Lacking experience, we had no idea what to do or where to start. Because of this, our first year was a lot of trial and error, as well as basic preparation. And it was hard work! I’m sure some cowboy somewhere along the line has said, “Farming isn’t for the weak of spirit,” and if they haven’t, well, they were too busy farming to be quoted.
Google and Pinterest provided a network of frequent advisors, and – full disclosure – the internet is not always right, and what works for someone else may not work for you. Prepare yourself for this. Our first year produced a harvest of vegetables that are fairly easy to grow, but mostly yielded ideas of what not to do. I don’t say this to discourage anyone, but I find it important to be transparent about our experience.
It was difficult because we expected better results, and immediate gratification is not a realistic expectation when creating a farm from a field of weeds. Some plantings thrived, others were moderately successful, while others didn’t grow at all. It’s emotionally challenging to put so much effort into something and not see the results you want; but this is all part of the journey– a normal part of the learning process. Experience is truly the best teacher, so don’t quit.
A year later, here we are again, persisting. What originally began as a way for us to provide healthy, organic, affordable vegetables and fruit for our families has, in concept, morphed into a desire to do something more. We want to pursue those blossoming ideas I mentioned earlier and be a force for good in our community, while also setting realistic expectations and goals for our team.
It is still too early in our development to make commitments about our future plans, and we aren’t sure the exact direction we are going to take our project; we know our ultimate, overarching goal is to help people in need and “teach people to fish.” We want to assist people in developing the skills needed to start their own gardens, as well as provide resources to do it.
With all this talk of food shortages, supply chain disruption, and just general chaos, we hope to help people provide for themselves and have some freedom from those worries. There is already enough to worry about, so why borrow tomorrow’s trouble? These current events are why I said Sunny Gardens was a somewhat prophetic epiphany; it was also a proactive approach to future problems.
Currently we are 100% volunteer-based, and not yet open to the public. We are accepting new volunteers, and open to arranging pre-scheduled visits, so please reach out to us if you’re interested. In coming articles we will share more about the future of Sunny Gardens, and the direction we plan to go. More importantly, we’ll share with you the trials, errors, and successes we’ve had. We are learning together as a community, so we encourage you to send The Gem your questions, tell us about yourselves, or share your experiences so others might benefit. We look forward to hearing from you!