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MikeL essay/Suyematsu Farm
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The following essay contributed by Mike Lempriere of Perennial Vintners Nov-2008.
For additional essay contributed by The Bainbridge Historical Society, click here.

Please see our Ichigo dessert wine page.

(Click image on left for overhead view. Everything boxed was the original Suyematsu farm property, except the bottomost pink block against Lovgreen Rd.)

Perennial Vintners (PV) is a small property with a house next to the Suyematsu Farm on Bainbridge Island. We have a tiny vineyard on our own land, and additional vineyards leased on the Suyematsu Farm; the largest operating farm in Kitsap County at this writing[1]. We owe Akio Suyematsu the fact that we're in business -- he and Gerard Bentryn of Bainbridge Island Vineyard and Winery (BIVW) have made it possible for the Lempriere family to become a farming family.

Akio was born on Bainbridge Island, the family lived (on Knight Rd.?[2]) nearby the now known Suyematsu Farm. Akio's parents purchased a large chunk of property in the 1920's encompassing from Day Rd. on the north, much of the way south to Lovgreen Rd. They built a house on that property and the family farmed it - Akio continuing to do so for his entire life -- he just had his 87th birthday a few days before this writing -- and he's still actively farming this property today. The family was interned in WWII, and when released, returned to farm and resumed working[3]. (The Bainbridge based author of the book Snow Falling On Cedars, is rumored to have very loosely based his fictional story on the Suyematsu history.[4]) The family had had many Filipino employees who worked the farm, many of them lived on adjacent properties; the PV property is one such property (originally Almoela family; adjacant Rapada and Morales parcels).

(Click image for larger view. Note in the image the Crawford, PV, Morales, and two unmarked to the left of PV and Morales were all Filipino farm properties.)

In the early 1980's, Gerard Bentryn (BIVW) bought some of the Suyematsu farm from Akio, and has had an informal agreement with Akio that they will continue to work together on this property as long as they live.[5] In 2001, the City Of Bainbridge Island (COBI) voters approved an $8M fund, to preserve land for open space and agriculture. In Dec-2004, Gerard sold a major portion of his part of the farm to this program, keeping about 5 acres for his own winery, family home, and some vineyard.

In the (few) years I've been working on the property, I've seen Akio produce strawberries, raspberries, pumpkins, and corn. Akio also runs a composting operation and uses that product for soil nutrition. In addition, the property is used by BIVW for growing winegrapes, by Betsey Wittick (as Laughing Crow Farms) to produce lots of organic produce, especially many varieties of garlics and potatoes, and is used by Brian McWhorter (as Butler Green Farms) to produce every imaginable vegetable which he sells by CSA. Additionally, Mike Paulson maintains a tree nursery, PV maintains winegrapes, and several other small plot gardens seem to always be in work.

The goodwill and goodness that this farm has brought to the world cannot be measured. It is a precious resource and must be well taken care of in the future. Friends of the Farms is in charge of sheparding this (and other Bainbridge farm) properties.

[2021-Nov] A brief update - Akio passed away at age 90 in 2012. Karen Selvar, a Bainbridge Island native, had worked sith Akio on the farm her entire adult life, and has taken the reins.

[1] Brian Stahl, Kitsap County Conservation District, confirmed by Dan Larson, USDA.

[2] Discussion with Karen Selvar, circa 2014

[3] Brief interview with Akio, 03-Nov-2008. Akio states that they paid the mortgage to a wealthy islander named Burns. Upon their release, Burns was glad to have them return to the farm, and asked only that they pay the back taxes. Akio also mentioned that the Filipino employees had done some farming in the interim, however the farm had not been maintained to anywhere near the Suyematsus standards, leaving them with years of catchup work. Lastly, Akio also said that before the internment there were about 40 Japanese/American farms on the island; afterwards there were just 3.

[4] Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson; Fictional story based around a Puget Sound Japanese/American and the WWII internment.
[5] The story of Akio & Gerard including interviews can be found in The Earth Knows My Name by Patricia Klindienst; a complete chapter approx. 40 pages.

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