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 and participate in the Organic Box program in Edmonton and Calgary. You can also find our shoots at Blush Lane Organics, the Edmonton Planet Organic Markets and being used by choice Edmonton restaurants such as RGE RD, Noorish and Holts Cafe. We are also a key supplier of wheatgrass for several Jugo Juices and Booster Juices throughout the Edmonton area.
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. This year, we had four people on staff full-time, all year, and at this time 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, and introduce you to the two smiling faces you see at market every week.
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 now supply The Organic Box (grocery delivery) in Edmonton, and Blush Lane Organic Market, as well as providing trays of wheatgrass for juicing at several Booster Juice locations throughout Edmonton and area.
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.
Kate – The Newbie
While I’m no longer the Sunrise Gardens ‘rookie’, I certainly wouldn’t yet call myself an experienced market gardener, like Dawn. This will only be my third summer season, having moved out here from the city three and a half years ago. True love opens the door for some pretty dramatic changes, sometimes.
After nearly a decade working as a production co-ordinator in educational television, I felt like I was due for a career change even before Dawn and I got re-acquainted and fell in love. As surprising as it was to my friends and family (and to me, too, I suppose), I decided to leave a job that was no longer fulfilling to ‘run away to the farm’. Talk about a wholesale change.
I don’t really having a lot of ‘hands-on’, market garden experience to offer Sunrise Gardens. I worked my way through my Anthropology degree at the U of A by working in the seasonal department at Canadian Tire, but that was pretty much just lifting big bags of peat moss and counting out Canadian Tire money. What I do bring to Sunrise Gardens is organization, office skills, and a persistent and insatiable curiosity about the world around me. And, ever since I could hold a pencil, I’ve loved writing. While Dawn is happiest out in the field, fingers in the dirt, seeding or weeding, I am happiest in my head, learning weird ‘useless’ facts, and writing about them.
I’m so excited to take on the project of building this website and writing the weekly newsletter. It is so incredibly beautiful out here on our land, and what we get to do on a daily basis is fascinating, challenging and fulfilling. There are so many cool things about observing the land and farming organically, and I’m really looking forward to sharing them with you. It feels good.