Brandon and Alanya Vuysteke are a farming couple who have big plans for their property on the Key Peninsula. The couple met in 2012 and married in 2015. “Farming came to us organically and was not something either of us necessarily was planning on,” Vuysteke said.
The couple moved to Washington from Colorado in 2020, landing in Port Orchard. They began to develop their acreage at that location but soon understood they would need a flatter piece of property for farming. They also realized that a piece of property with easier public access would be important to get their products to the community. That realization led them to 8 acres on the Key Peninsula Highway between Home and Key Center.
Their plot was originally purchased in 1999 by the Lakebay Community Church for the future home of their congregation. The church envisioned building and made a beginning by creating a community garden space that was well-used. However, it became evident to the church that they would not be able to build as they would have liked. “The church’s idea was that the property would somehow be a blessing to the community,” said Pastor Dan Whitmarsh.
The church entered an agreement with the Hope Recovery Center. HRC aimed to build a facility for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. However, as the community became more aware of those plans, public sentiment grew against the project. As a result, the sale was never completed. “There was disappointment that the project did not work and became such a flashpoint, with anger, rumors and innuendo,” Whitmarsh said.
The property was sold by the church to Harbor Hope Center in 2021, a social service organization dedicated to helping homeless youth find housing and skills as they age out of the foster system or other homeless situations. Although the plans were modest compared to HRC, the organization decided a Key Peninsula location was not optimal for its needs.
At this point in the timeline, Brandon and Alanya began communicating with Harbor Hope Center. The parcel seemed to have everything they were looking for; topography, community relationships, and a centralized location on the Key Peninsula for making produce available locally. They bought it in March 2023.
“We want to make sure we are fitting into the needs of the community,” Alanya said. The couple envisions many things for their property. They will begin construction of a home and have plans for a market stand and a community gathering place. They want to stay local and limit the amount of “food miles” as much as possible—the number of miles food is transported before reaching consumers. “That was the big calling—how can we bring food to people? And beyond that, how can we maybe employ people?” Brandon said.
The couple will practice what is known as “regenerative farming.” They plan to use goats, pigs and chickens to help clear and nourish the land, and the animals will be rotated around the property to clear brush and vegetation. They will use organic methods and hope to be certified as an organic or natural farm.
Among the first products to be available for customers on the Key Peninsula will be dahlias and microgreens, the shoots of salad vegetables picked just after leaves have developed. They also plan to produce poultry and pork for consumption.
Neither Brandon nor Alanya have farming backgrounds. “We are YouTube farmers. We watched and followed many farmers on YouTube until we were able to meet more local farmers to work alongside and pick their brains, and share stories. In-person learning is so much more helpful,” Brandon said. They network with other small farmers in the area and have gained valuable experience from their farm in Port Orchard. They were successful sellers at the Port Orchard Farmers Market this year with a variety of products.
The Vuystekes have extended family who come to visit and help with the labor-intensive farm chores. There are many tasks to complete before the Wildwood Hollow Farm on the peninsula is fully operational. They plan on two years.
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