A description of Fertile Ground's development is not unlike the song by the same name: "Inch by Inch - Row by Row." It began with one property and one woman's vision for developing a demonstration site for urban sustainability. In 1988, Karen Nelson purchased the property at 311 9th Ave which is now the Fertile Ground Guesthouse. She was excited about the property’s potential. Evidence of a past where the Wisniewski Family had lived a life closer to the earth was still obvious. With its mature gardens, fruit and nut trees it was crying out for further development and care. At first, it was rented out to Evergreen students for 10 years and gained some notoriety for the Halloween Parties. Then Karen took possession of the house in 1998 and began upgrading it for energy efficiency.
Soil was brought into the adjacent lot on Earth Day 1999 and the vegetable and herb garden was planted. The use of the garden lot was made possible by the generous permission of Dr. and Mrs. Koch. Bamboo, fruit trees, berries, kiwis, grapes were also added in the first few years. Immediately, people began to flock to the vibrant garden and finding solace from the surrounding concrete and offices.
In 2000 Karen Nelson and Gail O'Sullivan opened a "green" bed and breakfast at 311 9th Ave, Fertile Ground Guesthouse. While it was always their intention to form a non-profit for service to the community, they were wisely counseled to wait until it was proven to be a facility that the community actually needed and would support. Meanwhile, they focused on developing a track record of service and establishing a name that is synonymous with quality.
While the guesthouse generated enough income to support the community space, they were able to gradually build relationships with community members who could make use of it for their own needs. These early years also allowed them time to learn important skills in bookkeeping, networking, tracking projects and doing outreach. In May 2005, they filed for the State of Washington’s non-profit corporation status as Fertile Ground Community Center and became a project of AWISH (A World Institute for Sustainable Humanity), who acted as their 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor.
In 2010, the neighbors to the east vacated their rental (also owned by the Koch's). Securing that house seemed like a good idea. Chris van Daalen got involved. He had served on the board of FG since its beginning and was also an active member in the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild. So when 911 Adams (which is now called the EcoHouse) became available for rent, he took his idea to the leadership of the NWEBG who agreed to rent it. They were granted a two year lease that allowed enough time to get the house fixed up and ready to utilize. Dr. and Mrs. Koch, continued to be very supportive of all the developments and showed every interest in seeing this project succeed.
During this two year period, The Commons at Fertile Ground emerged from the Fertile Ground Community Center and when the lease with the Guild ended, The Commons secured a five year lease with the Koch's. The development of the EcoHouse as a meeting space and office space, as well as the addition of the flourishing grounds has spurred on the original intention of the site's development. Not only have renovations and additions been done sustainably, they've been done by the whole community.
In 2015 we received our 501(c)3 tax exempt status from the IRS. They made it retroactively effective back to 2009 because our awesome treasurer, Poppy Sandoval, explained that we've been doing the work all these years.