New Member Spotlight: Ann Burkhart, Pomona Woods

This article was originally published in the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider Insert to the Port Townsend Leader.

The seed of the idea for my retreat center business, Pomona Woods, was planted during a work sabbatical in 2017. I knew I wanted to provide a space where people could gather surrounded by nature. Guests would come together for a variety of purposes and the space would inspire a lasting connection with nature, one’s self, and each other.

I was born and raised in Seattle and grew up exploring many destinations around the Salish Sea. Some of my happiest memories are from family camping trips to Kalaloch as a girl. Over the years I worked in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors, gaining great experience, but as I neared 50 the pull of starting my own business grew stronger and stronger. I had already started putting things in motion before the pandemic hit, but in 2020 I sold my house, which officially allowed the seed to start germinating.

After looking on Whidbey Island for a while, In January 2021 I decided to find temporary housing on the Olympic Peninsula to see if the perfect spot was awaiting me to the West. Indeed, I quickly made friends and found the ideal property South of Port Hadlock on Oak Bay Road. The 21.5 acres contained a mix of tree species of different ages with a healthy forest floor of nurse logs, sword fern, salal and huckleberry. It was perfect for my project.

Pomona Woods will host small group retreats for the purpose of education, enrichment and connection. To ensure and manage minimal impact on the site, and create a uniquely intimate experience for guests, we will limit occupancy to a maximum of 35 guests. We will not be hosting individual bookings.

As a former sustainability and ethical sourcing professional, I bring that core value to Pomona Woods. A focus on nature and habitat preservation is a cornerstone of our low footprint operating philosophy. The design and materials of the retreat will incorporate LEED best practice standards, fully integrating sustainable, small footprint planning and execution. The sustainable practices used will be featured in communication materials will inspire and delight guests to take make sustainable decisions in their own lives and workplaces.

Guests of Pomona Woods will enjoy delicious food, made in-house, with many locally sourced, sustainably grown ingredients. Care will be put forth to create guest excursions and team building options that will enrich the overall experience and connect the retreat to the local economic, cultural, natural, historic, and indigenous community.

Jefferson County is an ideal location for Pomona Woods. My property is within 2 hours of a major metropolitan area, gives guests a true feeling of getting away into nature, and there are many places close by to explore. Most other retreat centers in a 2-3 hour distance from Seattle are much larger, smaller, don’t have overnight accommodations that appeal to the corporate sector, are adapted from some other original use and or have a very specific feel or purpose. This area has so much to offer and I look forward to collaborating with other businesses in the area to promote the diverse sustainable tourism and recreation opportunities available in Jefferson County.

Although the idea was created before the pandemic, the need for inspiring gathering spaces with overnight facilities will be even greater in the post-pandemic world. More business will have permanent hybrid or total work from home structures – making the need to come together for team building even greater.

Pomona Woods is a family endeavor. My brother Paul is the project architect, and brother Kevin is advising on landscaping and trails. My mother Carol is providing support for the project and many friends and family are sharing timely advice and connections to help me make this dream a reality.

The Pomona Woods name comes from my great grandfather’s apple orchard in Dayton, WA – Pomona Ranch. James and Fannie Dumas’ ranch was one of the first in Washington state, planted in 1897. Pomona is also the name of a Roman wood nymph associated with trees and fruitful abundance. The name connects my retreat to a family history of a stewardship of the land, entrepreneurial spirit and a touch of whimsy.