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Success Stories

USDA Helps Mustard Seed Village Cultivate Change: A Greenhouse Model Blossoming with Community Engagement and Elder Care Innovations

Cathleen Walker
The Village

Rural seniors often desire to age in their communities, surrounded by familiar faces and places. However, with fewer healthcare providers, professional caregivers, and young people compared to urban areas, rural communities face challenges in caring for their aging residents.

Enter The Mustard Seed Project, established in 2007 by Edie Morgan.  Her vision was to assist elders on the Key Peninsula in western Washington, enabling them to remain in their homes with volunteer support.

"Edie's vision inspired the creation of this project, centered on principles like supportive care and community residency," noted Executive Director Eric Blegen. “The project adopted the Greenhouse Model, emphasizing a homelike atmosphere with common kitchens, fostering a sense of community.”

Motivated by a personal experience with his great-grandmother in a nursing home in 1975, Eric is dedicated to improving elder care. The Greenhouse Model further fueled his commitment.

Situated on a 5-acre site near the Crandall Center, “The Village” began construction in October 2021 and was completed in early 2023 as the Key Peninsula's first assisted-living home for elders. This achievement followed nearly two decades of planning and fundraising, including a $7.8 million construction loan from USDA Rural Development.

Board Chair Sarah Thompson played a crucial role in connecting the project with USDA, helping navigate challenges. The funds raised, including USDA financing, totaled $13.4 million.

The Village consists of three modules with separate entrances—two assisted living homes and a memory care home, providing 30 studio apartments. Despite achieving inspections and licenses by May, the focus now is on filling the building and assembling a strong staff team.

Eric acknowledges the challenge of the Greenhouse Model, requiring special training for caregivers to create a genuine home environment. “This model ensures every resident, regardless of their condition, contributes to the community, fostering meaningful connections,” he added.

The initiative addresses the challenges of aging in society, inspiring similar efforts while emphasizing the importance of caring for elders within the community. With that said, approximately 30 percent of the beds will be reserved for low-income residents, aligning with the organization's mission, while the remaining beds will be at market rates.

Eric said that Phase Two of the project will include garden and park-like surroundings, featuring raised beds, an orchard, and trails. Plans also involve constructing wheelchair-accessible raised beds, a composting system, a bus barn for outings, and a covered outdoor exercise area. The team is actively securing funds and grants for these improvements.

"Our community is thriving, with the cafe becoming busier, and social activities like Bingo gaining popularity," Eric remarked. "This project feels like it was meant to be, a gift for the community. It is a gift!”

Story by Koni Reynolds and Cathleen Walker, Olympia State Office

Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • Washington: District 6