Welcome to our series, #WHYoming.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
For this week’s #WHYoming, I had a chance to talk with Wes and Jenn Woodward, owners and managers of Simply Sunshine Nursery. When these two aren’t digging in the dirt at their nursery, Wes is an assistant principal and Jenn is a full-time homemaker. Last year, the Woodwards started their nursery to fulfill a need in Rock Springs, and also to carry their love of farming and growing plants with them into their new life here in Sweetwater County.
The Woodwards moved to Rock Springs a couple years ago, leaving their land behind where they and their five children raised calves, sheep, horses, and pigs, and spent a lot of time planting in their garden beds. They soon found that their love for gardening and raising animals was not something they could leave behind. They have been working hard to set their nursery up to be fully functioning by spring 2022, and they are excited for the community to head out and visit them. To keep up with Simply Sunshine Nursery and their progress, follow them on their Facebook page.
Wes and Jenn, what do you do for a living?
Beyond owning and managing Simply Sunshine Nursery, Wes is an assistant principal at Rock Springs Junior High and Jenn is a full-time domestic engineer (homemaker).
How did you come to the decision to start a nursery?
The answer to this is multi-angled. The spring after we had moved to Rock Springs, we were surprised there was no local plant nursery in town. We had redone a big section of our backyard to create a garden and, with the shortages that came with spring 2020, we found that there was a real need in Rock Springs for a locally grown garden center.
Additionally, the whole family really missed the horse and other livestock we had left with friends in Cheyenne when we moved here, as well as the open space of country living. We realized quickly that farming had not left our hearts as easily as we thought it would. The solution to growing on substantially less acreage was solved when we decided that a plant nursery could provide a way for us to still farm, but in a different way than we had ever imagined before.
You said you were farmers before coming here, so can you explain what previous experience you have as farmers?
Wes grew up farming and working for other farmers into his adulthood. I (Jenn) grew up as a city kid, but my parents always had a large garden and lots of fruit trees. From the time I was very little, I was given my own portion of the garden to tend to. I got to plan out my space, weed it, water it, and spend time in it every day. I loved it! My parents had a walnut tree and several varieties of fruit trees and shrubs and my siblings and I spent many hours harvesting fruit and walnuts and then helping my mom can the fruit and store the walnuts.
When we first met in college, Wes went home every weekend to help feed the baby calves his dad was raising. When I could go with him, we had so much fun putting bottles of milk out for the rows of calves they had at the time. We got married and after about three years of marriage and two kids later, we were able to build our first home on his family farm. Our children were so little then, but they have grown up raising animals (calves, sheep, horses, pigs), and have always worked by our side clearing pastures, remodeling old farmhouses, putting in garden beds, and planting with us.
What has your experience with the nursery been like so far?
Our first year was really an experiment, we felt a need for a nursery in Rock Springs but wanted to know if our neighbors, friends, and community felt the same way. It was also a healing year. With all of the increased tension, stress, and uncertainty that came with the pandemic, the greenhouse was a reminder of the miracle of life and that tiny beginnings create beautiful things. It was a great place for us to find peace and a great way to reach out to others with something positive. What better therapy is there than digging in the dirt?
We initially thought the only people that would come to support our nursery were our friends, and they did, but we found quickly that we had way more visitors to the nursery that were people that we had never met. We had people call from as far away as California to order our Mother’s Day planters to be delivered to a loved one, and visitors we had never met who came from Utah to see family in Rock Springs just stopped by and bought from us. We came to realize that if people would go out of their way to stop by our tiny backyard greenhouse where we had to schedule visits by appointment, they were certainly wanting what we wanted for our community.
It was touching the number of customers who became our friends and would tell us how much they wanted to see us succeed. It gave us the motivation to pursue taking this from more than a backyard hobby. Our dream is to creat a space that serves our community’s need for blooms, color, greenery, and life.
We are so careful about what we bring in and what we grow because we really want it to work for our area. We know how temperamental the growing season can be here (September 7, 2019 snowstorm was really an adventure), and we want to help find solutions for yards, gardens, and beautifying each person’s space. And, we want the wonder of growing things to be as exciting to others as it is to us!
How did you end up in Rock Springs?
We moved to Rock Springs from Carpenter, Wyoming, where Wes was an elementary school principal. Our parents are in Idaho and Utah, so although we absolutely loved Carpenter, our kids needed to be able to know Grandmas and Grandpas and cousins easier. Rock Springs was the perfect location to be closer to family.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
The people—so many good people from so many different backgrounds that make a difference in the world just by doing what they do best every day. Our kids have had such wonderful teachers and we have had the best neighbors. This is the biggest place we have lived for a long time, but it doesn’t feel overcrowded or overly busy. Not gonna lie, I love living only 10 or so minutes from a grocery store! We have lived 45 minutes away from the closest grocery store for the last several years before we moved here!
What are some of your hobbies?
We love being outside: hiking, working in the yard, playing sports; and family time: board games, watching a movie together, and going to our kids’ sporting activities.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Always look up when you’re feeling down. There’s a whole lot more happening in the natural world around you and observing the sky, trees, grass, or whatever seems to put troubles in perspective.
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
We’re terrible homebodies so honestly in our own backyard! But, we really love the amazing rec center pool. And we have had a lot of fun exploring White Mountain, the Gorge, Petroglyphs, and Wind River Mountain day hikes.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about yourself?
For Jenn, definitely Sandra Bullock as she was in “While You Were Sleeping” — clumsy, awkward, big smile, and super down to earth. Not sure what Wes would say on this…
What would you sing at karaoke?
We probably wouldn’t, but would sit and be super impressed by all the brave souls out there who do sing at karaoke night!
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
Most definitely our children.
Why do you choose to live in Wyoming?
Wyoming still has so much open space to be explored and has an amazing education system.