WILKESON, Wash. - Two Pierce County sisters and farmers are hoping to inspire others in the agriculture industry with their innovative idea of taking their crops and using them to create a vintage style soda shop in the tiny town of Wilkeson.
Sisters Belinda and Venise say this is the reaction the usually get when they tell other farmers about what they do:
"Usually they're confused a little bit; it’s definitely not traditional farming in any sense," the sisters explain.
Eight years ago when Venise bought her Buckley farm she wasn’t quite sure what to grow. Meanwhile, her sister Belinda was making a career curating specialty cocktails, which gave them an idea.
"We call it garden to glass. We take farm to table and we just put it into the drinks," says Belinda Kelly.
Everything they grow goes into their syrups and drinks. Essentially, they’re a cocktail farm.
"I’m pretty sure we're the only one in the nation," says Venise Cunningham.
The sisters' idea made them perfect candidates for a USDA added value grant, which essentially means taking a crop and turning it into a product that adds value to it.
"That’s what every farmer around here is trying to figure out: How can I maximize the value of the crop that I’m growing?" says Venise.
For them it means taking the crops they grow on the farm and turning them into syrups, which in turn gives them a much more profitable product. And with the help of the $50,000 grant, their Simple Goodness Sisters Syrups are being used in their brand new pop shop, along with milkshakes, cocktails and other treats. The grant also helped them launch a monthly cocktail subscription box.
"Women have always been farming and always been doing the books, running the farm. Maybe not always the one you see in the tractor but that doesn’t mean they’re not running the farm business," says Venise.
According to the census of agriculture, about 36% of farmers are women. The sisters say they are proud to be part of that and hope to inspire other local growers to think outside the box with their crops.
The sisters plan to officially open Simple Goodness Soda Shop on May 13th. If you’d like more information on the grant they were awarded, you can find details here.
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