'Edible landscape' feeds community

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Under the spring sun, shoots of green are beginning to pop up from dark soil.

At the Old Alcohol Plant Hotel in Port Hadlock, an edible landscape is coming to life.

Rows of flowers are beginning to grow and herbs are beginning to reach toward the sky, with the blue bay sparkling in the background. But it is also nutritious: lettuce, kale and radishes are coming up in terraced veggie gardens that overlook the bay, while fruit trees and berry bushes are blooming with the promise of sweetness in the future.

Local farmers Kira Mardikes and Patrick Ryland work the land in this garden, but they hope in the future to forge a community of people working the land together to benefit from the fruits and vegetables.

Mardikes and Ryland started farming together at Finnriver Farm. But in 2018, they met Gary and Susan Keister, owners of the Old Alcohol Plant and founders of Bayside Housing, who proposed the vision of an edible landscape on the property,  one that provides food as well as being beautiful.

The food Mardikes and Ryland grow now goes to the Old Alcohol Plant’s kitchens, where it is made into dishes served at Spirits Bar and Grill.

But produce also goes to residents of Bayside Housing, a transitional housing service at the hotel for those who are homeless.

Bayside is a grass-roots organization that developed in tandem with the Old Alcohol Plant Hotel in Port Hadlock. The restoration of the Old Alcohol Plant allowed for the creation of the non-profit, which receives funding from revenue generated by the hotel. As a result, 17 rooms in the hotel are available as transitional housing for homeless individuals and families.

Since opening in April 2016, Bayside has provided shelter to more than 80 people and transitioned 50 of those into more permanent housing situations. The hotel also provides job opportunities for people experiencing homelessness.

The community garden developed alongside the non-profit to provide produce for residents of Bayside, who might not have a steady income or be able to afford organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We also encourage residents to harvest food themselves,” Mardikes said. “Kale and raspberries are the most popular crops.” 

"It’s really fun to connect with residents who want to spend time in the garden.”

To create an edible landscape, Mardikes and Ryland have turned every inch of the property into a garden. There are lettuce patches and annual vegetables interspersed with herbs, orchard fruit, berry bushes and edible vines such as hops and goji berries. They also grow flowers throughout the garden.

The landscape not only provides nutrition and physical health for residents, but also joy, beauty and mental health.

“I think it’s something that a lot of people can feel subconsciously when they step on the property,” Ryland said. “We have a strong philosophy of building soil and the health of the soil. It permeates the whole experience of the place.”

The appreciation of a beautiful garden will come out in different ways, Mardikes said.

“People will focus on certain expressions of it, like expressing awe over a 13-foot sunflower,” she said. “Things are alive here. Things are thriving here.”

Before the governor’s "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order went into place, Mardikes and Ryland were planning to work with Bayside Housing to open the garden up as a community space with volunteers working the land and in return receiving fresh fruits and vegetables.

They still plan to do this, but have put the plan on hold until the order is lifted.

“We want to open it up to anyone feeling like they need to get their hands in the dirt,” Mardikes said. “Especially right now, socially distanced common gardening is an activity people can do and still stay healthy.”

For now though, the two are generating interest from community members who might want to be involved in the future, as well as continuing to grow food for the Old Alcohol Plant, Bayside residents and local food banks.

While the governor’s order is in place, the hotel is closed to guests, but Spirits Bar and Grill still offers curbside pick-up of takeout orders. The money generated from this and the hotel goes toward supporting Bayside Housing, which houses individuals in need.

According to Leslie Shipley, development director for Bayside Housing, without revenue from the hotel, Bayside Housing needs support through donations and patronage of the Old Alcohol Plant’s take-out menu.

To learn more about Bayside Housing and how to help, go to
baysidehousing.org.

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