For centuries, towering cedars, firs, maples and alders darkened the foot-warn trail connecting the villages of Suquamish and Port Gamble at the northern reach of the Kitsap Peninsula, and sheltered clans of bear, deer and coyote. Along that road in the 1960s, Al and Margaret Opsata chose acreage as they retired from their South Kitsap grocery business. Clearing trees to make way for pastures, a rustic barn and their home, they created the Lucky O Ranch on newly open, light-filled acreage. There, Al and Margaret grew bountiful vegetables and flowering gardens. Al raised cattle & put up deer for local hunters, and his farm-smoked meats drew a big following.
In 1995, Hollis Fay bought part of the Lucky O acreage and began to farm there after selling Bainbridge Bakers, the popular community gathering place she had created in the ‘80s at Winslow Green. Hollis’s roots were in Alaska, where as a 17 year old, she helped survey the Alaska Pipeline. Having grown up enjoying gourmet meals prepared by her mom, Barb Fay, Hollis expanded her culinary horizons on research trips into the Alaskan wilderness with her marine biologist father. The pastry skills Hollis learned in Boston and Seattle laid the groundwork for her opening Bainbridge Bakers, where she created favorites such as her eight-grain Pullaparts, buttery Shortbread cookies, and old world style Christmas Stollen.
In 1999, with the help of Anne Thatcher, a neighbor newly arrived from Seattle, Hollis began renovating Al’s butcher shop-barn to develop a commercial kitchen for use by caterers and food entrepreneurs. But unable to resist baking, Hollis began offering farm-fresh pastries on Saturday mornings. Within a few years, locals and visitors gathered regularly at Farm Kitchen to meet old friends and make new ones as they enjoyed farm breakfasts served up with those famous farm pastries.
Cooking and baking drew others, as Farm Kitchen offered hands-on cooking and baking classes. And local entrepreneurs came to develop food businesses inside Al’s old barn, now renovated to offer spacious kitchen and work space filled with commercial cooking and baking equipment. More than a dozen of these businesses grew into independent, established food and catering businesses.
At the same time, visitors began to seek out the peace and privacy of the farm for their own special events, asking to hold parties and weddings there. Barn storage areas gave way to party space, wood from an old barn on the Columbia River was laid over the butcher shop’s rough concrete to create a beautiful dance floor, and French door and windows replaced old barn siding, filling the old barn with light. Lavender borders and perennial gardens surrounded the barn, making a rustic yet elegant country event and wedding venue. Seasonally, the bountiful flowers grown by Butler Green Farms filled the fields beyond the barn, creating a spectacular backdrop of color and scent.
In 2016, changes came as the long season of classes and breakfasts ended. Farm Kitchen shifted focus to be able to further develop its wholesale baking business while continuing to host weddings, parties and business meetings, retreats and community events. Many area groceries, coffee shops and other businesses now offer Farm Kitchen Bakery cookies, shortbreads, sweet breads and granola to their customers.
Special events like the annual holiday season Gingerbread House Parties continue the tradition of Farm Kitchen as a popular gathering place that honors the land and shares its bounty with friends old and new.