Tuesday, 18 June 2019

C Columns

The Brighter Side Spyglass Gardens: More Than a Mustard Seed

Sept/Oct 2018




Wendy and Steve Smith grow produce at Spyglass Gardens in Meridian. (Photo by Heather Kern/ HK Photography)

By Ronald Kern

The  world  we  live  in  moves  very  fast,  with  the  emphasis  oftentimes  being,  “the  bigger  the  better.”  We  not  only  expect  big  and  wonderful  things  in  life,  but  we  want  them  right  now.  In  reality,  many  things  that  end  up  great  and  long-lasting  start  small.  This  is  true  in  business,  relationships,  and  even  our  walk  with  God.

Steve  and  Wendy  Smith,  who  founded  Spyglass  Gardens  18  years  ago,  remind  me  in  many  ways  of  the  mustard  seed  parable  in  the  Bible.  It,  and  the  lesson  it  teaches,  appears  three  times  in  the  Bible,  in  Matthew,  Mark  and  Luke.  Luke  13:  88-19  says,  “What  is  the  Kingdom  of  God  like?  To  what  shall  I  compare  it?  It  is  like  a  grain  of  mustard  seed,  which  a  man  took,  and  put  in  his  own  garden.  It  grew,  and  became  a  large  tree,  and  the  birds  of  the  sky  lodged  in  its  branches.”

Although  knowing  each  other  for  10  years  prior  to  dating,  it  was  a  blind  date  that  set  the  course  of  the  Smiths'  future,  in  both  their  relationship  and  business  —  both  starting  out  small.  The  connector  (the  person  who  arranged  the  date)  said  to  Steve,  “You  would  be  great  friends  so  call  her  and  see  what  happens.”    

What  happened  is  a  lovely  story  that  yields  many  lessons  and  has  brought  joy  to  so  many  people.

Wendy  was  brought  up  Christian  and  had  a  love  and  faith  in  God.  This  wasn’t  necessarily  the  case  for  Steve.  Steve  was  brought  up  in  Salt  Lake  City,  Utah,  and  while  he  always  believed  in  God,  he  wasn’t  very  confident  in  the  church  he  was  attending.  He  left  that  church  when  he  was  14  years  old.

Early  in  the  Smiths'  relationship,  Steve  needed  a  physical  and  Wendy  referred  him  to  a  doctor  who  frequently  spoke  about  God  during  visits.  Ironically,  Steve  was  the  one  who  asked  Wendy,  “Would  you  like  to  go  to  church  with  me?”  In  2007,  he  was  saved.Steve  had  some  acreage  which  had  a  little  garden,  and  he  invited  Wendy  over.  She  thought,  “This  might  be  pretty  fun  to  do.  ...  I  think  God  started  working  on  us  right  from  the  beginning.”

Within  a  short  time  period,  she  explained,  “A  guy  just  showed  up  and  plowed  our  field.Then,  due  to  road  construction,  all  vehicles  from  Meridian/Kuna  highway  were  detoured  on  a  path  that  took  them  right  past  Spyglass  Gardens,  which  allowed  us  to  sell  all  of  our  produce.”

Now  people  knew  where  they  were  and  what  they  offered,  and  with  each  passing  year,  the  business  grew  and  grew.

After  eight  years  of  running  this  business  with  zero  issues,  Ada  County  got  involved  and,  long  story  short,  told  them  to  cease  operation.  (County  officials  did  the  same  to  two  other  farms.)  Steve  and  Wendy  had  long  ago  obtained  all  required  permits  and  paperwork,  but  due  to  a  small,  obscure  and  rarely  enforced  rule,  the  farm  business  was  halted.

The  year  was  2008,  the  recession  had  hit,  and  they  felt  that  perhaps  God  was  testing  them.  Having  the  farm  shut  down  was  indeed  a  large  test  of  faith,  but  what  came  next  was  an  even  bigger  test  —  but  also  a  blessing.  Do  you  ever  question  God’s  timing?  That  same  year,  Steve  was  diagnosed  with  prostate  cancer.    The  doctor  who  helped  him  through  this  was  a  great  Christian  man.  The  same  doctor  who  “preached”  to  Steve  during  his  physical  exam  also  was  involved.  People  from  their  church  were  supportive,  as  well  as  the  many  clients  and  friends  they'd  made  over  the  years.

Due  to  the  farm  ceasing  operation,  Steve  had  more  time  to  focus  on  his  health.  His  prostate  cancer  was  not  a  traditional  type,  so  if  he'd  been  prescribed  the  normal  course  of  action,  “he  would  have  been  dead  within  a  year,”  Wendy  said.  The  cancer  was  in  an  unusual  location  and  had  God  not  been  involved  and  time  not  made  available,  this  story  would  not  have  a  happy  ending.  One  might  surmise  that  the  reason  the  farm  was  shut  down  was  so  there  wouldn’t  be  any  distractions  for  Steve's  recovery.  His  cancer  was  eliminated  and,  as  of  today,  he  continues  to  be  cancer-free.

As  Wendy  sat  down  at  the  computer  and  searched  how  to  sell  their  farm,  something  popped  up  that  caught  her  attention:  CSA,  which  stands  for  Community  Supported  Agriculture.

The  website  had  free  downloads,  information,  and  all  that  they  needed  to  pursue  a  new  direction  for  the  farm.  Sending  out  an  email  to  their  client  list  to  test  the  waters,  35  people  signed  up  for  their  newly  formed  CSA.  Being  one  of  the  first  to  have  a  CSA  in  the valley,  you  could  say  they  were  pioneers  of  what  has  become  a  very  popular  program  over  the  last  decade.

(Information  from https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/community-supported-agriculture: “Community  Supported  Agriculture  consists  of  a  community  of  individuals  who  pledge  support  to  a  farm  operation  so  that  the  farmland  becomes,  either  legally  or  spiritually,  the  community's  farm,  with  the  growers  and  consumers  providing  mutual  support  and  sharing  the  risks  and  benefits  of  food  production.”)

Ten  years  have  gone  by  and  the  CSA  continues  to  flourish.  Interestingly,    the  vast  majority  of  their  CSA  members  are  Christian.  This  certainly  isn’t  a  prerequisite,  but  when you  visit  the  farm,  you  will  encounter  a  strong  sense  of  calm  and  goodness  from  all  directions.  While  picking  up  produce,  the  CSA  members  find  it  a  natural  occurrence  to  have  discussions  (fellowship),  and  the  Gospel  is  oftentimes  a  topic.  Isn’t  it  interesting  how  God  works?

With  weekends  oftentimes  being  spent  in  Cascade,  Idaho,  the  Smiths  found  a  church  in the  area  and  joined.  Oddly  enough,  this  church  decided  that  there  was  too  much  “Bible  talk”  and  changed  how  sermons  were  led,  and  things  just  weren’t  the  same  —  it  became  foreign  and  strange.  Steve  and  Wendy,  and  countless  others,  left  that  church  and  started  meeting  together  in...you  guessed  it...a  small  way.  This  small  group  has  now  grown  and  turned  into  another  new  church,  which  doesn’t  have  restrictions  on  “Bible  talk.”

In  addition  to  a  variety  of  farming  skills  they  have  acquired,  Spyglass  Gardens  uses  open-air  ditches,  drip  systems,  and  a  settling  pond,  which  means  the  water  used  actually  leaves  the  farm  cleaner  than  when  it  came  in.  They  don’t  use  chemicals  or  pesticides  either,  allowing  you  to  know  exactly  what  you  are  eating  when  you  get  produce  from  Spyglass  Gardens.  Although  their  farm  is  not  certified  “organic,”  it’s  fresh,  all-natural,  and  as  close  as  you  can  get.  What  most  people  don’t  realize  is  the  definition  and  requirements  of  being  organic  in  the  USA  are  not  the  same  as  in  other  countries,  although the  FDA  claims  to  be  cracking  down  on  food  coming  into  our  country.  This  is  a  big  deal,  considering  a  bulk  of  the  fruit  and  vegetables  you  see  in  the  grocery  store  are  from  other  countries.

Wendy  spends  the  morning  in  prayer  in  their  greenhouse,  and  Steve  talks  to  the  plants  and  prays  over  the  food  during  his  morning  walk  of  the  farm.  They  appreciate  what  God  has  provided  to  them,  which  in  turn  provides  such  amazing  things  to  others.  When  they  tried  to  use  all  of  the  acreage  to  farm,  “something  always  would  fail,”  Wendy  said.  “It  didn’t  matter  if  we  had  12  people  helping  or  5,  we  found  that  you  have  to  give  something  back.”      

Giving  something  back,  such  as  leaving  one  acre  fallow  as  they  do  each  year,  is  another  lesson  from  the  Bible.  “It’s  not  how  much  you  plant;  it’s  how  well  you  take  care  of  it  and  nurture  things,”  Wendy  reminded  me.

In  addition  to  providing  fresh  and  all-natural  food  to  people,  the  Smiths  offer  classes  on  planting,  canning,  preserving,  and  bulk  orders,  and  are  heavily  sought  after  for  custom flower  pots  and  baskets.  They  also  sell  eggs  from  the  chickens  they  raise,  and  the  list  just  goes  on  and  on.  A  certain  portion  of  their  yield  is  donated  to  help  feed  others,  a  program  they  have  had  in  place  for  years.

Whether  you  end  up  buying  anything  from  them  or  not,  I  would  highly  recommend  stopping  by  and  introducing  yourself.  What  you  will  find  in  Steve  and  Wendy  are  genuine,  loving,  caring,  and  giving  people.  When  taking  a  walk  around  their  farm,  I  might  have  “accidentally”  picked  a  few  things  and  sampled  them  right  then.  Their  little  slice  of  heaven  provides  so  much  for  people  on  an  individual  basis,  but  also  they  are  a  huge  asset  to  the  community.  When  you  tour  their  farm,  you  absolutely  will  leave  in  a  good  mood  and  will  likely  have  two  new  incredible  friends.

You  can  consistently  count  on  Steve  and  Wendy,  and  Spyglass  Gardens,  to  bring  back  your  faith  in  humanity.  This  couple,  brought  together  by  God,  proves  that  when  you  listen  and  obey  God,  amazing  gifts  overflow  in  your  life,  which  blesses  others.

You  can  visit  their  website  at www.spyglassgardens.com.

A  multi-business  owner  in  Meridian  for  more  than  20  years,  Ronald  Kern  and  his  wife  sold  their  businesses  in  2013.  Ron  is  a  serial  entrepreneur,  personal  and  professional  consultant,  author,  columnist,  motivational  speaker,  and  philanthropist. 


Christian Living Magazine



Phone: 208-703-7860