For Skyler Richardson ('20), growing things has always been a joy. The smell of freshly tilled earth, the sight of life springing from the ground to become something beautiful, the lessons brought by seasons of plenty and of little—each has been instilled within her since childhood. Though her bachelor’s degree isn’t in botany, agriculture, or nature studies, Skyler’s flourishing flower business, SkyGardens, continues to call back to her time on Lubbock Christian University’s campus in surprising ways.

SkyGardens was started on Skyler's family's land in the middle of West Texas.
SkyGardens was started on Skyler's family's land in the middle of West Texas.
Skyler, a native of the South Plains, first found her love of gardening from her grandmother in the form of the original SkyGardens, a fledgling tomato farm on her family’s land, located just about halfway between Levelland and the small town of Ropesville.

“Whenever I was seven years old, I had a greenhouse with my grandma, who lived across the road,” she explained. “I would grow tomatoes, and I would sell her the tomatoes (or the tomato plants). Then, I'd go to her house and eat those tomatoes right off her counter. It really was the worst deal for her,” she laughed, “except she enjoyed seeing how much joy I got out of it.”

That early hobby eventually went dormant when the greenhouse blew over in West Texas’s notorious wind, and it wouldn’t reawaken until the autumn of her college career at LCU.

“When I went off to college, I went to LCU,” she explained. “It was awesome—I gained so much confidence, and my degrees were in history and criminal justice.”

Skyler had planned to attend law school after graduation, but just as it did for many of her peers who graduated at the same time, the world had other plans.

Skyler posing with her parents at her college graduation
Skyler graduated from LCU in the spring of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“I graduated in 2020, which was when COVID hit,” she explained, “the whole world stopped. My plan was to go to law school, but then the LSAT testing centers shut down as well.”

That season of life spelled big changes for nearly everyone, and for many, the mass cancellations and precautionary measures taken during the pandemic brought with them a time of self-evaluation. Skyler felt a shift in her own plan and didn’t look back.

“I just thought, ‘Well, I guess that door’s closed,’” she recalled. “I just knew that wasn’t what God had planned for me.”

At the time, Skyler was working for a wedding planner, and it was there that an opportunity began to take root in her mind.

“I'd see all these flowers come in from flower shops, and even when they were just arriving, they’d already not be looking good. I knew there had to be a better way to do this,” she said. “I told myself, ‘Surely we can grow some flowers—I mean, is that not a possibility?’ And I started looking into it.”

Skyler works in the field at SkyGardens
Skyler's idea quickly grew as she researched, planted, and today has flourished into SkyGardens.
She quickly found that, yes, individuals do grow flowers for sale, and an idea began to sprout. She had grown up around a farm, and her parents and grandparents had their own land.

“I told them, ‘I have an idea—I don’t know what you’re going to think of it—but I want to bring back SkyGardens, but this time with flowers.’ My dad was immediately like, ‘Skyler, we’d need a greenhouse—there's no way we’ll be able to grow flowers outdoors here. Like, have you ever seen the West Texas weather?’ But I knew that all kinds of things are grown here; cotton grows here—flowers can't be too much different, right? As I found out, it is a lot different,” she added with a laugh.

With some help from her parents, Lori and Jay Richardson, and grandparents Hollis and Dorothy Borland, Skyler started working to make the new SkyGardens a reality. She began researching the different flowers that grow best in the West Texas climate and began construction on a wind tunnel for other flowers that require some shelter from the often-harsh conditions.

She started planting in 2021, the two-acre enterprise’s first growing year. “The support that we received was absolutely amazing,” she recalled. “I just wanted to share God's creation with the world, and so many people responded to SkyGardens in incredible ways.”

Among those people were many of the professors, staff, and friends from her time in college.

Skyler and her sisters set up a flower booth at a local farmer's market
Skyler's family played a massive part in helping her get her dream off the ground.
“There are so many faculty and staff who are constantly pouring into me and supporting me,” she explained. “So many of them have ordered flowers, especially Rhonda Pool in the admissions office. I visit that office frequently, because I worked for them in college—even the advisors who I didn’t know then somehow know who I am.”

She also recalled hearing often from Josh Stephens, LCU’s Dean of Students, and Dr. Kregg Fehr, one of her history professors for orders, referrals, and even just for encouragement and to check in. “I’ve just felt so much support from many of my professors in criminal justice, Dr. Keith Owen in humanities—all those relationships have just continued to pour into me even though I’m no longer a student on campus. They continue to be the best community ever.”

As the business has grown, it’s brought several opportunities for learning and growth. The farm’s first year was unseasonably wet, which was instrumental in establishing the first round of flowers. One of the unique differences between the new iteration of SkyGardens and the old is that Skyler must now plan her plantings sometimes years ahead of when she’ll see the blooms.

“It’s definitely a test in patience and a lot to be thinking about all the time,” she acknowledged. Some of those plans include other additions to make SkyGardens more sustainable, like a row of newly planted evergreens that she hopes will become a windscreen to protect the outside flowers. Others include planting flowers that take longer to establish, knowing that the fruits of that labor may be a year or more away.

Skyler holds an arrangement of flowers in one hand and a small dog in the other
Skyler grows a great variety of flowers for many different styles of arrangements.
“In the spring we have ranunculus, anemones, daffodils, sweet peas, and a lot of others, but then in the summer, we get into the zinnias, amaranth, celosia, marigolds, cosmos, dahlias, sunflowers—we just go crazy in the summer. We already have a whole lot of different flowers, and that’s without the perennials that I haven't even established yet. One of these days, maybe five years from now, we'll have a whole lot more to show—there's still tons of growth around the corner.”

Each week, Skyler personally delivers dozens of bouquet orders to customers. “I probably do about 10 to 20 arrangements a week,” she explained, “and then market bouquets can sometimes be up to like 50 or 60 a week. But I can't grow flowers for 12 full months.” 

Aside from seasonal planting, which lasts roughly from March to October, Skyler fills the winter months with Christmas wreaths, garlands, and other seasonal decorations. After Christmas, many early plantings begin to take up much of her time.  

“There's a lot that has to be planted in January for our zone because we never get too extremely cold,” she explained. “It's been a whole new world of learning—who would have thought things could grow in the winter?”

Even beyond her parents, SkyGardens has become a family affair. Her youngest sister, Chloe, helps in a few ways, and even hopes to one day open her own vet office next to SkyGardens. The middle sister, Bethany, has shown her talent for social media, helping Skyler manage the company’s virtual presence.

an arrangement of flowers outside of a local Market Street grocery store
SkyGardens has grown to sell flowers at a number of local venues, including United and Market Street stores.
SkyGardens has established a partnership with Lubbock’s own United Supermarkets and has a presence across the South Plains. “We're out at the Wolfforth Farmers’ Market a lot, though this year has just been weird as far as growing things,” Skyler explained, alluding to the severe drought that has plagued the region throughout the summer. “We also sell flowers online and through social media—we're all over the place.”

She also offers “You-Pick” nights at the farm, where anyone can come and cut their own flowers by hand to make their own arrangements, and she hopes that eventually the farm will become a tourist location.

In the meantime, however, Skyler is embracing the moment she’s in—just one of the many lessons SkyGardens has taught her.

“There are a lot of life lessons out here,” she shared. “Early in the spring, we had a lot of flowers coming out of our wind tunnel—things were going so well that I almost felt guilty. We had so many flowers every day, and I was kind of living my dream. I kept on telling people on Instagram and Facebook, ‘This is such a blessing, I’ll praise God in the highs, and I’ll praise God in the lows,’ but I hadn't really felt like I was in the lows at all.”

Of course, then events took a turn for the worse, starting with the weather pivoting to an intense drought. “The weather has given me a learning experience,” she shared, “and we also had the plastic ripped off our tunnel in a microburst storm with winds that broke 80-miles-per-hour. I will always tell people that this is the coolest job in the world, but there are times that are very difficult too. There have been lots of lessons on trust, patience, perseverance—something new almost every day.”

Skyler shared that there are other lessons from her time at LCU of a different kind that continue to impact her gardening business, as she continues to find ways to link her passions for history and criminal justice to her business.

“I was talking to someone the other day who asked me, ‘Do you feel like you've wasted your degrees?’ I replied, ‘No! Even though I'm not technically doing anything that is with history or criminal justice, I do want to involve it in the flower farm somehow—it’s still a passion.”

the bed of an old pickup truck is filled with flowers
Skyler sees a bright future ahead for SkyGardens.
One inspiration from her history background comes from Victory Gardens during World War II. “Part of what I'm doing is trying to teach people how to grow their own plants, and I'd like to incorporate more history as I work toward that, just like Americans did during World War II. I’ve also talked to Dr. Owen about all the different queens and their favorite flowers, and I’d love to sell something themed along that, or even the presidents and their gardens—I have a whole book still in my head about that,” she added.

She also credits the college classroom for helping her develop critical thinking skills, which she says have been invaluable to starting a new business.

“Whenever I started, I just had to figure out so many things for myself,” she explained. “We built our own tunnels, and we've installed the drip lines themselves. Normally, there are a lot of flower farmers I’ve followed and learned from who just say, ‘I let my husband deal with all that.’ And I'm like, ‘That would be cool, if your husband could come deal with all the drip lines here, too,’” she said with a laugh. “But I figured out all the drip lines myself. I also took a lot of biology classes when I was debating on medical school, and a lot of those principles helped me understand how to plant different kinds of seeds, and learn what to grow, and what time to plant them—my education has impacted almost every aspect of this place.”

Even beyond the education, Skyler grew personally through her time at LCU.

“I'm not the same person I was whenever I walked into LCU,” she shared. “So many experiences like Master Follies and relationships with campus friends and through social club—there were so many valuable things I took from LCU beyond the classroom.”

Skyler also took advantage of the LCU Washington Program, which places students in the nation’s capital in various internships across the city. Skyler was able to work with Congressman Jodey Arrington, who represents District 19 of Texas, which includes Lubbock and much of the surrounding area.

“I've always been connected to agriculture just because of my family and how we've grown up on the farm, but when I was there, we were actually working on an agriculture bill, and that was really a big deal. I learned so much and grew so much as a person while I was there, and I made the best friends in the world.”

Her experience at LCU was pivotal for Skyler, she says, also because of the confidence she found.

“Being able to figure things out myself and learning how to depend on people has been so important,” she said. “My parents have been great, the LCU community has been fantastic, and our church has also been awesome. Whenever I decided to start a flower farm, people have just blown me away with the amount of support they've given me.”

“SkyGardens would not have been possible at all without LCU,” she said emphatically. “Learning to think critically and the education I received improved my self-confidence and created lasting relationships with so many people—it’s made all the difference in who and where I am today.”

“I love being able to work outside in God's creation—that is the coolest thing to me,” she added. “That's what I get to do every day.”

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