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Berry happy returns: New farmers keep 100-year-old Bainbridge farm up and running

Weston is in charge of cleaning the blueberry buckets for the Bainbridge Island Blueberry Company. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Weston is in charge of cleaning the blueberry buckets for the Bainbridge Island Blueberry Company.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Farming is a Bainbridge Island heritage. So when one island woman saw the remote possibility that one farm could be paved over, she wasted no time and took action.

Last spring, Stacy Lewars was driving home when she passed freshly planted “For Sale” signs in front of the U-pick blueberry and dahlia farm on Madison Avenue. As she continued to drive on, her mind began to conjure up images of developers tearing up the farm to build homes and other worst-case-scenarios.

“I kind of freaked out when I saw the real estate flier up,” Lewars said. “It was sheer panic.”

“In my mind I saw a developer buying all eight acres and putting up eight homes,” she added.

It wasn’t long before she couldn’t drive any further. She turned back.

“I hit the brakes and did a U-turn, Lewars said. “I got out of my car, and looked at the real estate listing.”

The farm was special to Lewars and her family. They had frequented the U-pick farm for years. It was where they would often bring friends and family.

“We would go every year,” Lewars said. “We loved it. We would always take our out-of-town friends.”

Now that the farm was ripe for the picking, she wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be swallowed up as a new subdivision.

Lewars sat her husband down, Dylan Tomine. They went over every possible hurdle that they would have to clear to get into the blueberry business.

“We stayed up until 2 in the morning with every possible question to talk with the Wilsons about,” she said.

The Wilsons, the family that had owned the property for more than 100 years, were selling the land. It had been a holly farm for decades, but more recently had been converted into a blueberry and dahlia farm.

“It was a huge decision for us, not being farmers,” Lewars said. “It’s not as though I grew up wanting to be a farmer.”

It wasn’t long before papers were signed, and Lewars, a lighting designer, and Tomine, a writer, were in the business of blueberries.

Lewars didn’t waste any time and took advantage of the Wilsons’ knowledge.

“We started right away, actually even before we bought it,” Lewars said. “I did two internships working with the Wilsons.”

Working over part of summer and into the fall, the new island farmers learned the trade.

Now, with the farm continuing as it has for more than a century, it is set to open for yet another season. Families can continue to come, as Lewars did with hers, and spend time together, filling baskets with blueberries.

Lewars hopes that the berries will be ripe within the next week.

“When they are about 50 percent ripe then we can let people come in and pick,” Lewars said.

When the berries are ready, the farm, now under the title Bainbridge Island Blueberry Company, will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. Over the summer, the farm will stay open until 7 p.m. Fridays for family nights.

The farm is located at 11054 Madison Avenue NE.

Islanders can call the farm’s hotline to get updates on the berries’ progress at 206-855-0947, or check their website at www.bain

bridgeblueberry.com.

According to Lewars, they’ll be ready any day now.

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