OWWCC Provides Resources for Seattle Opera Production

 

An American Dream; music by Jack Perla, Libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo. Photo courtesy Seattle Opera; copyright Dorthea Lange. War Relocation Authority 1942-1945

An American Dream; Music by Jack Perla, Libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo. Photo courtesy Seattle Opera; copyright Dorthea Lange. War Relocation Authority 1942-1945

Katy Curtis, Co-Director of the Only What We Can Carry Project and Outreach Director for Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, and Jon Garfunkel, OWWCC founder and director, worked with representatives of the Seattle Opera over the summer to assist them in preparing for their world premiere production of An American Dream. A dress rehearsal was performed at Bainbridge Performing Arts, followed by the official production at McCaw Hall in Seattle, August 21 and 23, 2015.

The opera is set in the years 1942 through 1945 on a Puget Sound island. The fictional story revolves around the World War II experiences of two women – one, a  German Jew married to an American veteran, and the other, a Japanese American woman whose family is impacted by the resulting Internment.

Morgan Smith, Hae Ji Chang, and D'Ana Lombard in Seattle Opera's world premiere of An American Dream production. Photo copyright Elise Bakketun.

Morgan Smith, Hae Ji Chang, and D’Ana Lombard in Seattle Opera’s world premiere of An American Dream production. Photo copyright Elise Bakketun.

EduCulture was involved in pre-production research conducted by Seattle Opera staff, directing tours of Suyematsu Farm, providing historic information and important community-based context, as well as helping coordinate local elders to serve on a panel on stage just prior to the production. EduCulture also helped the group curate an extensive pre-performance exhibit to better tell the history and to enhance the experience of the opera.

Nick Malinowski, Community Programs Manager for Seattle Opera, had this to say about EduCulture’s role in their preparation for the production:

“EduCulture was an invaluable resource as we prepared our production of An American Dream. Jon Garfunkel has a wealth of information and historical knowledge, and he answered every question we had about the Japanese American exclusion and farm life in the 1940s – everything from the use of farm implements to the storage of dynamite. EduCulture also allowed the director of An American Dream, Peter Kazaras, the opportunity to experience firsthand what a working berry farm would have looked and felt like in the 1940s.”

Lilly Kodama, Felix Narte, Jr. and Kay Sakai Nakao on stage at Seattle Opera, McCall Hall.

Lilly Kodama, Felix Narte, Jr. and Kay Sakai Nakao give pre-performance testimonials. Photo copyright Elise Bakketun.

Bainbridge Islanders Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, Kay Sakai Nakao, and Felix Narte, Jr. served as speakers on a panel on stage just prior to the performance. Felix, who had not yet been born in 1942 but grew up on the Island, spoke about his family’s experience during the war. Kay, who was 22 in 1942, spoke about life before the war. And Lilly shared her perspective of the time after the war.

About the experience, Lilly says:

“The education department of Seattle Opera worked very hard to present not only a new opera about our incarceration, but also the lobbies were filled with exhibits and films, and a mock-up of a Puyallup Fairgrounds horse stall, converted into “living space” for Seattle and Alaska Nikkei. Once we were on stage and each had a short time to speak, I talked about the discrimination I experienced after the war ended. Everyone involved with the production made us feel comfortable. I believe this story reached a different audience and will help in preventing this from recurring. The opera was my first, and the music was wonderful.”

“It was truly a very memorable experience,” says Kay Nakao. “I thought the exhibits were very educational and powerful. I never dreamt that going on 96, I would be part of such an important event. On the panel, I spoke mostly about my Dad, who went into Seattle after the war broke out and sold his life insurance for War Bonds. This, even though he had six kids! He was really grateful to be an American – he was American, heart and soul.”

Left to right: Seattle Opera staff:

Left to right: Seattle Opera staff: Barbara Lynne Jamison, Director of Education & Community Engagement; Aidan Lang, General Director; Nick Malinowski, Community Programs Manager. Also pictured: Kay Sakai Nakao, Felix Narte, Jr., and Lilly Kitamoto Kodama.

“Bainbridge Island elders and the island’s experience was a strong influence on the Seattle Opera production,” says Jon Garfunkel. “We were happy to serve as one of their community partners in this project.”

An American Dream project was part of the Seattle Opera’s community engagement project called Belonging(s). Seattle Opera asked the public to respond to the questions: “If you had to leave your home today and couldn’t return, what would you want to take with you? Why is that object, memory, or connection to your past so important?”

Masa Yoshida, grandmother of Nina Yoshida Nelson (Mama, Hiroko Kobayashi in American Dream), Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, Secretary Norman Mineta, Kay Sakai Nakao, and Felix Narte, Jr. Photo courtesy Jonathan Vanderweit.

Masa Yoshida, grandmother of Nina Yoshida Nelson (Mama, Hiroko Kobayashi in American Dream), Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, Secretary Norman Mineta, Kay Sakai Nakao, and Felix Narte, Jr. Photo courtesy Jonathan Vanderweit.

An Interview with Farmer Betsey Wittick

Betsey Wittick has a conversation about farming practices with Wilkes students.

Betsey Wittick has a conversation about farming practices with Wilkes students, describing the Makah Ozette potato, one of the varieties which she raises.

Betsey Wittick has been a leader in the modern Bainbridge Island Island farm and food community for over two decades.  Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has called Bainbridge Island home for 28 years. Betsey has been learning how to grow food to feed people since she was a kid, and how holds rank as one of our region’s master farmers and vintners, operating Laughing Crow Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards. Her history and role in regional farming is one of helping to build the foundation for our local food community, and for future farmers.

An educator at heart, Betsey has been teaching about farming to future generations for more than a decade. She runs a farm internship program that attracts young adults from around the U.S. Laughing Crow Farm was EduCulture’s first farmer partner, and hundreds of school children have field classes on her farms each year.

Betsey Wittick’s work as as a farmer goes far beyond the dozens of varieties of organic and heirloom vegetables and fruits she raises. Her stewardship of the land and love of animals led to using real draft horsepower to till and fertilize her farmland. Her care and compassion for her fellow farmers has made her a traditional bearer of the sustainable, small scale farming practices that defined our original food community. Her vision for the future of food and farming has led her to be a major investor and mentor in our future farmers and food citizens. It has been an honor to have Betsey as such a generous partner in our Edible Education and Heritage Education programs.

In a conversation with EduCulture founder and director Jon Garfunkel, Betsey describes her interest in growing plants, going back to her time as a teenager in New Jersey. She reflects on her current work and her vision of the future of farming, as well as the importance of Edible Education.

JG: How long have you been farming and where have you farmed over your career?

BW: If you talk about growing plants, I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. Farming – if you want to define that as producing a crop to sell commercially, then it’s been, if you include the winery, about 28 years.

JG: And where have you farmed?

BW: All of it on Bainbridge.

JG: Why did you become a farmer and what keeps you farming?

BW: I got involved in farming specifically because of working for Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery, helping grow wine grapes and make wine. And while doing that I got involved in farming, farm-based issues – mainly land resources, land preservation – and helping to get folks to understand the value of local farming. At that time there were very few people farming commercially, besides some in the Filipino community, and Akio (Suyematsu), as well as Brian MacWhorter, and the Bentryn’s at the winery. So I got involved in trying to educate people about ways we could save farmland, through transfer of development rights, through trying to get the folks who were growing crops to be more successful at it, and hopefully to encourage new people to get involved in it. While doing that I also joined groups like Rural Bainbridge Island and Bainbridge Island Grange, and we were hoping to use those forums to educate people and to be a support group for farming. As I did that, I also got involved in Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market – it was called Winslow Farmer’s Market at the time – and several transplants from California and myself helped to reorganize that into the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market. We realized we didn’t have enough vendors to make it a really great farmer’s market, so a few of us pooled our resources together and we had a cooperative booth under the Bainbridge Island Grange, and that was the beginning of Laughing Crow Farm. From there, it grew a little bit more each year. I’m an experimenter by nature, so I was always playing around with “oh, let’s see, I could grow 10 kinds of lettuce, and 7 kinds of carrots, then do a taste test to see which one performed the best and tastes the best,” and from there I kept expanding and trying to find a way to sell it, because I’d have everything coming on at one time. I ended up focusing more on potatoes and garlic, storage crop based stuff, because my schedule at the vineyard took up a lot of time, so I didn’t have time to pick or sell vegetables mid week. I had to really let my vineyard schedule dictate it. Over time, that little cooperative booth became bigger and bigger until eventually I had my own farm stand at the market.

JG: And what keeps you farming today?

Betsey tilling EduCulture potato rows with her horse Samantha, 2011.

Betsey tilling EduCulture potato rows with her horse Samantha, 2011.

BW: Well, I like it. I like being outside. I’m not a desk-based person. There is an amazing opportunity just to connect with the seasons. I love working with farm interns. It’s fun to grow food. It’s challenging from an economic standpoint to survive with it, and I do other things to supplement my income. And that’s why I do it – it’s sort of in your blood.

JG: What are some of the things you’ve learned from those who have mentored you as a farmer such as Akio Suyematsu and Joanne and Gerard Bentryn?

BW: Well, since I started with Gerard and Joanne, I’ll talk about them – and I certainly learned a lot about growing grapes and making wine and running a business, from everything they had done. I also realized how much work it is now that I’ve taken it on myself, and I appreciate it even more, particularly the paperwork, which is no fun. Gerard was also passionate about local community issues, and I appreciated the fact that he stuck his neck out – very few business people would do that. Whether it was for a political candidate, an environmental issue…he allowed me to take time off from work – and it was salaried, so this was time he was losing – for me to pursue those issues, for the greater good. And I think that’s an important thing to do. I think it’s important to participate in community. From Akio, I think I learned that whole steadfastness – you know, sticking with a job until it’s done – determination to go through all kinds of adversity – certainly with what he experienced in the Internment, although I never really spoke to him directly about a lot of it. Just how to take care of things – he was always working – he’d work until dark, so we felt that’s what you do in farming – you work until the job is done. And of course the most valuable lesson is, “did you grease it?” (laughs) And he’s right, because maintenance is key to survival, in that if you don’t take care of your equipment, you’re certainly not going to be able to afford farming because it will cost you so much in repairs – way more than you can generate in income.

JG: Can you briefly describe what kind of food Laughing Crow Farm raises and where your food ends up?

BW: As I mentioned before, because I work with the Vineyard, a lot of my crops are somewhat dictated by what works with that kind of a schedule, so things that don’t need refrigeration, that can be harvested ahead of time and held for the time of sales because I don’t always have time right before the market to pick everything. So that’s part of the reason I do potatoes, onions, garlic – the root crops, storage crops. But also cabbage, and peppers – they’re just not as fragile as some other crops. I have no refrigeration, so it allows me to produce and sell those crops with the facility that I have and the time that I have. As far as where I sell them – I bet I sell most of it at the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market. I also sell at the farm stand we have here (at Suyematsu), and through Bay Hay and Feed – they have a nice cooperative farm stand, they support a lot of farmers by selling their food – and through some restaurants.

JG: Comfortable naming any?

BW: Probably the one that’s been most supportive over the years has been Molly Ward Gardens in Poulsbo. He buys hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pounds from me. Judith Winestock buys a bunch, Hitchcock buys some, Harbor House Pub – those are probably the main ones that I sell to.

JG: Why do you grow so many varieties of your dominant plants?

BW: I’m not growing the diversity of different vegetables, and one of the ways that I can have diversity from a standpoint of some crops succeed and some fail, is to not put all my eggs in one basket. And I do that through having different varieties, because they all have different traits. I’ve had some years where I’ll have a failure in one particular variety but something else will be good. Also it provides that diversity and I can fill a niche by exploring that one niche and doing a more evolved approach to it, and that’s how I get people to notice me. Because I have all these different kinds of garlic. I have all these different kinds of potatoes, and they’re all geared toward specific uses. I have some that are great for mashing, because they’re light and fluffy, for gnocchi and things like that. Another one would be firmer, like a masher would be Caribe – super light and fluffy, I sell lots of them at Thanksgiving; I have a firm one like Ruby Crescent fingerling, or Charlottes, which are very firm textured, in a situation where you want to it to hold its shaped after you’ve cooked it. Or, the ones that have colored flesh.

Bainbridge Vineyards

Bainbridge Vineyards

JG: As the new owner/operator of Bainbridge Vineyards, what kind of wine grapes do you raise and where does your wine end up?

BW: We grow grapes that originally were developed or selected in Europe, mostly in Germany and in the northern grape growing regions of France. We are working now with some grapes from Austria and Hungary as well. They are grapes developed for northern areas. They’re mostly white – we do have some reds – but the majority are white wine grapes because as in Europe, that’s what you’ll find, more whites growing in the northern parts of Europe.

JG: Can you talk a little about how these are cold climate vs. warm climate and our climate is similar to the climates that these grapes grow in elsewhere.

BW: We would be called a cool climate and everybody seems to say they’re a cool climate, but as far as our parallels, in Europe, we would be very similar to the Loire region of France. Also, Alsace between France and Germany, and different regions of Germany and in Switzerland or Northern Italy. So those would be similar parallels as far as temperatures year round, similar rainfall, except that our rainfall falls mostly in the winter, and most of those in Europe have more evenly scattered rain throughout the year. So in some ways it’s easier to grow grapes here, because it’s dryer through the growing season, so we don’t have as many disease problems. This year’s a little bit of any exception, because we’re super dry compared to our normal dry summers.

JG: Where does your wine get distributed and where does it end up?

BW: Most of it, I’d say we sell at the tasting room right here on the farm. We also sell at a couple of farmer’s markets which is something that I’d like to expand upon if we had the staffing – and some local stores, like Central Market, Town & Country, and Bay Hay are probably our three biggest retailers. We have other retailers too, but those are probably the ones with the greatest number of sales. But by in large I’d say that most of it is at the farm.

JG: What went into your decision to structure the winery business as a collaborative partnership?

BW: Well, I certainly didn’t want to do it on my own. I prefer to work in groups and a team. I knew just how much work it was from watching Gerard and Joanne over the years and I felt a better situation would be a more cooperative venture, where we all had some additional income besides the winery. The wine business is extremely competitive and I knew we all needed to survive, and by having that be part of our income and not 100% of our income, or folks who had partners with another income, it would help a lot to give us some flexibility and to allow us to get through that early start-up phase. I have also been inspired by the cooperative movement. I think that when people have skin in the game they put more towards something. If their opinions are valued they get to call the shots as well, it’s the good and the bad. A lot of times in business the business owner is working really hard and a lot of times the employees don’t really have a sense of what it takes to run a business. They see money coming in but they don’t see all the expenses. So I think there’s a greater understanding and a stronger business model when people are all involved. They’re valued and they all have an opportunity to offer suggestions. One of the things that really inspired me is the movie “Shift Change”, about the cooperative movement. Mostly it focuses on Mondragon in Spain but it also focuses on cooperatives in the U.S., and it is very inspiring. I would like to see more models like that. We are not a legal cooperative structure but we often use a lot of things borrowed from the cooperative type of business structure. I also formed an LLC so that I could help raise some money and get some local people who were willing to become part of the business by contributing money, and that made a huge difference to us being able to get started, as well as the Bentryns, who helped out quite a bit.

JG: How would you describe your method and approach to farming?

Betsey teaches students the real meaning of "horsepower."

Betsey teaches students the real meaning of “horsepower.”

BW: Constantly evolving. I feel like every year I learn something. Even though I may have done something 20 years ago, I think that if you pay attention and you’re connected, you’re constantly learning and maybe changing. So I see that we’re maybe doing things differently than when I first started working for the Bentryns. We became certified organic; we were using organic practices for the past 12 years, just because I didn’t like using chemicals out in the field and then ultimately we codified that with our organic certification. My Laughing Crow Farm is not certified organic but I follow all the organic practices in it. I like the sense of connecting that I get. So I would say organic follows those principles, but beyond organic, in living here on the land that I farm and seeing it all the time, it makes me much more sensitive to what’s going on. I’m interested in expanding on that and one of those areas is biodynamic farming, which is more of a homeopathic/holistic approach in many ways, and I’d like to incorporate more of those methods. One of my interests in using draft horses is in being less dependent on fossil fuels, but also it’s a different pacing than using a tractor. It requires a different skill set to connect with an animal to get the job done, versus turning a key on. I think that we’re evolving because I’m constantly looking and saying, “can we do this better? Is there some way that we can be better stewards of the earth?” I do plenty of rototilling with the tractor, but I think it’s really destructive, and I don’t think our soils can maintain that. Our soils are being beaten by things like that. I think there are other ways we could be farming and I’m interested in learning more about them.

JG: Can you describe the value of “terroir”, and what you feel is the relationship between place and taste?

BW: I think we’re so disconnected food-wise. If you think about the fact that your body is made up of chemicals from a place, that people are made up of the compounds, the foods that turn into their body tissue. Because most people eat from the supermarket and most food is transported from a far distance, they’re really not of the place they live in. They are biologically of someplace else. Now, maybe the water, if they drink water from their tap – but most people are drinking bottled water shipped in from somewhere else! So not even that basic component of life – water – is really from here anymore. So, to me, that whole concept of eating local, terroir, is to become more “of” a place; to experience it through tasting the foods, drinking the wine, having those things be part of your body; ultimately, through eating locally.

JG: What is it like for you to be a farmer in 2015 in the United States?

BW: It’s interesting, because now it’s becoming trendier, in some ways. I think when I started, it was a pretty novel idea, small scale farming. Most of the farms were big corporate farms, I felt like we were in the beginning of a movement, a food revolution. When I started 28 years ago, getting involved in local food systems – I think at the time, the farmer’s markets were still pretty new, and since then its expanded. When I would say I was farming, people would say, “wow, that’s weird.” But I think what’s happening now, particularly among young people, there are more people farming. I think folks like Brian MacWhorter and I are of that transition generation. Very few of our peers, farm. They all have corporate jobs – they make much more money (laughs). So, we’re sort of the odd group, but I think we were important in helping to connect the new generation, and providing things to help the new generation get started farming.

JG: What do you see for the future of farming? What are the challenges, and what are the opportunities?

BW: Challenges – let’s start with that. I think the climate change is big. I think we’re seeing examples of that this year. So, being adaptive is going to be super important. We don’t know what to expect yet, so resiliency is going to be key. That also leads me to say that small-scale farming is part of the solution, because it’s much more adaptable than large farming that has really invested a lot in infrastructure, in a style of farming, in equipment that takes 20 years to pay for itself. I think that stuff is not going to do well in the future. So, small-scale farming, new, innovative ideas – maybe including old ideas as part of it; I’m not a proponent of things like GMO. I think there are too many unanswered questions, but I do feel having more of our food produced locally will give us a lot more security and also connect people to the earth, which I think they’re going to need to do to make the changes that are going to be required of our civilization to survive.

Students visiting Laughing Crow Farm try out a game of tug of war.

Students visiting Laughing Crow Farm try out a game of tug of war.

JG: Where does water play into the future of farming?

BW: Certainly, water could become a major limiting factor, and our use of water – particularly if we do get dryer during the growing season – it’s going to be super important to be good stewards of that and use it wisely, so a lot of unknowns.

Other challenges have to do with access to land. Where the people, the population is, where potential folks to eat the food are, is getting more and more expensive. I think we need to look at innovative ways to help folks who are entering farming to have access to land. Partnering with people who own the land, community ownership of land, a whole series of things might work to help solve that. These young people haven’t gone off to do the corporate jobs, so they don’t have access to buy it because it’s way too expensive.

JG: Why is it important to have locally grown food in our communities, and what kind of local farm and food community do you hope to see for our region?

BW: First of all, I think it’s important for food security, even though I don’t often think of that. Having a lot of the problems associated with food – processing of food, contamination of food – is often because there’s not accountability in the food system. So, the more food that’s produced locally, I think it’s safer, healthier for people, and less vulnerable to issues like transportation breakdowns, high transportation costs, etc. Having that here, I’ve never grown up in a time when food was scarce, but people who grew up during major wars – like in Europe, really honor the fact that they have local food there, because you couldn’t get it, because we didn’t have a way of moving food in. I think we’re living in a very complacent society, where we have access to everything all the time, and I don’t necessarily think that’s going to last forever. So, having food, the ability to grow food, knowledge around growing food, and land to grow food, and people who can do it, I think is super important to the future. Also – it’s nice to have it, from a visual standpoint. There’s a connection that happens, there’s a spirituality that happens when you see that whole continuum, of here it is, and then you transform it, you know that person who made it. Food is pretty anonymous – it comes in packaged containers. Marketing people have known that people crave that connection, so if you look at packaging of processed foods, it has all kinds of stories on there, even though maybe it’s a corporation that owns it, they spin it, so it seems like – ‘oh, it’s a little farmer growing it’ – because people read those things. And they want it, even if they’re not aware they want that connection, they still look for it. So, let’s have real connections, versus artificially marketing created stories.

JG: Through your internship program, what are you learning about young farmers who come work for you?

BW: Learning about young people, in general – not all of them are destined to be farmers, but they think it is important enough to spend a season learning about farming, and I really admire that. I think it’s partly because the educational system has brought up issues about what’s going to happen, that they feel it’s important to learn something about food. As one said to me, “the most radical act you could do is grow your own food.” And I kind of believe that. What’s so cool about these young people is that they are willing to step into that. It’s a very risky business, it’s a lot of hard work, it doesn’t have the kinds of financial rewards of some other kinds of professions they might choose, but they still do it anyway. And it’s encouraging to see how many who have been through intern programs like the one I help to run, as well as other farms, how successful they are in starting to run their own farm. I hope that they can continue to be successful in the future, particularly if they choose to raise a family, which is super expensive and much more challenging to be able to come up with the financial resources to give them all the things that the kids want, all the things that their friends have, with a farming income. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a solution to that.

Betsey (left, in hat) at the EduCulture Summer 2015 Farm to Table Dinner at Suyematsu Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards.

Betsey (left, in hat) at the EduCulture Summer 2015 Farm to Table Dinner at Suyematsu Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards.

JG: How many young people have come to work with you over the years?

BW: It has to be at least 8-10 years now, and there have been over 30 individuals. Not everybody’s farming, but a good percentage, almost 50% – are doing some kind of farming on their own. It changes them. I use the time besides talking about farming skills to talk about other kinds of values – environmental values – teaching them more than just vegetables. We also look at trees, we learn about birds, other things, that when you’re out on a farm, make it more interesting. You can tell a lot about what’s going on, by things like what birds are coming through, what the season is like. And hopefully inspire them to get more connected, no matter what they do. If they choose to farm, they certainly will have a different appreciation for food. They always tell me, we’re food snobs now – not, “oh we had potatoes for dinner,” but “what kind of potato?” and “what kind of tomato?” They get to taste real food and it changes them forever.

JG: You were our first farm partner when we started out many years ago, so where does your interest in serving K-12 education and working with young people come from?

BW: It came from my teacher friend Tamara Stone. She would always try to do innovative field trips for the kids, and part of her school program in North Kitsap, which she was always doing on a shoestring budget – was to take them to a pioneer village – and she would say, “why are we spending all this money to go down there, and this long trip, when we could be doing something here?” So she asked me if she could bring her students over here for a day on the farm and we came up with activities for them to do and I later had another teacher come by, and ask if they could do that too. Pretty soon we’re doing all these educational based programs and as much as I liked it and having the kids around, I just didn’t have the time with my farming schedule to do that. So luckily that’s when you came along with EduCulture, and were willing to take that on. I thought it was an important thing to offer, I just didn’t have the resources to do it.

Betsey discusses farming techniques with Bill Covert's 4th graders from Wilkes Elementary School.

Betsey discusses farming techniques with Bill Covert’s 4th graders from Wilkes Elementary School.

JG: What does edible education mean to you as a farmer? What is important for young people to be learning about farming and food? Why is it important for them to have that as part of their school experience?

BW: Some kids are getting it at home, because it’s an important enough issue in places like Bainbridge, where people do have a garden. A lot of folks are fairly well educated about environmental issues and I think they do understand it. But there are a lot of kids who don’t, and I think schools are a great way to provide an opportunity about what’s possible, and getting kids who may never have seen what it’s like to harvest a potato, where they come from; or taste a garlic scape, or pick cherry tomatoes…how much fun it is, and how tasty it is. Also, to learn how to cook food. We eat so much processed food, we eat out, we eat packaged foods, we don’t spend the time cooking and sharing meals anymore, because everyone’s in such a rat race.

JG: So from your perspective as a farmer, what do you see as the most essential basic skills and knowledge that all children should have about farming and food?

BW: People should have an experience of actually growing it, only because if there came a time when they had to, they could know it’s possible. Rather than, “where do I start?” it’s “well, I did it before, so I can do it again.” Just having some kind of horticultural experience, to know its possible. And with that knowledge, comes the question, if I didn’t have food, how could I access food? I can just grow it – it’s that simple. I don’t have to go to the grocery store. But we’re hooked on that – we’ve forgotten a lot of skills that everyone used to take for granted.

JG: Why is it important for you to have edible education programs and farm-school partnerships on Laughing Crow Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards?

BW: It’s fun to see the kids – it adds another dimension. It exposes them to other things that are happening on the island. A lot of kids don’t see it, that there is actually farming here. A lot of our food is still imported, as they say, but it exists here. I know kids who grew up on Bainbridge who never knew this place existed. So that’s one thing. Just to say, there is something here in the community that’s pretty unique and special. And people find out about it. Whether their parents find out about it, and then maybe their parents help support the local farms, they heard about it from their kids. And maybe the kids get inspired to grow something; it’s another option for them. Everything doesn’t have to be sitting in the corporate boardroom, being bored, they can be out on the farm, learning how to grow stuff and observing nature. I think it’s a good win-win.

JG: Given all of your life experiences, did you have any idea that this is where you would be in your life in 2015, farming on Bainbridge Island, being a master farmer, leading a food community?

BW: I never knew of Bainbridge Island when I grew up, I thought I’d be on the East Coast somewhere. As a young kid, I always loved science, so I figured I’d be in some aspect of science. I was very interested in marine biology, always grew plants. I grew vegetables before I even knew how to eat them. Because when I grew up, vegetables came in Bird’s Eye frozen packages; you threw it in boiling water, and that’s how you ate that. We ate broccoli, peas; green beans were in a can; corn came on the cob once in a while, we could get that certain times of the year. Garlic was either garlic salt or garlic powder, and bulbs of garlic came in little cardboard packages with a little cellophane wrapper and two little heads of garlic. So that was food. I started growing stuff but I didn’t know how to cook it, so I gave it away. We had horticultural encyclopedias, so I’d take them out and start reading them, and just start digging in the lawn. Every year I’d take another foot out of the lawn, because it was fun to grow stuff – I was in high school, or younger. I just liked growing plants. I liked trees – I would look at tree branches, pick up sticks. I’d sign up for Jackson & Perkins roses – you could do a test thing – so I’d do a report on roses. In Newark, where I grew up, some older people had vegetable gardens, or grapes they made wine out of, or a fig tree, maybe tomatoes. The milkman would deliver eggs and other things in season but I wasn’t near the farming part of New Jersey, where there was still a lot of farming happening, the truck farms, historically. That’s why it’s called The Garden State.

Click here to visit the Bainbridge Vineyards website.

Opportunities to help with the grape harvest are coming up! To get your name on the list for harvest and other volunteer activities, contact: info@bainbridgevineyards.com

 

 

 

 

Summer 2015 Farm to Table Dinner

About 40 guests gathered at Bainbridge Vineyards on Sunday, August 2, for our latest Farm to Table Dinner, part of our seasonal NW Foodshed Series. This summer dinner in the fields featured five delectable locally grown courses prepared by Leslee Pate-Dixon, co-founder of The Food Shed and Mossback and EduCulture’s Chef in Residence, and Bainbridge Island Chef Tad Mitsui.  These courses were accompanied by unique wine pairings from Bainbridge Vineyards, whose grapes were ripening right next to our dinner tables.

 

The heat was almost too much to stand, so Dixon and Mitsui got out of the kitchen!  They arranged for a mobile, market-style, wood-fired brick oven to be situated in the farm fields where much of the produce for the dinner was grown, and near the long, white-linen banquet tables where guests were seated for their main course.

Before sitting down to dinner, our guests enjoyed initial courses while strolling from the Winery’s tasting room. Dixon and Mitsui thoughtfully designed the summer menu to include a pickled beet and bean salad, wood-fired king salmon with wildflower butter, and semifreddo with raspberries and chocolate.  The oven was used to bake focaccia bread, roast vegetables and cook the Neah Bay salmon. The idyllic pastoral setting, paired with fresh-cut flowers, a setting sun, and the gentle slopes of Suyematsu and Bentryn family farms, provided the perfect backdrop.

Among the many honored guests to attend were Kay Sakai Nakao, namesake of Sakai Intermediate; Mary Woodward, namesake of Woodward Middle School; and Gerard and Joanne Bentryn, founders of Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery. Also in attendance was Natalie Hayashida Ong, who grew up on Bainbridge Island and was visiting from Texas for the weekend. Betsey Wittick, owner of Laughing Crow Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards, was on hand to introduce the wine pairing for each course with tasty anecdotes and insights.

Finally, our seasonal “farm-raiser” couldn’t have succeeded without the generous volunteer efforts of local farm hands from Butler Green Farms, Persephone Farm, and Laughing Crow Farm, as well as student teachers from IslandWood. These folks represent the sprouting seeds of edible education that will usher in the next generation of farmers and educators both on and off the Island.

– Valerie Randall, EduCulture Instructor and Farm-Table Dinner Organizer

 

The Four Course Menu was prepared on site in a Wood Fired Oven. Guests enjoyed:


1st Course: Oven Fired Focaccia Topped with Chèvre, Zucchini and Caramelized Onions

2nd Course: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Shaved Hard Cheese, Basil and Garlic Olive Oil

Main Course: King Salmon Fillet on an a Bed of Oven Fired Potatoes with Roasted Peppers, Fennel Relish and Wild Flower Butter

Dessert: Chocolate or Lemon Cakes in Jars with Fresh Cream and Raspberry Compote

Thank you for being a part of seeding & supporting EduCulture’s Edible Education Programs in 2015-16.

Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program Launches

 

Master Farmer Brian MacWhorter of Butler Green Farms talks with Leadership in Edible Education students.

Master Farmer Brian MacWhorter of Butler Green Farms talks with Leadership in Edible Education students.

EduCulture and the Master of Arts in Education Program at Antioch University Seattle partnered in July 2015 to hold the first of what will be four courses in the Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program. The year-long program is aimed at building the professional repertoire of those seeking a career in the field of edible education.

Held this summer, the first course, Education Towards Food, Citizenship & Community, explored the anatomy and interrelationships of our regional food community. Using the Central Puget Sound food community as curriculum, each class took place in the field, situated amongst regional production, processing, distribution, consumption, and recycling. Students examined alternatives to the prevailing system of industrial agriculture from farm to market to table and beyond, where emphasis is on the principles of clean, fair, fresh, nutritious, local, accessible, and traditional food.

A diverse group of students attended the first course of the program, including staff from Beechers Foundation and 21 Acres in Woodinville. Attendees also included nutritionists and family consumer science educators. The course is being led by Jon Garfunkel of EduCulture and Ed Mikel of Antioch University Seattle.

Vern Nakata, whose family helped found Town & Country Markets, is an EduCulture advisor and helps to organize class tours.

Vern Nakata, whose family helped found Town & Country Markets, is an EduCulture advisor and helps to organize class tours.

“The Master of Arts in Education Program at Antioch University Seattle is honored to partner closely with EduCulture Project to inaugurate the Leadership in Edible Education program,” says Antioch’s Ed Mikel.  “With this summer’s offering of the first course in a four-course sequence, Education Toward Food Citizenship and Community, the MAEd Program provides a cohort of degree students the opportunity ultimately to complete what is designed to be a full degree concentration as well as the professional certificate jointly awarded by Antioch Seattle and EduCulture. This landmark program innovation fully reflects the campus and university commitment to sustainability, social justice, preservation of cultural heritage, personal fulfillment, and community well-being.”
Joe Pulicicchio, head produce buyer for Town & Country Market.

Joe Pulicicchio, head produce buyer for Town & Country Market.

The four-day itinerary included a walking tour of Suyematsu & Bentryn Family Farms, a tour of processing at Grounds for Change Coffee on Bainbridge Island, and a look at Bainbridge Vineyards with Betsey Wittick. The class was also given a tour of Town & Country Market on Bainbridge, Butler Green Farms CSA with master farmer Brian MacWhorter, and Middlefield Farm. Marra Farm and Charlie’s Produce were also stops in Seattle.

“As instructor I am continually impressed at how the field classes engage students so fully in their learning about all aspects of the food system,” says Ed Mikel of Antioch Seattle.  “This sort of direct experience surely grounds their learning more deeply and meaningfully than any other approach to education. They gain not only a firm, comprehensive, and enduring knowledge. From their direct encounter of the complexity of how each phase of our food systems operate, students also gain the sort of broad appreciation for the shaping influence of systems on essential food choices, habits, and attitudes. They thus develop both the larger social perspective and the personal daily commitments to a wise relationship to food in all its aspects, that inform and sustain leadership in education for food citizenship and community.”

Click here to learn more about our Leadership in Edible Education Program.

Summer Volunteer Farm Work Parties

 

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We invite you to join us this season for one or more of our Summer Volunteer Work Parties, to tend to the crops planted on our instructional plot on Morales Farm (Corner of Lovgreen & Hwy 305) and Historic Suyematsu Farm on Day Road. (Locations for the dates below to be determined and will be posted on our website calendar.) These work parties are a vital part of maintaining our crops over the summer in order to have a strong harvest this fall when students return.

Five work parties will be held this summer. They are scheduled on alternating Tuesdays, with 4 to be held in the morning, and 1 in the early evening:

June 30; 9:30 – 11:30am – Morales Farm
July 14; 9:30 – 11:30am
July 28; 5 – 7pm
August 11; 9:30 – 11:30am
August 25; 9:30 – 11:30am

Volunteers at Morales Farm will help out by hilling up potatoes and weeding the pumpkin patch. Suyematsu Farm work parties will center around mulching and fertilizing the historic strawberry plot.

So, mark your calendars and join us for a fun and productive time on the farm this summer. Thank you for your help keeping these programs growing!

An Interview with Howard Block, Owner of Bay Hay & Feed

Howard Block and Ce-Ann Parker established Bay Hay & Feed in Bainbridge Island’s Rolling Bay Neighborhood in the late 1970’s. From its beginnings as a feed store, it has expanded to encompass a very successful nursery, gift store, and outlet for local foods. The store has been recognized as a “Washington Green 50” company on the list of most sustainably operated businesses in the state.

Each year, Bay Hay donates hundreds of seed packets to EduCulture for use in local school gardens and instructional plots. EduCulture’s Jon Garfunkel sat down for a conversation with Howard about his business philosophy and plans for the future.

Bay Hay & Feed owner Howard Block stocks some spring selections in the store's nursery.

Bay Hay & Feed owner Howard Block stocks some spring selections in the store’s nursery.

JG: When and why did you start Bay Hay & Feed as a business on Bainbridge Island?

HB: November ‘79 we opened. I didn’t do it with the intention of having a feed store; I did it with the intention of just buying the building, and at first putting in a natural food’s business. I said, “I’ll try the feed store first for a little bit” – and liked it right away. Because it was a feed store prior to our purchasing it, it worked out great.

JG: What was your experience in feed stores prior to starting the business?

HB: None – I had no feed store experience prior – I had a lot of retail experience. My roommate from University of New Hampshire was here the day I bought it, and he had grown up on a farm. The previous owner who said he would be here to help and train me never really came back to the store after he sold it, so I was out there on my own. With the help of customers and my roommate from college, I was able to get through the first week, and the only thing I had raised prior to that was chickens, so I was pretty green.

JG: Whose needs were you meeting in the community at that time?

HB: The whole animal kingdom on Bainbridge Island has changed over the years. There were a lot more horses in peoples’ backyards; a lot of people had chickens, raised rabbits, and sheep. There were a few cows on the island, you could count them on one hand. About 20-30 people raising pigs back then, and there were a lot of roosters being raised – that’s who we were catering to back then. And then we just started building from that, going by word of mouth. We didn’t really advertise; we basically provided people with the food they needed, and then started asking, “what would you like to see?” We started growing from there. We got more products relating to animals in. We were the first people to sell Science Diet, a premium dog food; people thought we were crazy selling a bag of dog food for $25, it was unheard of. We realized better food is better for the dog and Science Diet was virtually the only one back then. We started building the dog and cat business, and that pulled more customers in. And as our customer count increased, we were able to increase our product count. As you have more regular people coming in you can find more products for them to purchase. A few years into it, my wife Ce-Ann decided she was not that interested in the feed business; she has a horticulture degree and decided to open up a nursery. So that we did – we opened up Bay Hay & Feed. Actually, a few moments ago I was up there looking at old pictures of just about the first day of the nursery, to put on our Facebook page.

JG: So what today would we recognize of the Bay Hay & Feed of 1980?

HB: I still have a few products I bought in the 1970’s and never sold – a couple left (laughs). What’s still there? It’s changed so much. All the feed used to be in the main store, piled close to the ceiling; since we bought it in the wintertime, Ce-Ann and I used to sit on the top of the feed because that’s where all the heat was; we used to sit about six feet from the ceiling on big piles of feed, it was nice and warm up there. Other than that, if you were down at ground level, you were freezing.

JG: Where does education play a role in Bay Hay & Feed’s mission and purpose?

HB: One of the things we do is educate all of the employees. It’s very hard to find qualified nursery people. We tried to find the right nursery people from the get go and it was impossible, so now we switched gears and try to find people who have an interest in it and then train them up from there. It’s a long process, it’s a few years per employee. But a lot of our employees stick around – we have a lot of them over 25 years, and it works better that way – they know what we’re looking for while they’re working here. Education – it’s all encouraged. When some of the younger employees work here in the summer, through high school – we encourage them on to college – get a good education. This is a great starter job, in some cases – in some cases it’s a life-fulfilling job. Some will probably be here until they retire. We’ve actually had two employees go over 65 and retire, that were here for years – I guess I’m the next one. But I’m not going to retire at 65!

JG: What about in terms of the role this business has in the community? You’re the feed store on the island – do you find yourself educating customers about topics related to what you’re selling?

HB: We’re not a self-serve store. We’re a store where the customer expects the employee to educate them in the product. It’s everything from a garden sprinkler, to seeding a lawn, to planting the proper vegetables that grow in the area – it’s very labor intensive that way. Probably in all my businesses the most labor intensive business that I’ve ever owned, and the amount of time that you spend with a customer is substantial – which makes it a difficult thing for a retail business – because you’re expecting your employees to not only wait on the customer but also do their daily jobs, and sometimes the customer is always first and daily jobs just don’t get done. There are about 32 employees working here now, and part of that is so we can give the customer service that’s necessary plus we’re educating the customer, so we’re hiring people in to do the other things so that the most experienced employees that need to educate the customer are out on the floor. We don’t expect customers to just grab and go. That’s not how this store works.

JG: I’ve also noticed you started offering classes recently for the community.

HB: We offer classes occasionally; when it’s busy, it’s really difficult. It would be great to have them all the time, it’s almost impossible, and this year it’s so busy because the weather is so warm.

JG: Didn’t you offer a kids’ camp also?

HB: We had a camp in 2014 – probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. I loved it! It was “how to work in a feed store.” Everything from teaching young kids how to wait on a customer – what a purchase order is – what a checkbook is – how to put things away, why you put them on a shelf straight, what inventory is – all the different aspects of how to run a feed store. It’s something that I never got to do except with my uncle when I was really young. I’d love to do it again – we expected to do it again this year but the season came on so fast that I couldn’t stress the employees out that way, because the employees chipped in and helped out. But now we’re at our limits of what we can do. Until we get more employees or until the weather changes back to normal, it’s not possible. Hopefully next year – I was really disappointed when we had to cancel. Probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. When the kids came into camp, they didn’t know what to expect, and to see a kid answer the phone and say, “Good morning, Bay Hay & Feed,” – you know, the kids are pretty shy and this just opened them right up. When they had to walk up to a customer and ask them if they could help them – and then they got to ring them up – their faces were just lit up.

JG: Were you the camp director?

HB: No, my wife was camp director. I was – I don’t know – camp supervisor…(laughing)

JG: You started a sustainability campaign a few years back. What does sustainability look like in practice at Bay Hay, and what do you feel have been the successes and challenges along the way?

HB: Well, part of it is that I couldn’t do it myself – I didn’t know enough about it. And it’s a difficult decision, you have to make decisions continuously about whether to be sustainable and how to be sustainable and then still make a profit, still move forward. So I hired somebody from Bainbridge Graduate Institute. She started out at one day a week and is now pretty much up to full time. She works as a sustainability director and also as an HR person, that’s where they can control things the best. The person had retail experience, which was great – owned a business for a long time, knew the ins and outs of retail. And then she also knew that business is needed to make a profit and how you can get those things – sustainability and profitability – to work together. With sustainability, it’s huge – it’s everything from the solar panels that are on the roof at Bay Hay – to how much we pay our employees. We’ve been at minimum wage of $12 – that’s starting wage, anybody that comes in always gets $12, and we’re working towards $15 and we’ll see if we get there in a short time. But you have to make profit – and that’s what we’re doing, we’re tightening things up, we’re actually getting closer and closer to giving raises to get it up to a living wage. There are employees here 25 years earning a lot more than that. So, there are many aspects to it. The store’s always been organic – so that wasn’t necessary – but mainly on the employee side – being more sensitive to the employees – changing schedules so employees can deal with their family life at home – and not being so cut and dried as I probably was by myself making those decisions. So I found somebody to bridge that gap. And it’s worked out really, really well for the store. I think we’ve grown a lot more than I probably would have just doing it on my own.

JG: So what would you say has been your greatest challenge in trying to practice sustainability as a business and what would you say has been your greatest success?

HB: The greatest success is through the hardest times that we just had, keeping all our employees fully employed. Just creating a strong business that really didn’t falter through those last hard years. We did really well during them. And part of that had to do with employee involvement, feeling like part of the business.

Challenge? Tough times. The success – getting over them, and growing a lot. It was sort of fun to beat it. You hear doom and gloom on the news all the time and we’re doing better than we used to do. It was sort of fun – we had a good time during that time. We employed a lot during that time – we built our new building using all local suppliers, all local builders. And creating employment for a lot of local people, getting that building up. We had good help from the city – they were very encouraging, they didn’t have much going on, they really helped us out, getting it through really quickly. They were very cooperative during that time.

JG: How much do you feel keeping local dollars in the local economy is a measure of sustainability?

HB: Oh, it’s really huge. It helps create jobs for people who want to work 10 or 15 miles from where they work. We employ 32 people and they all live around here – a lot of them live within walking distance of Bay Hay. It’s fun to watch them just walking to work in the morning. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is in a lot of places. I spent a lot of time in Europe and that’s the way it is there. A lot of people just live and work in their hometown. We’re pretty fortunate – we have a lot of people here who like to work this type of business.

JG: What role does Bay Hay & Feed want to play in our local food economy?

HB: Oh, we’re trying. We’re an infant right now, as a place for local farmers to have a consistent, steady place to sell their food products. It’s growing – we have a person that’s in charge of that from Sustainable Bainbridge – Carolyn Goodwin. She’s basically doing all the coordinating for it. It would be impossible for me to do it – you have to have a specialist – and she’s become a specialist in that field. It’s really important. As you can see, it doesn’t take much to make this economy do weird things, and if you have a local food source, that helps steady it out a bit. Plus it employs a lot of people; there are a lot of farmers out there with farmer assistance, all kinds of people doing it now, that want to live at home, and have property and can do it, and to have a steady place to sell it is fantastic.

JG: What is your sense of the culture of farming and gardening on Bainbridge Island and what kind of change have you seen in that culture if any over the years?

HB: It’s hard on Bainbridge. Square foot ground is expensive. We don’t seem to have a way of getting large tracts of land protected for farming. I wish we were a little bit more like Whidbey Island where that does exist. I don’t know whether that will ever exist on Bainbridge. I think our local community needs to be expanded a little bit toward Suquamish and into parts of Poulsbo, where there is a little bit more open land. So local is, I’m going to say, within 25 miles, not within our 12 mile area. It’s difficult for the farmers. They just don’t have the infrastructure for farming and you need it. You can probably get an outlet to sell it – between myself, between Thriftway – the restaurants, and the farmers’ market – they can probably consume everything that everybody can grow. But, could they grow enough to make a living, or a good living? That’s questionable. Farming’s difficult. And its really good until the year it’s bad. And you’ve got to have enough reserves for a good buffer. I think most of the farmers are probably not at that level right now, where they can take the ups and downs of farming. We had a really late frost – that’s going to put a lot of people in a world of hurt. But it’s doable. It would be nice if either the Land Trust or the city provided more land or if there were tax incentives to put your land into permanent farming properties like they’ve done in other counties.

JG: Do you see the potential for us being a more locally dependent food economy, or do you see barriers in the way of that manifesting itself, for example you talk about a Whidbey Island?

HB: I think the biggest barrier on Bainbridge Island is the land is just too valuable. Somebody’s going to have to decide they don’t want to pull that value out of their property, and designate it to something else. That’s not happening a lot, not enough. There needs to be a balance between the population size and the amount of farms on the island and I don’t think that’s been established or probably ever will be. People want the value out of their land when they go to sell it and it forces it down to basically building a house and living there, as opposed to farming it. It’s a shame, but that’s what happens in communities like this.

JG: On the other side of the food chain, what has starting a local food market taught you about our local food culture on Bainbridge Island? The consumer side as opposed to the farming side?

HB: I think it’s a lot like every place else. There are people who are really, really concerned about what they put into their bodies, and other people that would like to be, and other people that can’t afford to be. Coming from the natural foods business, it was sort of the same – I was in Durham, New Hampshire at the time – similar population to here, and I think it would be nice to be able to get the prices of Bainbridge food a little bit more in line so that more of the population was able to comfortably come in and not think of it as a special thing. Thriftway is doing it – it’s getting the prices down a little bit, but it’s buying from sources further away. So it’s taking away from the locals producing the food. The locals are still having a difficult time getting to the level where it’s considered competitive to the rest of the Seattle area. They’ll get there – it just takes time. Sometimes it takes a long time. They’ve got great support people purchasing pretty much everything they’re producing, so as they become more business like, more experienced, they might be able to get down to the more competitive, which in turn would lower the cost, which in turn would lower the volume.

JG: Do you have a sense of how people perceive the locally grown goods that you sell? Do they see them as more of a luxury, or more of a norm? What trends have you seen?

HB: I don’t want to speculate. I don’t have enough information to say that. What you’re saying is a common feeling. You have to work at it. Volume is way up. Part of it is that we have no more to sell. We’re more established. Farmers like consistency – they like to hand over their products and at the end of the month, get a check and they know it’s coming. That’s really important to them. Customers like consistency – they want to see stuff all the time. It doesn’t take much of a customer coming in once or twice, not having it, that you lose a customer. So that’s our end, keeping consistency up. Keeping the shelves stocked. It’s a lot of work. It’s profitable, barely. We don’t do it for a profit center at Bay Hay. It’s basically trying to support the local economy as best as we possibly can and in turn long term we will probably make a profit from it. Right now, margins are really low – the lowest in the store – and that’s part of being food perishable. But we’re finding some value added products that really help boost it up a little bit, and to find locally produced, value added products, is difficult too, such as local crumpets – they’re fantastic. Not that you make a lot of money on it, but you get return customers – that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for commodities. When customers come in continually for commodities, they’ll purchase other things. And that’s an important thing in a retail store is to have commodities so that you’re creating a relationship with your customers, and they’re in the habit of coming back to your store. We hopefully do that throughout the store, and food is a great way to do that.

JG: Maybe the only place they can get that item, right?

HB: There are other places that sell similar products to us, and the one thing we have to offer is that there are a lot of places that may sell similar products, and don’t sell anything else. But customers shopping for something may want to come here, because they like the other things that they see. So it works hand in hand.

JG: What do you make of the popularity of backyard chickens on Bainbridge Island and what role do you feel Bay Hay has played in that popularity?

HB: Chickens are great. If you don’t go nuts and “overchicken,” then you’re going to enjoy your chickens a lot. Producing enough chickens for yourself and possibly your neighbor is a great experience. Chickens are soothing, great learning experience for kids, responsibility, you don’t even have to go as far as 4H, you can just enjoy them in your backyard. Teaching someone to take care of chickens – it’s just a wonderful thing. What do we do? We teach basic classes in “chickening.” Trying to keep people to a reasonable amount. We do a have a few large flocks on Bainbridge. Pretty much its reasonable. There are a lot of benefits from chickens. They’re friendly, they keep you company, they produce great food, they’re great composters, they’re just a really great thing to have in your backyard. They make a backyard a real backyard. People just love them. I love them.

JG: Do you keep your own chickens?

HB: Yeah, I do.

JG: Do you keep other animals?

HB: No, no more. Dog’s gone…

JG: You’re too busy feeding everyone else’s.

HB: It’s a commitment. All animals are a commitment. Whether or not it’s a dog, a cat, a chicken or cow, anything. It ties you down. That’s one of the things about chickening that we talk about. Do you ever go on vacation? How are you going to deal with this? Tell people about the good parts and the bad parts. I’ve raised sheep before, I’ve raised cows before, pigs, chickens. I love it.

JG: EduCulture has been deeply appreciative of the hundreds of seed packets we receive each year from you and which we redistribute to our school partners for use in classrooms, school gardens, and instructional garden projects. What prompted you to begin making these donations and what are you hoping will come from their use?

HB: We’ve had seeds in the store for probably 25 years. When you have leftover seeds you’ve got to figure out what to do with them. You can throw them in the dumpster, that’s a waste. We spent a lot of time sending them overseas. It’s a lot of work, and who is it benefitting? Then we found EduCulture, and it doesn’t kill my market, doesn’t kill Town and Country’s market, doesn’t kill Junko’s market – it’s sort of a balance there. We have a great product to give them. It’s more sustainable that way. Plus, instead of locking yourself into growing a certain kind of corn, a certain kind of beans, most of the time the varieties we’re giving are great varieties, which get people turned on to different things, so they’re not eating the same thing time and time again. It works really well that way. It’s another educational thing. You know, a squash doesn’t always look like a zucchini.

JG: We would have never considered raising watermelon down at our educational plot had we not had those seeds to experiment with.

HB: And it is experimenting, on all sides.

JG: In the bigger picture, where would you like to see our local food and farm economy in 5-10 years?

HB: If Bay Hay has its way and I look into the future, I’d like to have a full market here for local economy food. To expand from where we are to where we could be. We could be a small grocery store. It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to involve a couple of decisions. When we expand, how far are we going to consider local? That’s the first thing. Are we going to consider all the way to Pt. Townsend or Sequim local? And that’s something we discuss every year. We’d love to produce within 25 miles. I don’t know if it’s possible. But we continually work at it. Since it’s not the profit center of Bay Hay, it can only demand so much growth and influx, of other dollars. It will never be a profit center. It does really well being supported by something else at Bay Hay. It’s a really good way to do it and it’s fine, as long as you have a willing owner that’s willing to go that route and that’s something that with our sustainability director, we’re doing, and going to continue to do. Whether or not we’ll grow, we hope so, and we think so. We think we’ll be ready for expansion pretty soon. The word has gotten to me that we need another freezer. So I don’t think its because we’re not selling stuff, its because we are selling stuff, which is great. It’s the allocation of money to get the stuff. And since it comes out of the store’s pocket, it has to be doled out amongst the whole store, and best as we possibly can. I want to grow the business. I want farmers to grow more and me to be able to sell more, sort of parallel.

JG: What do you feel are some of the most important lessons young people need to learn about food and farming in the 21st Century?

HB: There’s got to be somebody that’s out there doing it in competition with corporate agriculture – it’s really important. We can’t depend on corporate agriculture to support us 100%. I don’t think we’ll ever get to 20-80; it’ll never get to 90-10. But you’d better keep it in the minds of all people that food – local food – is really important. You don’t want to be controlled by big corporate conglomerates deciding what you’re going to eat, when you’re going to eat it, down to the GMO kernel. You don’t want that as your only choice, and we have to keep working at that. You actually change corporate sometimes – they see the demand, and they respond to the demand. There’s a lot more organic food on the market now than there ever was in 1976 when I had my natural food store. It was extremely hard to find then. It’s out there now, and more people are using natural foods, and the prices have gotten a lot better. And that’s by popular demand. More popular demand, more people will get into it.

JG: Given what you just said, looking into the future, do you see that we are going to be part of one large food economy that has a corporate and local dimension to it, and do you see what you’re doing with others as establishing a separate food economy in competition with a global food economy?

HB: We’ll never be in competition with them; they beat us hands down.

JG: Or, in parallel to…this is about creating separate food economies or under the umbrella of one food economy?

HB: We’re going to be completely separate. I don’t think we’ll ever be parallel to anything they do. They’re way too big and way too far ahead of us. We can make inroads but to get to any sort of parallel anything, might be really difficult. Unless there’s a huge change in the world. Unless some grasshopper decides it loves GMO corn and that’s all it’s going to eat. Then we might make faster inroads.

JG: You mentioned that you could see yourself in 10-15 years having a full local market. So, that’s in essence helping to create a dominant local food economy as either an alternative version of the global economy or one that can stand on its own.

HB: I don’t know that it can ever stand on its own without support. There are some great close-to-local economies – the Pt. Townsend Co-op, the Mt. Vernon Co-op – these are great businesses run really well. Look at their product lines – it’s not all local. They’ve got nonlocal products supporting their local, and it’s a pretty good balance. If you can consider stuff like Newman’s as totally nonlocal and more corporate, they’re involved there. But they also have toilet paper, toothpaste, all the things that actually support the food market. And that’s what Bay Hay does – it supports the food market. For it to stand alone on it’s own, it’s going to be tough.

JG: So your model is having a support network that surrounds the food market with this idea that it couldn’t necessarily stand on its own but this is what retail needs to do to support having that local economy?

HB: Absolutely – it’s having an owner, like myself, or at Thriftway, that believes in it – it’s really important to have people like that out there. But they have to have successful businesses to be able to believe in it and support it. And they do a great job. They’re always one step ahead. Which is great competition and great for the community. We’re continually looking at other places saying, “wow, how can I get to that level?” Now you come into Bay Hay and you buy a pair of Merrill shoes or you buy a pair of Levis, you’re not just buying a pair of Levis, you’re also supporting a local farmer through the back door.

 

An Interview with Historian Mary Woodward

Mary Woodward photo

To meet Mary Woodward is to meet history in motion. In the present, she thrives on capturing the past, so that we can carry it into the future. Her head is full of historical facts, family trees, and stories that define the heritage of the community where she was born and raised. A rural Island community in the Puget Sound thrust into national and global prominence when WWII was brought to American shores. As an educator, historian and author, Mary is always eager to learn more so that she can add to our collective public memory of Bainbridge Island.

Born during the aftermath of WWII, Mary was raised amongst a complicit silence about the war and Japanese American Exclusion that overtook Bainbridge Island and much of the country for the four decades that followed. However, as the daughter of Walt and Milly Woodward, the owners and editors of the Bainbridge Review during the tumultuous years surrounding WWII, Mary grew up aware and curious to know more.

The Bainbridge Review stood out during WWII as the only newspaper in the country to offer a voice and place on the pages for their Japanese American neighbors. The Woodwards helped to maintain an inclusive sense of community for Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island while they were in concentration camps that made them feel they had a home to return to after the war.

It can be challenging to follow in the shoes of iconic parents who are revered as champions of civil liberties. Mary Woodward has made a path in life that is her own, that has included honoring the legacy of her parents and becoming a prominent voice on the history and politics of the Exclusion. In 2008, she authored the book, In Defense of our Neighbors: The Walt and Milly Woodward Story, which is the most authoritative and complete history of Bainbridge Island surrounding WWII and exclusion.

 

Mary W. book

Mary maintains an active presence in her community. She serves as President of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, and was dedicated to the development of the Exclusion Memorial on Bainbridge Island. She represents her family at Woodward Middle School, named after her parents. Mary is also a lead advisor and presenter for EduCulture’s Only What We Can Carry Project, and has been a frequent member of our Delegations to Manzanar. Her body of work has helped to weave strong threads of continuity from original community to the present that will last long into the future. We are honored to have the opportunity to help you learn more about this community treasure.

– Jon Garfunkel

JG: What was it like growing up in the household of the family that owned and authored the Island’s only newspaper, and what do you remember about the conversations at your dinner table in the 1950’s?

MW: It was great growing up in that family. One of the reasons is this amazing community of printers and newspaper people that my folks gathered. Coffee break was delightful; John Rudolph would come downstairs from his architect’s office and other folks – my Uncle Freddy – would drop by – both of those guys had the best senses of humor, we would laugh; they all took care of us. And I got to work at the Review when I was in high school – that was kind of fun. Dinner table conversations – my folks had an interest in reading everything. So maybe mother had just read an interesting article in the Saturday Review (for example).

JG: Do you trace your current passion for our Island’s heritage and community back to those days growing up on the Island or did that evolve for you later in life?

MW: It was evolving all of the time, but I’m aware of different levels of community involvement more so than the general person might be. It was a good foundation, and then my interest in political science and history developed and merged in college.

JG: Why and when did your parents choose to buy and run the Bainbridge Review?

MW: They purchased it in 1940 – mother purchased it – my father was still working at the Seattle Times – and I think that his name is not on the masthead because of that. My father majored in pre-med but he was a newspaper person from the get-go and had been working in Juneau at the Juneau Empire, I think, and coming to Bainbridge which was my mother’s home – they knew that the newspaper there was not what it had been. They purchased it in 1940 with a couple, Claire and Babe Peters and after about a year, Babe decided he’d rather be a lawyer and earn some money and not be a newspaper person so my folks bought them out, and by 1941 it was theirs. Within a year they had said, in a front page editorial, “this is our community and we commit ourselves to you folks.”

JG: And they owned and carried the paper until…

MW: ’65 I think was when they sold it to the Averills. And my father stayed on as editor.

JG: Would the paper have looked different in 1965 or read differently in 1965 than it did in the early 40’s?

MW: Oh yes, it had changed. It was still kind of folksy, but nowhere near that “over the backyard fence” sort of chit chat. “Billy Jones is recovering from his cold and he wants to thank people for the letters…” – you know – it was just chit chat. I tell the kids now, it’s like Facebook! That’s what it is – it’s all the little details. But by 1965 it was more of a newspaper. It still had the news of the Garden Club and when the Boy Scouts met, but it was different.

JG: What do you think the Bainbridge Review’s greatest role and contribution was to the community during the WWII era?

MW: I think perhaps the greatest contribution is the communication it afforded the two communities: Manzanar and Bainbridge and later Minidoka and Bainbridge. The news from the camps was presented and it encouraged people to write letters responding to things they’d seen in reports from the camps. And it just was awareness. In most communities, once the people were gone they were gone, and people got on with the war. Some people say how terrible it was that people forgot about this, but it was out of the news and there was nobody in these other communities that was attempting to keep it in the forefront of people’s minds. But I do think the fact that Islanders in different places still embraced each other as Islanders was a big part of it. The Rabers went to Montana to see how the Koura boys were doing. They travelled to Montana, in time of war, and tire rationing, gas rationing. Just like Mr. Narte, traveling to Manzanar and Minidoka. There was a Bainbridge community that survived the war and I think it was because of the Review. Certainly their outspoken objection to the unconstitutionality of 9066 is very important. It’s like Kay (Sakai) Nakao says; “We didn’t buy furniture (at camp); we could use these fruit crates because we knew we were going to go home. I didn’t want to waste our money on that.” It was courage – “Sisu” – that’s what Tom Paski used to say to his high school athletes – it means courage in Finnish.

JG: What would you say distinguished the Review from other newspapers in the Pacific Northwest during WWII?

MW: It was a conscious effort to present both sides of the issue. They wanted the Islanders to know what was being discussed elsewhere. Of course, Islanders were reading the Seattle PI and Seattle Times – they knew what people were saying, and like in Everett – “Scoop” Jackson was their new representative to Washington, D.C. , Henry M. Jackson. He actively worked with the Everett Herald to “get the Japs out” and they didn’t want them back. So here we have a leading politician and the newspaper – what else – are you going to stand up and be the lone voice against that? They made it very difficult, the political and newspaper element – made it very easy for people to not speak up. And I think on the Island to a certain degree they made it a little harder for people who wanted them removed to speak up, so they used intimidation in the other direction.

JG: Did your parents ever articulate to you that they felt like lone voices as a newspaper in our region at the time?

MW: No. They talked about it openly. Ken Myers was the insurance agent that said to his parent company, “I’m going to sell, even though you’re telling me not to. I’m going to sell to these (Japanese American) Islanders, and if you want to fire me you can,” and of course, they didn’t fire him. And he issued insurance. But he was a very good friend of my parents and they would be over for dinner, and the whole quote about, “if it can happen to these Americans it could happen to red-haired Americans, or teacher Americans…” that’s Ken Meyers, that’s not my father, although he very successfully incorporated that into his repertoire! We heard about it in anecdotes from the people who lived it. Not so much Japanese because my parents did not live near a Japanese family and they were working 24 hours a day like the farmers were. They knew Johnny and Pauline Nakata because mother shopped at Eagle Harbor Market.

JG: But as newspaper editors, compared to other newspapers in the region, did they realize that they were presenting a story differently, and in that case lone voices?

MW: I think so, but I don’t think they labeled it that way. One of the most fascinating things, and I wish more people were aware of it, is the ‘about face,’ the manufactured fear that occurred between December 7, 1941 and Feb 19, 1942. In December, newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle agreed with my parents, saying the same thing my folks were saying, “You know, these are our neighbors, let’s be reasonable.” By February, they were supporting the Exclusion. Within two months they had changed their opinion; this is a major national newspaper, that’s remarkable. When you talk about manufactured fear, it’s right there folks, just read about it.

JG: Tell us about the lessons and values that you learned from your mother.

MW: That it is important to respect individuals. That it doesn’t matter what they look like. That real commitment requires follow through, you need to complete what you start. She taught me to love gardens, and to bury dogfish, and kelp is always good too. She was one of the strongest women I’ve known. In so many ways she reminds me of Mrs. Sakuma and Mrs. (Sa) Nakata. They were quiet and didn’t attract attention, they didn’t want attention, but they did for their community. And mother is responsible – with a handful of others – for the creation of Kitsap County’s Regional Library, and then for the construction of our library. In the 40’s she had also campaigned to cover the wells. There were lots of wells around Bainbridge and they wanted to prevent a tragedy. And so she campaigned for that. But sexism, and the way that society has changed – she would be more recognized today.

JG: Tell us about the lessons and values you learned from your father.

MW: He taught me how to be a boater – to love boating, to love the seashore. We had wonderful vacations. He also taught me that once you start something, you need to complete it – if you are committed to doing something you need to follow through on it. He taught me the importance of planning things out and being prepared with your tools before you start a project – which I never do but I know I should. My father had everything laid out…the value of organizing your thoughts and speaking clearly, using words that really do express what you are thinking. He taught me the importance of words. How valuable the impact of words is, how it can sway people one way or the other.

JG: When did you start to catch the historian bug about Bainbridge Island and our legacy with WWII?

MW: In college – Dr. Edwards, American History. My senior thesis was on the west coast newspaper reaction to the exclusion. So that’s where it really started, when I tried to get those thoughts together.

JG: What led you to research and write In Defense of Our Neighbors; the Walt and Milly Woodward Story?

MW: Joan Piper, who was then the executive director of the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, worked at it for probably 3 years. “Mary, this is an important story, we need to hear it, and you are the one who has to write it.” So, she finally won. But it was daunting, thinking about writing a book. You have to be spare in choosing your words, you can’t just throw in all the adjectives, you want to find the one noun that says it. I loved that process once I got into it.

JG: What were some of your greatest surprises or “aha’s” about our Island’s history, heritage, and community, that you uncovered while writing the book that you were not quite aware of previously?

MW: I think I became more aware that there were so many others who were ready to step up and help their neighbor – they didn’t think about it; like Mrs. Norman, and Shigeko Kitamoto; she was her beautiful, tall friend. And she says in (the documentary) “Visible Target”: “I didn’t know how to help my friend. I didn’t know what to do.” There were people like that all over the Island. I’ve said I don’t think my parents changed minds. I don’t think somebody reading the Review went, “Oh my gosh, I hadn’t thought of that!” But they made it ok to talk about it so people made up their own minds.

JG: What do you think your parents would think of Bainbridge Island today?

MW: Well, you know I’ve often thought of that. Oh my gosh, the changes since the 1980’s. But my Mother was born in 1909. She went from total dirt roads and how many different schools, to one high school, and paved roads, and then T&C, which must have been huge for her going from Eagle Harbor Market, which was this lovely, small grocery. She experienced almost a century of changes on Bainbridge.

JG: What elements of community have you experienced on Bainbridge that you feel have a continuum that has carried on through today? Aspects, values, of community?

MW: I think the one that strikes me most is that it was impossible to be anonymous growing up on Bainbridge, because the adults either knew you, or they knew your parents – it wasn’t intentional, but we didn’t go into Vern’s drugs and steal because Linda Amdahl’s mother worked there. We didn’t want to disappoint her. Mr. Beemer in the hardware store would take a kid back – “I know your parents, next time you do this, I’m going to call them up…” he would really read them the riot act. People cared about the kids in the community and they knew them. Today, it’s impossible to know all of the kids, but I see so many, just like the water polo program – that have developed a whole community of adults who know them and care about them. And those kids know it. There are some kids who don’t have that connection and it is possible for them to be anonymous. But that is something that has carried through, I think that’s an element – Bainbridge cares about its kids and always has and we demonstrate it in a different way and we’re dealing with a larger population of kids. I still see that as significant.

JG: What do you think your parents would make of how our Island community is embracing the legacy of WWII and Japanese American Exclusion in 2015?

MW: They would be over the moon for so many reasons; certainly for the recognition of the unconstitutionality of 9066. That was the reason they objected to it. They did not object to it because these nice people were being rounded up and sent away. It’s that it was unconstitutional, and it’s not ambiguous at all. It’s hard to read the three principal elements of the constitution that were violated by 9066. It’s difficult to read the simple sentences that describe that and wonder, ‘how could someone be confused by this? How could it not be clear?’ Somehow the President on down, they figured out ways to say it was ok.

JG: What does it mean to you to have a Woodward Middle School on Bainbridge Island?

MW: Well, I used to never say it – it was always the Middle School, for about 5 years. I couldn’t say it – it seemed so weird. It’s wonderful. And we are going to start working with a more concentrated effort to tie the Woodward story to Woodward Middle School the way they have done so beautifully at Sakai.

JG: How does it feel to be serving as president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community?

MW: Well, it’s quite an honor. I remember when Frank Kitamoto nominated me for vice president. That was the honor, that Frank nominated me. I thought, of course, an occasional meeting – I can do that. And then the situation changed. We’re branching out a little, trying to work more with the multicultural committee from the schools, we want to see if we can get, once a year, a speaker who might talk to small groups or larger groups. It was wonderful to support what BPA and David Guterson did, it was a wonderful experience, with Snow Falling on Cedars. That was an honor. There are times when I think I should probably research a little more how others feel about this. I’m delighted to do it but I don’t want to offend, particularly the elders.

JG: What has it been like filling the shoes of Frank Kitamoto?

MW: Impossible – I don’t try to do that. We’re just going forward, using him always as our touchstone, our inspiration.

JG: What do civil liberties mean to you in the year 2015?

MW: Civil liberties are the rights we have under the government, the rights that are protected by the constitution.

JG: So when you think about the civil liberties your parents stood up for during WWII, what do civil liberties look like today in your eyes?

MW: Pretty much the same, it just depends on who the marginalized group is. The reason that we now have an apology from a President of the United States for an action by the United States government – which I think is unique, that the government actually apologized – the reason that we have the apology is that within 40 years, this marginalized group that had no money, and no political supporters, by 1980 had a lot of money, and Patsy Mink and Daniel Inouye, and others were holding high political office. Now if the Mexicans coming can accomplish that in 40 years they’ll be the same. But it’s money. Arab Americans and people coming from Mexico are being treated the same way we treated the Japanese – they are being marginalized.

JG: What has it been like to work with so many students from Bainbridge Island and around the Puget Sound who are studying WWII and Japanese American Exclusion?

MW: It’s been wonderful. It’s been fun, and challenging. Teachers like Bill Covert and his class who came in prepared, they knew what their assignment was – we just helped them find the research, and that was encouraging to me as a teacher. We’ve had kids come from Texas, and Colorado, so it’s not just Bainbridge.

JG: What do you think makes Bainbridge Island such a meaningful landscape and setting for telling this particular story?

MW: One thing that it does highlight – a pioneer group has a specific area where they live and to those outside they become “the other” – their dress is weird and they talk funny and they eat strange food. On Bainbridge, what happened in the 20’s – the big mill closed and people had to find work. Yama, which was the Japanese enclave at the mill – didn’t move someplace else, so there was no Japantown. They had neighbors who were Finnish, or Croatian, and in most instances, I think that’s what created the whole interweaving of support and real friendship. And one thing Tom Ikeda of Densho has said is there were similar situations between Filipino farmers who had come later working for the Japanese farmers. But he has not seen in other communities the friendships between the Filipino farmhands and their employers, so that’s different on Bainbridge. To me that’s really remarkable. That shows so clearly that once you get to know somebody, it doesn’t matter what they look like. “Riceballs – oh yeah, my daughter brought one of those home when she was visiting – those are really good.” You have to assimilate – once your kids start playing together – that’s the beginning of the end for racists.

JG: What has it been like for you to be part of OWWCC’s delegations to Manzanar?

MW: It has been wonderful – such a privilege. Personally, I am amazed at how affected I am every year I have the opportunity to visit either Minidoka or Manzanar. I thought the first time I got off the bus at Minidoka and burst into tears – “Ok that’s important, now we’ve done that,”; but it’s the same every time. The sacredness of the camps, the joy we found in locating block 3 at Manzanar – I can’t express how joyous that was. And to listen to Kay Nakao and Lilly and Frank Kitamoto talking about where their doors were in relation to each other – it was just mind blowing. Wow, they’re talking about where their cells were in relation to each other. It was remarkable. And the opportunity to talk with educators and see their excitement at uncovering things. We’ve had a couple times where actually things were discovered that the Rangers didn’t know were there, and these were teachers. Can you imagine the inspiration that that brings into the classroom? It‘s a wonderful group of people all the way around, every time. Just to get to know Alisa and all the knowledge she has about interpretation and we can use her skills in putting together our interpretation at the memorial wall, on so many grounds, it’s a wonderful experience.

JG: Where do you see the impact of OWWCC in schools and communities on Bainbridge Island and beyond?

MW: The ripples in a pond…it’s just going to keep growing. I see kids now, 8th graders, who say, “oh, at Sakai we learned…”, “I know you from Sakai…” We’re building this, we keep building. It’s becoming commonplace to know about the exclusion on Bainbridge. It wasn’t taught when I was in school. None of my classmates knew about it, including people whose parents hadn’t  talked with their kids. So, it’s like night and day.

JG: What was it like to witness that transitional time between when no one talked about it and then they began to?

MW: It’s been interesting, and within the BIJAC community. Many Nisei in particular, say “don’t want to make waves…we want to be good citizens…” But now, for example, the Memorial – people see their name, their relatives have come and been to the wall. They see what an impact it has on people, whether they know anything about it or not. Whether they know all about their family and they can find their Auntie on the wall, to those who know nothing about it, they learn a bit.

JG: What do you think Bainbridge Island as a community has learned over the past 70 years since WWII and Japanese exclusion that we need to carry into the next 70 years?

MW: I hope we have internalized it. We certainly have learned a lot of the facts. We will see in the future if we really carry the principles of justice and civil rights. I think (the recent production of) Snow Falling on Cedars showed us that we are curious, and want to know more, and we have begun to talk about it as a community. I saw the enthusiasm – you had these little groups that came to the library, and the bookstore; it was delightful, because there were folks I’d known forever, and then there were new folks. Talking about it is good, and I think we are beginning to learn that. So maybe we will be more willing in the future to tackle a difficult issue like this. I think we have learned that it’s important to include in discussions the whole Island, to not pick and choose. I think we need to have it open to whomever wants to show up, include their information and their questions. So in essence I think that we are more willing to discuss it as a community.

JG: It’s not one group’s stories – it’s all of our stories.

MW: Right, I think we’re recognizing that. At the time, in 1942, the whole Island had vegetable gardens – it was a poor community. Although there were many, many rich people who lived at the end of very long driveways. And they were delightful people and they contributed to the community, and it was more homogeneous than it is now. We do have people who hide behind gates, and economics have gotten in the way. We don’t have too many jobs on this Island. It used to be that everybody worked on the Island except for the few who worked in Seattle. And now everybody goes to work there. So in that sense we’re getting farther away from everybody joining in on one thing. We learned we need to discuss things and I think people are more willing to do that. I think we’ve learned that the contributions from not only the adults are important. We’ve recognized that kids have a lot to offer to any topic, but certainly to this. In many ways, the kids are leading the Island in understanding.

JG: What are the stories that you hope that we as a community are still telling 70 years from now about the experience of WWII and the legacy of Japanese American exclusion?

MW: A major story that I hope we are telling is that it was not just Milly and Walt Woodward who are these iconic newspaper publishers, but it was Bainbridge Island. They made it possible for us to join together. They didn’t create that. There are so many other people, the list can go on…the Bucklins…Bucklin Hill…they stored the Sakai’s rugs. The Hydes took care of the Nishimori’s dishes. Little things like that, but it was all over the Island, it was not just Milly and Walt, it was everybody. And, the same coming home. Johnny Nakata did call and speak with mother, and say, “should we come home? I’ve got boys. What’s going to happen to them?” And my Mother responded, with, as my father would have; “Yes, you need to come home.” And they did. People had gotten to know one another, and whether or not they look different, that’s your neighbor, and you get to know your neighbor. That’s a really important one that talks to so many things. That talks to the importance of words – my folks did not refer to the Japanese community as “Japs.” My folks tried to use the words that they felt would say what they needed to say. Japanese is a really long word to have in a headline, Jap is much more concise, but it doesn’t serve it well. The power of words – I hope that is something we’re still talking about. And the symbolism of locking up people because they might be a threat. How dangerous is that? To say, “you’re going to lose your citizenship if you go back to Japan.” That’s scary. How do you lose your citizenship unless you renounce it? You can’t do that. They’re talking about doing that in Arizona. To children, native born, whose parents are not citizens. Taking away their citizenship. I hope we’ve learned that lesson. I hope that we’ve learned that there can be dissention within a community and the community can heal from that. We’re taking steps in that direction and its really encouraging because Islanders are Islanders and we don’t want to shut out any Islander from a discussion. And I think we might be closer to that.

 

Exclusion Tag Project

A student adds his completed Exclusion Tag to the display outside BPA following the Snow Falling on Cedars special school matinee performance.

A student adds his completed Exclusion Tag to the display outside BPA following the Snow Falling on Cedars special school matinee performance.

The Exclusion Tag Project was created as part of the community conversation surrounding Bainbridge Performing Arts’ production of David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars. Audience members – middle school and high school students as well as adults – were invited to share how the experience of exclusion relates to their own life, by recording their answers on a tag that is very similar to those that were issued to Japanese Americans during the exclusion experience of WWII.

A middle school teacher and student add their tags to the display.

A Sakai Intermediate School teacher and student add their tags to the display.

Completed tags with the recorded comments were on display in the BPA lobby throughout the run of Snow Falling on Cedars, and subsequently at Waterfront Park Community Center. They will be archived at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum as the “2015 Exclusion Tag Community Project.”

The following are examples of comments recorded on the tags, by both students and adults. Although the author’s names were voluntarily included on many of the tags, we have chosen to publish them anonymously.

“My beloved grandparents, Bella and Willie, survived the Holocaust. They were Polish Jews who were forced to abandon family and flee to Russia and ‘Middle Asia’ (as they always called it) for the years of the war from 1939 on. They lost family and had to wander through Europe working their way to the U.S. in 1951 to start anew. They never wished for anyone to have such an experience ever again.”

“People of color being pulled off a train I travelled for several months in 2002 from Ontario to NY State when we crossed from Canada to U.S.”

“During WWII, Japan also bombed the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. My father’s family members were Aleutians and the U.S. Government thought, as they looked Asian, they might be sympathetic. Aleutians were moved to an internment camp in Adak Island. My father was born there. In the late ‘80’s, the U.S. government paid the interned Aleutians $10,000 for loss of homes and livelihood.”

“I see the media’s impact on our society’s view of Muslims given the events in the Middle East. And I feel my own exclusion targeted toward those who are intolerant.”

“Being vegan and an atheist, people often tease and make fun of my beliefs and way of life. Most people whom I’ve talked about being vegan with show prejudice (a lot) toward me and my family. It’s interesting because people don’t make fun of Christians (usually) but they do of me.”

“My mother was incarcerated during the Japanese American Exclusion. I fear how quickly we seem to forget the injustice on a family, community, regional, national and global level.”

“I have had moments where some of my family members have faced racial intolerance.”

“The time I remember I was excluded was when I was in the 1st grade and we were doing a class activity and I was extremely shy. No one talked to me and if they did, they would tease me. I made only one best friend.”

“I have felt excluded during school from the “popular group.” I have also felt excluded by my older brother and his friends.”

“Two of my uncles, both German immigrants, were interned, one at Fort Lincoln, Bismark, ND, the other with his family (pregnant wife and 3 children) at Crystal City, TX. A book, The Train to Crystal City, is based on interviews with my cousin.”

“My son was bullied because he was different – other children were intolerant of his differences and made fun of him. This bullying only makes him feel ashamed and angry which affects community – by causing a citizen to be less effective and tolerant of others.”

“As a child growing up in Missoula, MT, I was surrounded and aware of many American Indians. I saw the film “Little Big Man” and became ashamed of what white people did to the American Indians. I wanted to be Indian, not white, so I dressed as a Lakota Sioux, in 7th grade. I was ridiculed for dressing that way until I gave up and quit dressing like an Indian.”

“I am hated by many. I am only good at one thing, music. I am excluded from many groups of people.”

“My parents were sent to the Heart Mountain, WY Internment Camp. They returned to California with perseverance and resolve. From them, I learned that life may not be fair, but people can be. Your conscience tells you when something isn’t fair. Speak up against injustice – be the voice for the voiceless. Make Walt and Millie proud!”

“I went over to my friend’s at age 8 and everyone was on a trampoline. I asked if I could join them. They told me they hated me and to go home.”

“I won’t forget the potential for injustice that arises from fear. This memorial will help me and others to learn acceptance and generosity, no matter how tempting it is to be afraid and selfish.”

“Intolerance that I’ve felt during my life – the fact that people don’t like people who don’t fit into society. Such as the smart, quiet people who are always the target of general society because they aren’t physically able or just don’t like conversing, are cast out from others.”

“My small concerns and worries are nothing, a little spilled water or a smudge on furniture, fixed instantly. I hope I learn the lessons of patience, endurance, resiliency.”

“We are surrounded still by exclusion and intolerance. It plays out nationally and locally. We are immersed in examples. Plays, art, events like this help us see. Thank you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOPS Student’s Poem Inspired by OWWCC Visit

EduCulture's Jon Garfunkel takes TOPS 8th graders from Seattle on a tour of Historic Suyematsu Farm as part of our Only What We Can Carry (OWWCC) heritage education program.

Spring 2015; EduCulture’s Jon Garfunkel takes TOPS 8th graders from Seattle on a tour of Historic Suyematsu Farm as part of our Only What We Can Carry (OWWCC) heritage education program.

Seattle 8th grade TOPS student Ada Rosen was inspired to write this poem after her visit to   Bainbridge Island on April 29, 2015 to learn more about Japanese American Exclusion during WWII. The students from The Options Program at Seward made their annual visit to Bainbridge Island in April. As part of the OWWCC heritage education program conducted jointly through Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and EduCulture, students toured Historic Suyematsu Farm, had the opportunity to have lunch and talk with elders who had experienced exclusion, viewed the documentary Visible Target, and visited the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. Thank you to Ada for generously sharing her poem.

American Dream (Incarceration)

by Ada Rosen

Thousands of feet step onto new land
Stoic faces hiding broken hearts
Can’t go home, can’t cry out, can’t fight back
Won’t fight back

 

Can you imagine fitting your home in a handbag?
What do you pack for a destination unknown?
These kids have never even been off the island
Isn’t camp supposed to be fun?

 

 We all came here to live the American dream
For some of us it’s easier
Those who can fit in don’t get singled out
It’s easy to live freely when you are white

 

At the camps they sleep in animal stalls
What does that say about their humanity?
Every day they line up for their meals
Then once again to get sick in the restrooms

 

 Theresa never got to meet her little brother
The first time she saw him was the day of his funeral
You’re lucky if your parents have a good job
And can afford to buy you postcards

 

Suicides in the river are a regular occurrence
The only way you can control your life is by taking it
Maybe you can catch a glimpse of freedom through the barbed wire
And the kids still think they are on vacation

 

Then it’s over
Uprooted again in the name of release
Staying in camp might be better than facing the real world
Is my family supposed to live off twenty five dollars?

 

It was better to bury the past
But I’m glad we’re talking about it now
Those who fail to learn from history
Are doomed to repeat it
Repeat it
Repeat it

students and elders

EduCulture Partners in “Snow Falling on Cedars” Events

Jon Garfunkel of EduCulture gives a Historical Museum tour to cast members of Snow Falling on Cedars.

EduCulture’s Jon Garfunkel works with the cast members of Snow Falling on Cedars at Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

Only What We Can Carry (OWWCC), EduCulture’s heritage and human rights education program, is excited to be partnering with Bainbridge Performing Arts (BPA) and other Island organizations in a full menu of educational activities surrounding and supporting the BPA stage adaptation of the book Snow Falling on Cedars, written by Bainbridge Island author David Guterson. OWWCC will be involved in numerous pre and post-show events throughout the months of February and March 2015. 

Cast members discuss the story and look over related artifacts at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

Cast members discuss the story and look over related artifacts at the Historical Museum.

 

Click here to read an Inside Bainbridge article about the production and EduCulture’s involvement.

Having this play produced and performed on Bainbridge Island presents a special opportunity to make many connections with this locally grown story. As many know, the historical context in which the novel takes place surrounds WWII and the Japanese American Exclusion, and the Pacific Northwest setting for the story is drawn from our own Island’s heritage.

EduCulture is partnering with BPA and other community organizations to help facilitate a series of educational outreach opportunities for local schools and the wider community during February and March. Related events in which we will be involved include:

– Meeting with cast members at Bainbridge Historical Museum and Suyematsu Historic Farm to serve as a resource for them and to discuss the “real” story of Japanese American Exclusion behind the fictional account.

– Japanese American Exclusion Film Talks at the Bainbridge Public Library; February 27; 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

– First Friday Art Walk at the BPA Gallery; “Ansel Adams – A Portrait of Manzanar”; March 6; 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Exhibit ongoing in the BPA Gallery through March 31.

– Post-Show Discussions; Snow Falling on Cedars; EduCulture will lead post-performance “talk backs” with cast members and Bainbridge Islanders who lived through WWII and Japanese American Exclusion. Discussions, in a Q&A format, will be facilitated by EduCulture’s Only What We Can Carry Project, and will feature esteemed local guests such as Kay Sakai Nakao, Mary Woodward, and Lilly Kitamoto Kodama. March 15, 22, and 29 following the 3:00 Sunday matinee.

– Assisting with special matinee performances of Snow Falling On Cedars for local middle school and high school students; March 26, including facilitating pre and post-show classroom and curricular activities focusing on the real stories behind this fictional account of WWII and Japanese American Exclusion.

– Partnering on a new “Exclusion Tag Project.” As part of the community conversation surrounding Bainbridge Performing Arts’ production of Snow Falling on Cedars, you are invited to share how the experience of exclusion relates to your own life by recording your comments on replicas of identification tags similar to those that were issued to Japanese Americans during the Japanese American exclusion experience. Completed tags with your recorded comments will be displayed in the BPA lobby throughout the run of the performance. They will subsequently be archived at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum as the “2015 Exclusion Tag Community Project.”

For more information on this rich program of events, please follow this link to Bainbridge Performing Arts.

Check out our Facebook page for more about the Snow Falling on Cedars cast & activities.

Also, check out the upcoming edition of Currents Magazine published by the BI Arts & Humanities Council for more about these special programs.

We also invite you to visit our new Snow Falling on Cedars page in the OWWCC section of our website for a list of references and resources for further study of the realities that informed this fictional account of WWII and the Japanese American experience of exclusion.

Hope to see you at a Snow Falling on Cedars production and at the many events surrounding these performances.