Akio Suyematsu Finalist for Renaming Wilkes School

In Fall 2022, the Bainbridge Island School District began the process of renaming the Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary School. This week, the school district Renaming Committee announced that Akio Suyematsu Elementary was one of three final names, from 89 that were submitted to the School Board, who will select the new name of the school on March 30, 2023.

Akio Suyematsu (1921-2012) was born, raised, and educated on Bainbridge Island.  He was an Island resident his entire life, except for the years of Japanese American exclusion, and his service in the United States Army (1942-47). Akio Suyematsu was born on the north end of Bainbridge Island, and spent his formative years living on the current site of Wilkes Elementary, which his family leased and farmed from approximately 1922-1930. (The Washington Alien Land Bill of 1921 prohibited non-white immigrants from buying or owning land.)   From 1928-2012, Akio lived and farmed on the forty-acre property his family purchased neighboring the current site of Wilkes Elementary. 

From the late 1920’s-1942, Akio attended Olympic Grade School, Lincoln School, and Bainbridge High School.  At BHS, Akio was a star baseball player for all four years, and a letterman for three years.  He excelled in building trades courses under the tutelage of Mr. Morley, which had a direct influence on his professional life as a farmer and becoming a jack of all trades. Akio was in the Class of 1942, and one of thirteen Japanese American BHS Students to graduate while exiled and incarcerated at Manzanar concentration camp in California.

During WWII, the Suyematsu Family were incarcerated in the Manzanar and Minidoka concentration camps.  In 1943, Akio was drafted by the U.S. Army, and served in Europe at the end of the war.  In 1947, he returned to Bainbridge Island and helped his family reclaim their farm and livelihoods.  The Suyematsus were one of the few Japanese American families to carry on with farming on Bainbridge Island after returning from exile.  

Today, the forty acres of Suyematsu Family Farm is one of the oldest, continuously farmed working landscapes in the region, and the largest production farm in Kitsap County.  It is the hub of our Island’s farming community and a treasured and iconic cultural asset.  Since the period of Japanese American Exclusion, Suyematsu Family Farm has become one of the most inclusive places on Bainbridge Island.  The farm has become an established historic and cultural site for teaching and learning about the Japanese American experience, and a living bookend to the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial. 

From 2006-2019, Suyematsu Farm served as an outdoor classroom for Wilkes Elementary, had vibrant farm-school partnership with Suyematsu Farm integrated into the K-4 curriculum, with every class coming to the farm up to four times a year.  A dedicated path was built for Wilkes students to walk to and from the farm.  Wilkes teachers spoke at Akio’s Celebration of Life.

In 2011, Akio Suyematsu became the first local farmer, and alumnus, to have a contract with BISD food program, purchasing 300 pounds of Suyematsu Farm raspberries each year for a yogurt & granola parfait, served to Wilkes students and others throughout the school year- making Suyematsu Farm and Wilkes Elementary one of the closest farm to school relationships in the region.

Click here for more information from the Bainbridge Island School District.

Announcing the Suyematsu Farm Legacy Alliance

In Winter 2023, a coalition of stakeholders, concerned over the current and future state of historic Suyematsu Family Farm have organized to form the Suyematsu Farm Legacy Alliance, dedicated to preserving and enhancing the living legacy and heritage of Akio Suyematsu and his family’s original farm as a community asset involving a center of active farming, interpretation and education.

The Suyematsu Farm Legacy Alliance (SFLA) includes:

  • Suyematsu & Bentryn Family Farmers Guild
  • The Suyematsu Family
  • Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC)
  • Indipino Community of Bainbridge Island and Vicinity
  • Bainbridge Preservation Community 
  • EduCulture & The Only What We Can Carry Project 

Founded in 1928, this forty acre property is one of the oldest, continuously farmed working landscapes in the region, the largest production farm on Bainbridge Island, and a unique private-public partnership. In 2001, Akio Suyematsu sold to the City of Bainbridge Island (COBI) the remaining fifteen-acres of his family farm.  Formal ownership of this property transferred to COBI upon Akio’s death in 2012. In 2016, the five acre family homestead was listed in the Bainbridge Island Historic Register and was dedicated as the Island’s first ever Historic Preservation District (HPD).  

The SFLA is committed to cultivating strong working relationships focused on honoring the legacy of historic Suyematsu Farm, with the aim of supporting the permanent preservation of the HPD, as well as, the surrounding city-owned working landscape within the original forty acres of historic Suyematsu Family Farm, in order to protect the living history and the agricultural and educational legacy of Akio Suyematsu.

The SFLA wants to see this community landmark realize its full potential as a cultural, interpretive, and educational center for teaching and learning about the history, culture and heritage of Akio Suyematsu, the Suyematsu Family, the Island’s larger agricultural heritage, and Japanese American and Indipino experiences on Bainbridge Island.  Current goals include stabilizing and restoring the Farm’s Historic Preservation District, placing the farm on State & National Historic Registers, and improving the welfare of the current farmers who are Akio Suyematsu’s agricultural legacy.  To help us achieve our goals, we are guided by Akio’s principles and traditions of “clean living” for generations to come. 

EduCulture is the fiscal sponsor of the SFLA.

Revisiting OWWCC Documentary: What They Could Carry…Return to Manzanar

On the 80th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and the forced removal of the Bainbridge Island Japanese community in March 1942, followed by their incarceration at the Manzanar concentration camp, we revisit our the short documentary, What They Could Carry…Return To Manzanar”, about our OWWCC 2012 Delegation to Manzanar, by filmmaker Brenda Berry.

OWWCC featured in BI History Museum Zoom Program, April 13, 2022

Our OWWCC 2009 Inaugural Delegation at the entrance to the former Manzanar War Relocation Center.

Authentically Teaching Bainbridge History: Delegation to Manzanar

April 13, 2022 at 11:30am, Wednesday – on Zoom

Join us to hear about the journey local teachers took to create their own stories through experiencing Manzanar alongside survivors.  Listen to perspectives from teachers, survivors and co-directors of the Only What We Can Carry Project (OWWCC), who have facilitated the past five delegations. 

Panelists:  Jonathan Garfunkel, Bill Covert and Lilly Kitamoto Kodama

The Bainbridge Island Senior/Community Center hosts this online program series in collaboration with the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

You can watch the program, or click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSuUTBd18jA

Click on this link to view our short documentary on our 2012 OWWCC Delegation to Manzanar.

Akio Suyematsu Remembered in The Seattle Times for 80th Commemoration of EO 9066

On March 27, 2022, The Seattle Times published a series of stories about the Japanese American Exclusion during WWII on the 80th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066. Reporter Jackie Varriano wrote a feature story on one of our hero’s, Akio Suyematsu. EduCulture’s Jon Garfunkel assisted with research for this article. You can read this story and the other related features on other Bainbridge Islanders that have been a part of EduCulture and our Only What We Can Carry Project, such as Lilly Kodama and Vern Nakata, in The Seattle Times by clicking on the links below.

Click here to read: Meet Bainbridge Island’s last Japanese American farmer 
Suyematsu Farm wasn’t the first Japanese American farm or the largest, but Akio Suyematsu is known as the last Japanese American farmer on Bainbridge Island.  

Sunday, March 27, 2022
Dear readers: Throughout today’s editions of The Seattle Times, we offer a deep look at a painful chapter in U.S. history, the removal of Japanese Americans to incarceration camps. We also examine our 1942 news coverage of the event. 
A1 Revisited: The Seattle Times’ coverage of the 1942 removal of 227 Bainbridge residents left a harmful legacy 
Eighty years ago this week, the U.S. government sent Bainbridge Island’s Japanese-American residents to incarceration camps. Today we examine how The Seattle Times reported on the event. 
Why we must confront the racism and neglect of our own news pages 
We are deeply sorry for our harmful coverage of the incarceration of Japanese Americans and for the pain we caused in the past that still reverberates today. 
What we found when we examined our 1942 coverage of Executive Order 9066
On March 301942, Japanese American residents were forcibly removed from their homes. Here’s how the Seattle Times covered it and what we do differently today. 
For survivors of 1942’s forced removal from Bainbridge Island — and their descendants — the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial stands as a reminder to remember 
Eighty years ago, Bainbridge Island was the first location for the forced removal of Japanese Americans under the Civilian Exclusion Order.   
What life was like for Japanese Americans incarcerated at the Puyallup Fairgrounds 
Take a look inside the temporary camp at the Puyallup fairgrounds where thousands of Japanese Americans were incarcerated in 1942.  
Seattle’s Panama Hotel is a living museum of the Japanese American experience 
The Panama Hotel — built in 1910, still serving tea — held the belongings of incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII. The owner now hopes to create a museum. 


Jon Garfunkel Interviewed for The Seed Field Podcast

Through Eating, Sharing, and Studying Food We Can Build Sustainable Communities

The Seed Field Podcast, Antioch University, November 3, 2021, Episode S2E5

Do you know where your food comes from? Whether it is the food we are getting at a grocery store, farmer’s market, restaurant, or our backyard, understanding the way food is produced and the larger systems it is a part of can help us fight for more sustainable and equitable access to food. Scholar and dedicated food educator Jon Garfunkel talks with guest host Mair Allen about the ways that acts like reclaiming public spaces for gardening, having conversations with local food providers, and volunteering to help to feed your community can help us understand and correct problems in the food systems we currently depend on—both locally and globally.

Listen to the Podcast at: https://seedfield.antioch.edu/2021/s2e5-through-eating-sharing-and-studying-food-we-can-build-sustainable-communities/

Farming Bainbridge: Voices Past & Present, Zoom Discussion, Sept. 22, 2021

Join us for this panel discussion to hear some history of local farming and how it has changed over time.  Hear stories of Island strawberry fields and perspectives about food and farming today. September 22, 2021, 7-8p.

Panelists: Hisa Hayashida Matsudaira, Jon Garfunkel, and Brian MacWhorter

The Bainbridge Island Library hosts this program in collaboration with BIHM.

To enjoy the program, go to https://krl.zoom.us/j/96907549766

Congrats to the LEE Graduating Class of 2019

LEE 2019 Cohort Graduation
LEE Cohort Celebrating at our Graduation Dinner, Maneki Restaurant, June 2019

Our Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program is pleased to announce the graduation of our 2018-2019 program cohort. In the photograph above, L-R, are graduates Sarah Bethell, Ashley Redfern, Haley Rutherford, Niallah Cooper-Scruggs, Kelly Powers, and Kim Hardman, at our Graduation Dinner at Maneki Restaurant in Seattle, with their LEE Certificates of Completion. We couldn’t be more proud and excited for what these six students accomplished over the past year to become fully engaged practitioners in edible education. We wish them well as they carry their LEE professional training and learning experiences out into the field.

Taking Applications for 2018-19 Leadership in Edible Education Program

EduCulture, in partnership with Antioch University Seattle, is proud to announce openings for the 2018-2019 cycle of our Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program (L.E.E.).  The LEE program, spread over four quarterly courses from Summer 2018-Spring 2019, is aimed at building the professional repertoire of those who seek to work in the field of edible education.  It’s open to formal and informal educators and other professionals who are interested in making a difference through edible education, in schools and the wider community. The program is now a formal concentration within Antioch University, making the first of its kind in a graduate program in education.

“I knew that I wanted to be a part of this food revolution, inspiring people to reclaim their birthright to eat healthy whole foods and understand how it was created. EduCulture guides us to create tangible food education programs adapting our ideas to the existing food network across the world. We observe pioneering education and we participate in practical field experiences. I love this program.” – Brian Gilbert, Cheesemonger & 2015-16 LEE Graduate

In the 21st century, edible education has become the vanguard and crossroads of many fields of education, from environmental to sustainability, social to global, experiential to vocational, outdoor to horticultural, health and nutrition to school lunch reform. Food is a topic of study that can be found across the curriculum and embedded, implicitly and explicitly, across standards and grade levels. Edible Education encompasses the entire way we think about food in schools, from wellness policies to the quality of school lunch, from the content of core curriculum to career and technical education, from school gardens to food waste recycling, and from the ecology of a school campus to our wider food community.

The first field course in the 2018-19 program, Education Towards Food & Community, begins Summer 2018.  Space is limited. Click here to learn more about the Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program.

OWWCC Makes Spring ’16 Delegation to Manzanar

IMG_1935This Spring, Only What We Can Carry Project took a group of current and former Bainbridge Islanders to the former Manzanar Relocation Center, a WWII concentration camp in the High Sierras of California where the Bainbridge Island Japanese American community were sent in March 1942.

This is OWWCC’s fifth Delegation to Manzanar, a community service project which pairs local educators, responsible for teaching and learning about the Japanese American experience of Exclusion, with Bainbridge Islanders who lived through that period, many whom were the age of the students whose teachers accompany them.  Our aim is help enhance and enrich the culture of a curriculum, school and community whose history is completely interwoven with this story.


What will be the living messages (the stories, the lessons learned, the practices, the hopes) that current and future generations will carry about the Japanese American Exclusion after this generation who lived through that WWII experience have passed?  OWWCC Delegations to Manzanar have been an opportunity for Bainbridge Islanders, those that lived through it and those now responsibility for teaching and learning about this subject, to wrestle with this question. These journeys of discovery have charted new educational territory for those who have participated.

This year, OWWCC brought three 11th American Studies educators from Bainbridge High School, Larry Holland, James Seemuller, and Kirrin Coleman.  This journey of bearing witness was timed to take place the week before they would be studying US Foreign Policy during WWII and Japanese American Exclusion with their students.

We were also honored to have Bainbridge Island School Distirct Superintendent, Faith Chapel, join us on this delegation.  A Japanese American, Faith’s parents were both interned and met in the Poston Relocation Center in Arizona.


The Bainbridge Island educators accompanied Matsue Nishimori Watanabe, along with her daughter Naomi, Frances Kitamoto Ikegami, and Victor Takemoto, whose families were forced to leave their homes on Bainbridge Island during WWII (pictured L-R in photo above). Mrs. Watanabe and Mr. Takemoto were in the freshman class of Bainbridge High School, and Mrs. Ikegami was five years old, in March 1942.  We are grateful to this community elders for their time and stories, so that we might better understand what it was like to walk in their shoes.  We deeply appreciate how they have chosen to share the challenges and woundedness of their youth, so that upcoming generations might learn from their tragedies and triumphs.

OWWCC Project Co-Directors, Katy Curtis and Jon Garfunkel guided the delegation.  Our group is grateful to the National Park Service staff at the Manzanar Historic Site, especially Chief of Interpretation, Alisa Lynch, who made our journey of discover so welcoming, engaging, lived and meaningful.

Click here to learn more about OWWCC’s Delegations to Manzanar.