Washington Island was once known for its potato farming. Washington Island “spuds” made their way around the world for their quality and flavor. However, in the early 1970’s, vertical integration in the potato industry left Washington Island without contracts to grow its crops. Without customers, island farmers stopped planting and instead switched to other jobs that were either more tourism-based, or moved off the island to find a livelihood elsewhere.
Fast forward to 2005, a small group of like-minded people began exploring reinvigorating farming on Washington Island. Armed with enough seed to plant 5 acres and enough know-how to get it done — brothers Tom and Ken Koyen began growing wheat on the island. What started as wheat to use as flour at the Washington Island Hotel has grown into a select specialty grain for use in Capital Brewery’s Island Wheat Ale and all of Death’s Door Spirits products.