Jowell Scott spent his childhood in the Tacoma area experiencing the outdoors.
When she was a child, her grandmother would take them to a local farm, during which they would jump into a pile of hay and milk the cows. They also sometimes “taste the flavors of the Earth” by chewing raw rhubarb from a neighbor’s garden.
“It was an experience that I don’t think all the kids I grew up with really had,” Scott said.
In a few years, about 200 children will be able to have similar experiences in a new daycare center to be built in Puyallup.
Scott is one of many employees at Farm 12 – a restaurant, bakery and event venue created by a non-profit organization called Step By Step. The non-profit organization aims to provide women with the support and resources they need to have healthy pregnancies and families.
Founder Krista Linden said she plans to expand Farm 12. Over the next two years, employees and other area families will have the opportunity to use a newly constructed early learning center near the restaurant at 3303 Eighth Ave. SE.
“These early years of learning are the most formative years in a child’s life,” Linden said. “We’re going to build a phenomenal center because it’s phenomenally important.”
The early learning center will have a mix of indoor and outdoor facilities. It is planned to have a multipurpose barn, a greenhouse as well as an area for livestock such as goats, pigs and sheep.
Approximately 200 children aged 5 and under will be able to attend the early learning centre. The 30 to 40 employees of Farm 12 will have priority registration and it will then be open to other families in the area, Linden said.
Linden said some of those places would be for infant care. They also plan to make sure hours are flexible, as most daycares have strict schedules. There are also plans to make the costs flexible.
The early learning center will cost approximately $12 million. It will be partially funded by grants from the state Department of Commerce, Pierce County, and funds that Farm 12 has already set aside for the center. They are always looking for donations, Linden said. They’ve secured around $2.5 million of the $12 million so far.
Linden said they hope to complete construction by summer 2024 so it can be open for the fall 2024 school year. The YMCA will help run the early learning center. She wanted to be associated with an organization that emphasizes physical activity and the outdoors.
The original plan was to partner with existing child care centers so Farm 12 employees would have a place to bring their children, Linden said. But when the pandemic hit, employees expressed difficulty finding facilities that were still open.
That’s when the conversation around Farm 12 having its early learning center started, Linden said. They held a public meeting in February 2022, during which people shared their needs and desires in a daycare.
About 80 people attended the town hall, Linden said. Parents, families, teachers, paediatricians and others with ties to child care were present. They clearly indicated that they wanted their children to benefit from a childcare service that allowed them to interact with the outside world.
“If you had to sum up what they want in one sentence, they want to bathe their kids in dirt,” Linden said.
Scott has three children (13, 12 and 5) and one on the way. Before going to work, she drives from her home in Parkland to drop off her children at her mother’s house near the edge of Edgewood, or at her father’s house in Tacoma.
Before Scott’s parents agreed to help her, Scott found a daycare that worked for her, but it closed during the pandemic. Before finding the daycare, she was looking for local babysitters through community sites.
“Farm 12 really understood the needs of the family,” Scott said. “Having something like this daycare (centre) so close to my work would be a huge lifesaver.”
Rachel Hamilton, another Farm 12 employee, drops off her 4 and 5 year olds at daycare, but the journey to her current location has been difficult. She remembers crying many nights when the centers she attended closed during the pandemic.
Now his work helps fund the new center and his experiences and recommendations help make it accessible to other families.
“I wish the early learning center was something I could benefit from, but it means so much to me that I can sew there now for other mothers,” Hamilton said.
Editor’s note: This story misrepresented the amount of funding for the early learning center that had been secured. Farm 12 has secured $2.5 million of the $12 million so far.
This story was originally published April 24, 2022 5:00 a.m.