The Future of Farming is on Bainbridge Island Vireo Farm brings Hydroponic Agriculture to Kitsap County

February 1, 2019

Mark, Tracy, Quinn and Heather Sign the Vireo Lease-SM.jpg

Friends of the Farms has just signed a 21 year lease with Mark Taylor and Tracy Lang of Vireo Farms, allowing them to build a hydroponic farming facility on publicly owned farmland managed by the nonprofit on behalf of the City of Bainbridge Island. Mark and Tracy, residents of B.I. have a prototype in their home and are already selling fresh, local greens to several restaurants on the island.

Amid ever-growing concerns about climate change and the effects of industrial agriculture, the move toward local, sustainable produce is increasingly important. Friends of the Farms is leading the charge by managing sustainable, city-run farmland, and searching for fresh approaches to what locally grown food looks like.

Vireo Farm, once fully constructed, will be an 1,800 sq ft facility capable of holding 8,500 plants. The hydroponic process is so efficient that they expect to harvest 1,500 to 1,800 plants per week, starting with heirloom lettuce, basil, bok choy, arugula, and other herbs.

Using organic seed and growing media, Vireo Farm aims to provide the freshest possible food, of the highest quality, year-round while simultaneously reducing transportation costs, energy consumption and packaging waste.

To eat local, communities must support local farmers. Friends of the Farms is at the forefront of this movement managing over 60 acres of publicly owned farmland, and a new hydroponic facility that will help nourish the community. Vireo Farm is the future of farming.

True Confessions of a Former Farmer

By Rik Langendoen

OK, I confess I am a bit fanatic about what I eat.
(Some would say I am more than a bit fanatic…).
In my defense, I believe I have five good reasons:

  1. Life is blasting by waaaaayyy too fast;

  2. I, therefore, want to be here on this Earth for as long as possible;

  3. I have lost family members and friends to various diseases;

  4. I want to be able to live life to its fullest by having both a happy body and mind; and

  5. I am the healthiest I have ever been since focusing on what I eat.

I grew up on a small family-operated dairy farm here in Washington State. We raised much of our own food using what are considered today to be sustainable methods.

I didn’t know how fortunate I was at the time.

Did you know that much of the food we buy in our local grocery stores is much less nutritious than the food our parents and grandparents ate?

→Several years ago a Scientific American EarthTalk article entitled “Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?” summarized the results of landmark studies that showed a significant decline in nutritional value of commercially-grown food over the past century.

“The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows.”

Sadly, each successive generation of the food you eat is less good for you than the one before.

The article concluded the “key to healthier produce is healthier soil by alternating fields between growing seasons to give land time to restore would be one important step. Foregoing pesticides and fertilizers in favor of organic growing methods is good for the soil, the produce and its consumers. Those who want to get the most nutritious fruits and vegetables should buy regularly from local organic farmers.”

Did you also know it is estimated less than one percent of the Bainbridge Island population purchases locally-grown food? (If we don’t buy from them, we could lose them…).

And most if not all the local farmers use organic farming methods, even if they are not certified organic due to the cost, time and/or effort of obtaining the certification.

I know what you are thinking: Locally-grown food is more expensive than off-island commercially-grown food. But based on the above-mentioned studies, you are getting what you pay for.

In my next article I will tell you even more important reasons for eating locally grown food (I think you will be surprised; there was a hint earlier in this article…).

In addition, you can buy food directly from the farmers, which reduces the cost. If you want to learn more:
Until next time, enjoy this last blast of winter.

Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken

Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken

From Heather Burger

I recently watched Samin Nosrat's Netflix series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.  It's a delight.  A welcome departure from the now ubiquitous "cooking" shows challenging chefs to prepare a dish in 10 minutes combining ingredients like jellied eel, brie, pickled okra, and caramel corn.

Nosrat's series is a primer in how by mastering four elements anyone can prepare delicious meals at home.  Her recipe for buttermilk-brined roast chicken has three ingredients transformed by salt, fat, acid, and heat into a masterpiece easy enough for a weeknight dinner or a picnic lunch, but impressive enough for guests.
Get a local chicken from the Hey Day Farm Store or Bay Hay & Feed.  Use Grace Harbor buttermilk, which is full-fat and cream top, from a Pacific Northwest creamery.  Available at Town & Country.

Heather Burger, Executive Director
Friends of the Farms

Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken

by Samin Nosrat

3½- to 4-pound chicken (about 1.5 kilograms)
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml)

The day before you want to cook the chicken, remove the wingtips by cutting through the first wing joint with poultry shears or a sharp knife. Reserve for stock. Season the chicken generously with salt and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Stir 2 tablespoons of kosher salt or 4 teaspoons fine sea salt into the buttermilk to dissolve. Place the chicken in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and pour in the buttermilk. If the chicken won’t fit in a gallon-size bag, double up two plastic produce bags to prevent leakage and tie the bag with a piece of twine.

Seal it, squish the buttermilk all around the chicken, place on a rimmed plate, and refrigerate. If you’re so inclined, over the next 24 hours you can turn the bag so every part of the chicken gets marinated, but that’s not essential.
Pull the chicken from the fridge an hour before you plan to cook it. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C), with a rack set in the center position.

Remove the chicken from the plastic bag and scrape off as much buttermilk as you can without being obsessive. Tightly tie together the legs of the chicken with a piece of butcher’s twine. Place the chicken in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or shallow roasting pan.

Slide the pan all the way to the back of the oven on the center rack. Rotate the pan so that the legs are pointing toward the rear left corner and the breast is pointing toward the center of the oven (the back corners tend to be the hottest spots in the oven, so this orientation protects the breast from overcooking before the legs are done). Pretty soon you should hear the chicken sizzling.

After about 20 minutes, when the chicken starts to brown, reduce the heat to 400°F and continue roasting for 10 minutes and then move the pan so the legs are facing the back right corner of the oven.

Continue cooking for another 30 minutes or so, until the chicken is brown all over and the juices run clear when you insert a knife down to the bone between the leg and the thigh.

When the chicken’s done, remove it to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Link to recipe:
Link to video on preparation:

Pickled Radishes!

Pickled Radishes!!
Time to shop at the farmers market.

Recently a dear friend and local foodie gave us a copy of Joshua McFadden’s new book called Six Seasons. His trattoria Ava Gene’s in Portland, Oregon we hear is a must-go-to. When I first cracked it open the page said ‘Pickles: Six Seasons in a Jar.' I was intrigued because pickling radishes had been on my mind since eyeing Persephone Farm’s bright red radishes at the previous Saturday’s Bainbridge Island Farmers Market. I returned last Saturday, bought four beautiful bunches from Rebecca Slattery, the Farm’s owner, went home and made this very straightforward recipe. Almost immediately, you can start enjoying these marvelous morsels in sandwiches, salads or straight out of the jar with a nicely chilled Sauvignon Blanc.

From Six Seasons:
This makes enough brine for about 3 pints of pickles.

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt ( I use Jacobsen Salt)

Mix together until all dissolved. Pack your cleaned & trimmed radishes in clean canning type jars, fill with the brine to cover, screw on lid. I kept most whole and a few sliced in half for ‘effect.' You are done! Put in frig for up to 2 months.

Guest Blogger
Robert Ross
Friends of the Farms Volunteer