Re: Every post you make (including deleted ones) are being recorded and analyzed by Omgil
you: Omgil saves every post you make.
me: no, they don't
you: some companies check your social media background
so what can I say now?
f Jackie Heinricher's Chilean feather bamboo hadn't flowered in her Skagit County garden 10 years ago, we might, this very moment, be snacking on the latest, greatest gourmet craze: crunchy chips made from bamboo shoots.
But flower it did, a once-in-a-century phenomenon. All over the world, from Argentina to Alameda to Anacortes, every clump of Chusquea culeou unfurled fairy-like fans of pointy mauve petals and dancing chartreuse pods. Inside the pods nestled tiny seeds that Heinricher carefully stripped off by hand and germinated with the help of a local tissue-culture lab. It was a horticultural feat that eventually left Heinricher with 10,000 baby bamboos.
Even more significant? The ideas sprouting in Heinricher's head — ideas that blossomed into a bamboo empire beyond gardens. Four years ago, Heinricher and tissue-culture expert Randy Burr discovered how to clone bamboo in a test tube after years of arduous experimentation. Now, Heinricher's multimillion-dollar high-tech company, Boo-Shoot Gardens in Mount Vernon, produces more than 2 million plants a year and has launched a "Plant-a-Boo" crusade to curb global warming.
Asia, South America and Europe totally "get" bamboo, using the woody grass in hundreds of ways, Heinricher says, but America has yet to embrace bamboo for serious agriculture or industrial planting.
As it is, American companies buy bamboo products in Asia and ship them here on freight containers. Not fuel efficient. "Why," Heinricher says, "are we creating more carbon pollution and perpetuating the same old bad practices?"
Already, Boo-Shoot is noodling deals with corporate titans from Asia. Heinricher loves to tell of a Korean-Chinese executive who jetted into Sea-Tac, then motored by limo up to the humble lab set among potato fields and furniture outlets.
At first, he didn't believe that here, in Mount Vernon, they'd figured out how to clone bamboo when the process hadn't been cracked on a commercial scale in bamboo's heartland, Asia.
Then, Heinricher showed him racks of test tubes filled with tiny bamboos and trays of little bamboo seedlings. Tears welled in his eyes. "It was very emotional," Heinricher says, "for all of us."
THE BAMBOO empress was born in Seattle and grew up mostly in Olympia, the middle daughter among three girls and a boy.
"This was the first indication this was not going to be your typical grad student."
She was older, more mature, well traveled. "We didn't get students from the Pacific Northwest in Tennessee," Bettoli says. "It was a whole different attitude about the world. Thinking out of the box. Constantly asking questions. Approaching her research with fresh eyes."
Heinricher's graduate work, on freshwater mussels, studied the impact of a huge dam project on water temperature and mussel reproduction. Typical grad students would have hung out with other fish-and-wildlife researchers, relying heavily on traditional methods and studies, Bettoli says. Heinricher took an original tack. "She ended up hooking up with medical folks in town to do histology," working with microscopes and slides. Heinricher's findings helped spur dam officials to periodically release warmer water to trigger mussel spawning.
Martin: "Jackie wakes up at the crack of dawn and has an agenda every morning, doesn't go to bed until she drops." And whether she's well off or on the edge of disaster, "she still wears her blue jeans and her work gloves and has a keen interest in farming equipment."
The following year, when Heinricher met Guy Thornburgh, Martin knew he'd be The One.
Heinricher and Thornburgh had worked together on fisheries projects, mostly via telephone, for years. When they finally shared a couple beers at a conference and realized they were both available, it was kismet. "She always seemed so cheery and ambitious," Thornburgh says. "I'd have long commutes on the ferry to Shaw (Island) and I'd think of her and write poems, and she'd write back."
Thornburgh, who owns a marine technology company, had recently purchased seven acres on Campbell Lake in Anacortes; Heinricher moved back to the Northwest and they married. She knew it would be tough to find a fisheries job here because the Northwest spawns an overabundance of fisheries experts. Plus, she'd always wanted to try bamboo and now, finally, had acreage. They hired a guy with a tractor to plow up the pasture; Heinricher and a girlfriend planted the first groves from one-gallon containers.
Initially, Heinricher thought she'd market sliced edible bamboo shoots and sell poles for garden projects. But she discovered bamboo didn't spread fast enough in the Northwest's temperate climate to make poles profitable, and she needed a value-added product to make money from shoots. (Thus the kitchen experiments with bamboo-shoot chips. Salty sesame was the best, Thornburgh says.)
She tried selling plants wholesale, for the nursery trade, but again, couldn't produce enough through division.
Then, her Chilean bamboo flowered.
Heinricher stayed out in the greenhouse past dark every night, settling her bamboo-lets into 5 ½-inch pots while listening to Sting. "People thought I was nuts. How was I ever going to get rid of 10,000 bamboo plants?" she says. "I thought it was the most wonderful work, and I was excited about it."
She also realized that once her seedlings were sold (it took five years), that was it. No more seeds. She became determined to crack the tissue-culture code.
REMEMBER THE Boston fern craze? Those ruffly green fronds in the hanging macrame planters with the big wooden beads?
Thank Randy Burr. Burr pioneered commercial propagation of Boston ferns in 1973, started this country's first commercial tissue-culture lab and has since cloned numerous horticultural hits: lily bulbs, orchids, birch trees, Japanese maples, cabbage and cauliflower for seed production.
He co-owned the Mount Vernon lab where Heinricher germinated her Chilean bamboo seeds and was impressed by her success. But when she asked him to tissue-culture bamboo? "I just rolled my eyes," he recalled. "I knew bamboo would be difficult. I had tried it before with no success."
She kept coming around with plant material. "If you have patience, I'll try it," he told her. "No promises."
Tissue culture is a four-step process. First, you sterilize a cutting of the plant in bleach, bathe it in a solution of inorganic salts, vitamins, plant hormones and sugar and set it in agar gel. Step 2: Get the plant to make side shoots and replant them in more gel. Stage 3: Stop the multiplying and encourage root growth. Step 4: Acclimatize the plants for the real world by growing them in dirt in the greenhouse.
"Most plants, maybe one of those steps will give you a problem," Burr says. With bamboo, "every one of those four steps was a battle."
Burr rubs the top of his balding head when describing his initial failures: "Oh, I'm good at killing plants, especially good at bamboo. Those first years, I killed thousands."
After six months, a cutting sent out roots — wild celebration! — but then withered and died. For two more years, no luck. "Look Jackie, it's not going to work. I can't afford to do this," Burr told her. "She was like, Yeah Yeah Yeah. Gotta have bamboo! Her enthusiasm definitely kept me going." She paid for the research by selling the Chilean feather bamboos, "creative financing," personal investment and a trip to the bank.
Carrie Cammock, assistant vice president at People's Bank in Mount Vernon: "It was one of the most unique loan requests I've ever worked on, if I can diplomatically say it that way."
After more than four years of trial and error, Burr developed the magic formula for Crookstem bamboo, then Sunset Glow, Fargesia 'Rufa,' a mountain clumper.
"The first plants we put out, we were maybe charging $5 and they had to be worth thousands of dollars each," Heinricher says. "Plus, people were still wrinkling their noses and saying: 'Oh, it's bamboo.' It's something people have to be a little more educated to appreciate."
BUT WILL they?
After touring the amazing bamboo specimen garden at Heinricher's Anacortes home, we drive to Boo-Shoot's Mount Vernon lab in her Ford Explorer. She needs a big rig for her two German shorthairs, she says, and feels bad about her fuel consumption, even though she's planted enough bamboo to mitigate seven lifetimes of gas guzzlers. That spurs talk about bamboo's role on the global stage; Heinricher recently talked with members of Washington's congressional delegation on Capitol Hill about bamboo's carbon-scrubbing capabilities and potential use domestically for other products.
A logging truck whizzes by, loaded with hefty firs. "Wouldn't it be nice to see bamboo poles in the stacker?" Heinricher asks. If you're stuck in a traditional evergreen mindset, it's hard to envision an alternative Northwest landscape. But why not? With gas prices soaring and the earth ever warming, something has to change in the oil economy. We spin past the belching Anacortes oil refinery, various RV and tractor dealerships, a brand new sawmill. "Heartbreaking that it's not a bamboo facility," Heinricher says.
Imagine underutilized farmland growing 50- to 70-foot bamboos, she says. "We could put those people in Longview back to work."
Think of the vineyards now blanketing Walla Walla's hillsides. Before they were there, somebody had a vision to plant all those grapes.
We pull into Boo-Shoot's parking lot and Heinricher heads back to check the greenhouses. Minute by minute, a million tiny bamboo-lets are quickly outgrowing their trays
man I tell you, it's been going on for a while now.