Tag Archives: farming

Islander is ‘The People’s Best New Chef’

blog.mcgill2Bainbridge Island’s Brendan McGill beat out chefs from around the nation Tuesday to win the title of “The People’s Best New Chef” from Food & Wine Magazine. McGill is the owner of Hitchcock restaurant on Winslow Way and the accompanying charcuterie and deli.

The Food & Wine competition featured chefs from 10 regions across the United States. Online voting was open March 11-18.

In his Q&A for the contest, McGill credited local farmers with shaping his cooking style:

 “The farmers really drive the menu. I just buy what they give me… It’s of the moment.” Truly, though, “This is more like what Jacques Pépin’s mom did than some kind of revolution.”

We featured Hitchcock in the Islander in 2011. You can read the story below:

Hitchcock — Bainbridge Islander 9.30.11 by tsooter

Bainbridge farming icon Akio Suyematsu dies at 90

Longtime Bainbridge farmer Akio Suyematsu died this afternoon. He was 90 years old.

His friend, Gerard Bentryn – who grew grapes next to Suyematsu’s Day Road berry fields – said Suyematsu passed away at a Seattle care facility surrounded by family.

Bentryn and other island farmers credit Suyematsu for keeping farming alive on Bainbridge.

“Though his sheer stubbornness and talent, he’s made farming keep going,” Bentryn told me in 2007, when Suyematsu was still farming at 85. “Akio’s the core of it all.”

You can read more about Suyematsu here.

He was born on Bainbridge in 1921, when the island was one of the state’s largest producers of strawberries.

He was sent to an internment camp with other Japanese Americans during World War II. Shortly after his release, he was drafted and then trained for the all-Japanese-American 442nd regiment, one of the most decorated in the history of the U.S. armed forces. The war ended when he was on furlough, and he was shipped off to Germany to serve as a military policeman.

He returned to the island in the late 1940s and has farmed ever since. Most of the island’s full-time farmers credit Suyematsu’s generosity and practical know-how for making them the farmers they are today. Mostly, they say, he led by example, putting in long hours without much rest and no complaints.

Bentryn said Suyematsu was in a great deal of pain shortly before he died. He was recovering from surgeries to treat problems with his heart and stomach.

“Nobody wants to die, but he didn’t want pain,” Bentryn said.

Bentryn expects a memorial service will be announced in the coming days.

“Not having Akio… it’s a big change for us,” he said.

PHOTO: Lenna Himmelstein, Kitsap Sun (2005)

Bainbridge gains a city manager, three new ‘local food’ restaurants and loses one big fish farm

Here’s some reading material to keep you busy as we head into a three day weekend:

-The city has a new manager…at least for now. Here’s my story.

-Did you hear what the Sun said about the city of Bainbridge? I won’t say the Sun called the city “stupid” but it was sure close. Read the Sun’s take on the city’s policy of charging its road ends committee permit fees here.

-Bainbridge’s mywedding.com and Rep. Jay Inslee weighed in on the net neutrality issue.

-The island’s largest farm is leaving. American Gold Seafoods, which operates the salmon net pens near Fort Ward, is packing up and moving across the water to Manchester. Read about the move here.

-Speaking of farms, it looks like local growers are getting a boost from three (yes, three) new Winslow restaurants that specialize in local foods. They are Hitchcock (which we’ve discussed here before), Arbutus (in Mon Elisa’s old spot) and Local Harvest, which is set to open at Penelope’s former location by July. Look for my story in Monday’s paper.

-Also next week, look for my stories about City Hall’s effort to grow food for the grazing masses and the new teen sensation: Parkour.

“Ikea meets iPod,” and then meets Bainbridge farmers


In case you missed it, click here for my story on the donation of cutting-edge prefabs to house Bainbridge Island farmers.

Called “Ikea meets iPod” by Building Design + Construction magazine shortly after they were unveiled in 2007, the small factory-built units were aimed at creating inexpensive workforce housing in Seattle while challenging the common perceptions about manufactured homes. With vegetated roofs, computer controlled lighting and heating and a sleek, ultra-modern design, the units were created with Seattle’s young urban professionals in mind.

Instead, the project’s two prototype units are headed to an old Bainbridge farm to house the island’s young rural farmers.

The Housing Resources Board has until mid-October to move the units. Until then, you can still see them at their current location atop Rainier Square in downtown Seattle (right below the Rainier Tower).

I’ll try and cover the move, which will involve cranes, flatbeds and a ferry trip across the sound.

Strawberry fields forever?

Sound Food photo
Sound Food photo
Sound Foods has a new post about an island school’s work to revive the Marshall strawberry.

The Marshall once dominated the island’s farming landscape and fueled the island’s economy.

“Then they almost disappeared,” writes Sound Food’s Carolyn Goodwin. “Not just from Bainbridge Island, but altogether. Marshall Strawberries have been listed as one of the 10 most endangered food plants in the U.S. But thanks in part to the efforts of some hardworking kids at Bainbridge Island’s Voyager Montessori Elementary School the Bainbridge Island Marshall strawberry will grace the dessert plates of at least one more generation.”

The Marshall fell out of favor in the 1960s as the marketplace began demanding berries that could better withstand shipping and storage, and were easier to grow.

Read the full post here.

And click here to see my story from back in September about the Bainbridge Historical Museum’s quiet dedication the Marshall.

Reviving a flavorful piece of the island’s living history

I met “Coming Home to Eat” author and local foods advocate Gary Nabhan at a conference I covered in April. He had just given a talk about the nation’s dying food traditions, and mentioned the Marshall strawberry, a variety that was once a central part of Bainbridge Island’s identity, economy and landscape, but has almost disappeared over the last half-century.

He snatched the notepad from under my arm when I mentioned I planned to one day write a story about the Marshall.

“Here’s my email…..here’s my cell phone number,” he said, scribbling on my pad. “We need to tell this story.”

But when to write the story? It seemed like the best time to write about the Marshall is when the little red berries were popping on the vine. I called Karen Selvar, the island’s last remaining strawberry farmer, in July to see when the Marshalls would ripen.

That was weeks ago, she said, adding that the Marshall’s got “a real short” season.

Short as in two-weeks short. Blink and you’ll miss them. I figured I’d write about the Marshalls next year. But, about a month ago, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum director Hank Helm mentioned that Marshall starts would be sold at this year’s Harvest Fair, giving me an earlier-than-expected reason to delve into the berry’s history. The museum, through the work of volunteer Carol McCarthy, and a government lab in Oregon are the last two places making a serious effort to preserve the Marshall before it disappears. As with the last two fairs, the museum offered Marshall starts on Sunday as a way to raise funds and repopulate the island’s soil with this living piece of Bainbridge history.

You can read the story and see a short video about the Marshall at the Sun’s website by clicking here.

In writing the story I learned that the Marshall is more than just history. Thanks, in part, to two of Nabhan’s latest books, the berry is making something of a comeback. Food writers, gourmet chefs and various “slow food” enthusiasts are clogging McCarthy’s e-mail with requests for samples and starts.

But on Bainbridge, the berry is largely unknown, McCarthy said. She has scaled back the number of starts she offers at the fair. While some stop to look, few are willing to put a plant in their yards or gardens.

That’s a shame, said Nabhan.

“This is one of the most distinct berries,” he said. “It still has a place at the table.”

The best of my interview with Nabhan is the story. One aspect I couldn’t fit in is his belief that promoting and celebrating the Marshall on Bainbridge could create a bit of food tourism for the island.

“For purposes of tourism, this is something that’s truly unique,” he said. “I can’t see Bainbridge not thinking of this as an edge. Why would you travel to Bainbridge if (everything there) is available every other place.”

He also suggested Bainbridge take part in an “American heritage picnic.” Last year’s picnic in Seattle featured speakers, musicians and local foods made by prominent chefs. The menu included Ozette potatoes, foraged chanterelle and lobster mushrooms, sheep’s cheese and lots of salmon. This year’s picnic is scheduled for Oct. 5 at Discovery Park in Seattle .

If you want to read more about the Northwest’s endangered food traditions, check out Nabhan’s “Renewing Salmon Nation’s Food Traditions.” It’s like a field guide, with brief descriptions of the Gillette fig, Orcas Pear, Olympia oyster, Klamath plum and over a hundred other varieties. Nabhan’s “Renewing America’s Food Traditions” has a broader focus but includes a section on the Marshall, and mentions island historian Jerry Elfendahl, the historical museum and McCarthy.

Oh, and by the way, the Marshall can sometimes surprise. I took the above photo of a Marshall plant on Friday. McCarthy was as surprised as I was to see a few ripe red berries in late September. She bit into less-than-ripe one for Carolyn Yaschur’s video (see it here).