Sunrise Gardens is a Certified Organic microgreen and vegetable farm located a few minutes west of Onoway, Alberta. Our focus is on wheatgrass and shoots (microgreens) as well as specialty greens, vegetables, and edible flowers. We are at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market every Saturday from 8am-3pm.
It takes a whole team of people to get the food we sell from our shop, our cold frame and our gardens to our customers. We have four people on staff full-time, all year, and at busy times of year, the helping hands easily double in number. We’ll introduce you to our team a little later, but for now we’ll give you a quick rundown of how Sunrise Gardens as it currently exists came to be.
Dawn – Before Sunrise Gardens
I spent most of my early years living in and around Spruce Grove and Stony Plain but also lived in Ontario and B.C. before moving into my first home in Edmonton. I have a lifelong interest in Energy Work, medicinal and nutritional herbs and plants, and wild edibles. I completed a Wholistic Practitioner Program in 1999 and worked at a health food store during that time.
My interest in working outdoors and paying the bills had me working in construction and tieing reinforcing steel for the next 10 years. Tough job, I thought – until I started farming. My experience working rebar was great training for the heavy lifting and bending needed in the gardens, though now a days I’m always looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.
In 2002, I became a mother to our son Ceinan (kay-nan), and learned pretty quickly that no amount of hard work could have prepared me for parenting. Challenging and wonder filled would be the best way to describe the relationship, I think. By 2004 we had decided that we would head west again and settled into a cozy cottage off the banks of Lac. St. Anne. Our next move was to Sunrise Gardens.
The first market season begain in the fall of 2003 and was the result of an excessively large family garden at my dad’s place a few kilometers West of Onoway, Alberta. At the encouragement of friends, I headed out to the farmers’ market in Darwell with around 50 pounds of potatoes, 10 pounds of cucumbers and a couple dozen onions. At that point, there were only three markets left to attend before they closed for the season, but I was seriously hooked on the idea that I could possibly make a living through my love of gardening.
Spring of 2004 found me back in Darwell, as well as at the Heritage Market in Stony Plain. It was here that I met several other market gardeners and peppered them with as many questions as possible. I knew I was at the very bottom of a very steep learning curve and needed to learn as much about the business of growing food as I could. I turned time and again to the wisdom of both Lois Hole and Eliot Coleman. By the end of the 2004 season, I was more determined than ever to continue to create the reality of my dream of being a successful market gardener.
I applied to be a vendor at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market and was very lucky to be accepted in March 2005. A few months later, in May of 2005, a relatively small load of beets, lettuce, green onions and radish was brought in to Old Strathcona, and so began our now 9 year commitment to the year-round market.
There have been both difficult and exceptional growing seasons over the past decade, as well as an unbelievable amount of personal and professional growth. Although the methods used at Sunrise Gardens have always been organic, we first became Certified Organic producers through OCIA in 2007, and in 2011 switched over to Pro-Cert.
In 2008, in an attempt to find a suitable crop to keep us at Old Strathcona through the winter, I began growing microgreens indoors. I found myself on yet another steep learning curve, and with much trial and error, the wheatgrass and microgreens found their way to our market table. For 4 years, we grew out of a 900 sq foot shop. Business outgrew the limited space there, so in January 2013 we moved the microgreen operation into a 2500 square foot shop closer to our home and to the gardens. In 2011 we put up the cold frame, which is now heated with a wood-fired furnace. It allows us to extend our growing season, and offer things like mixed greens and carrots much earlier than this climate would normally permit.
We’ve tried many new crops over the years, and have many plans and hopes for the future. We are ever grateful for the opportunity to grow, all ways.