“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we reap in the harvest of action.”
For over a decade, many dedicated individuals have worked together to create and nurture what has become Sunfield Land for Learning. With commitment and perseverance, these individuals have all shared the goal of bringing Sunfield to its fullest potential as an educational and agricultural resource for Jefferson County and beyond.
The inspiration for Sunfield Land for Learning began on Helen Curry’s idyllic Tomten Farm on Marrowstone Island. Here, a group of homeschooled children came together in September 1995 to begin a weekly Waldorf-inspired festival and drama class called “The Children’s Circle.” The following year, in 1996, children ages three- to six-years old arrived on the farm to attend Helen’s newly-formed Waldorf-based kindergarten.
With the growing awareness of Waldorf education in the community, Helen, local Waldorf teacher Isolde Perry, and kindergarten parent Michael Hamilton, began an initiative to start a full-time Waldorf school. They founded the Trillium Waldorf Education Association, and in 1999, successfully opened Trillium School. A vacated Adventist school house on Marrowstone Island served as a temporary location until a permanent and more centralized location could be established.
In 2000 a second Waldorf kindergarten, started in Port Townsend by Jeannie Ceis, contributed to the steady growth of the local Waldorf movement. In this same year, Trillium’s founders established the organization as a nonprofit and formed a broader vision: the founding of a permanent Waldorf school on a working farm. The farm was envisioned to be more than an educational resource for the enrolled children: it would provide educational opportunities in sustainable agriculture and land stewardship for people of all ages outside of the immediate school community.
Purchasing Our Land
Providentially, an eighty-one-acre piece of property in Port Hadlock – a former dairy farm slated for development into sixteen five-acre home sites – came on the market in 2001. Immediately, the board recognized the potential of this land as a site for their school, as well as the importance of saving the property as farmland. As the board deliberated on how they could raise the funds for the purchase price of the land, local supporters of Trillium’s mission voluntarily stepped forward to secure the acreage for the association, and in 2002, entered into a three-year lease and purchase agreement with Trillium: the property would be taken off the market until 2005, giving Trillium three years to raise the necessary funds.
Seeking a name that would reflect the land itself, the founders renamed their organization Sunfield Education Association; soon after, they received their first grant, enthusiastically awarded by PCC Farmland Trust. With the inspiration received from PCC, board members approached Jefferson Land Trust for assistance, and through grant writing and grass roots fundraising, the two organizations forged ahead in partnership to purchase the land.
Most notably, grant funds included a substantial award from the USDA Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program in 2003 that placed the land – with the exception of five acres for educational facilities – under a conservation easement, preserving twenty-six acres of forest, eight acres of wetlands, and forty-two acres of agricultural land in perpetuity. The federal grant required a funding match; this was provided through the Jefferson County Conservation Futures Fund.
In addition to the grant awards, the generosity of many individual community supporters enabled Sunfield to purchase the land in 2005.
Developing the Farm
After the land was purchased and protected, Sunfield began to seriously pursue the development of a working biodynamic farm that would serve as a model of this curative method of agriculture for the entire region. Within the first year of land ownership, Sunfield successfully secured a USDA grant to fund start-up costs for reestablishing the farm and for developing community education programs.
The grant allowed for the hiring, in 2006, of a full-time farmer and a community education manager. A farm apprenticeship program, a Summer Outdoor Learning (SOL) program for teenagers, and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program were put in place. In 2007, over 7000 pounds of food were grown on the farm and sold through the CSA program and at the Port Townsend Farmers’ Market and the Port Townsend Food Co-op.
Community volunteers, faculty, staff, and board members formed committees to carry out strategic planning, obtain building permits, and set up fundraising campaigns. In addition, many individuals donated hours of physical labor to continue improvements on the farm and to prepare the site for school buildings.
Development of the Waldorf School Community
Throughout the years of purchasing and developing the farm site, Sunfield endeavored to keep the previously begun Waldorf grade-school program active amidst an evolving community of teachers, parents, and children. The school had left its temporary site on Marrowstone Island in 2002; without a secure location, keeping sufficient enrollment in a full-time program was a challenge.
While a full-time school would not open again until the fall of 2006, several programs successfully endured: two small classes of eighth-grade students graduated from part-time academic programs in 2001 and 2006; the Children’s Circle class, begun in 1995, stayed together as a group for six years; a second Children’s Circle class, which had been formed in 1998, stayed together as a group for nine years and became an active drama troupe; and the Waldorf kindergarten programs, begun in 1996 and 2000, thrived in their respective locations.
On the farm, community education programs had successfully started in 2006, but the infrastructure for the school was not yet in place. As there were a growing number of families with children – many of whom had attended Tomten Farm or Wild Roses kindergartens – anxious to provide their children with a full-time Waldorf education, Sunfield rented two classrooms at nearby Chimacum School: in the fall of 2006, Sunfield began a full-time school with a first-grade class and a combined second- and third-grade class. Each week, the two classes traveled down the road to Sunfield’s land for an afternoon on the farm, visiting the animals and engaging in various farm activities.
The following year, a conditional use permit was finally secured for the construction of the school on the land, the infrastructure was placed, and a new modular with three classrooms was moved onto the land. In September 2007, faculty, parents, and students celebrated as Sunfield School moved onto the farm.
In 2008, a building for two kindergarten classrooms and a building for the Sunfield office were placed on the land, and the following spring, Sunfield School became a developing member of the Association for Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), enabling the school to use the name Sunfield Waldorf School.
Today there are over one-hundred children enrolled in our school and seven acres of land under cultivation on our farm. Our mission remains strong, and each year, more and more individuals contribute their creativity, passion, and hard work to ensure that Sunfield Land for Learning continues to be a vibrant environment for nurturing holistic education and providing nourishing organic food for the local community.