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Greenbank Farm celebrates 15th birthday
It could have looked very different.
Paved driveways could have led to single-family homes, with fences enclosing the whole water-view neighborhood.
But instead, the commitment and dedication of community members and local nonprofit groups a decade and a half ago preserved the rolling, pastoral hills of Greenbank Farm for use by the public.
On slopes that once had rows of loganberry canes ties along fencerows, trails now cut through thick grasses to protected forest land, all for the enjoyment of joggers, hikers and dog walkers.
Put up for sale in 1995 by its previous owner, the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, the historic former dairy farm looked destined for residential development.
But two years later, after a campaign waged by local residents, the 522-acre property was purchased by Island County, the Port of Coupeville and the Nature Conservancy. The port owns the 151-acre commercial core.
To celebrate its 15th “birthday” as a publicly owned property, Greenbank Farm will host a celebration complete with loganberry pie and a party game called “pin the numbers on the barn.”
The festivities will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17. RSVPs are requested at email@example.com so farm managers know how much pie to order.
“The Port of Coupeville shares in the joy of the celebration,” port Executive Director Jim Patton said.
The former dairy farm first was planted in loganberries after John Molz purchased the land in the early 1940s. By 1970, the farm had become the largest loganberry farm in the United States.
The Greenbank Farm Loganberry Festival, begun in 1988 to celebrate the raspberry-blackberry hybrid, continues to this day.
Molz would also venture into Eastern Washington for grape growing and wine production, creating the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery.
Since its purchase by the port 15 years ago, the large, red 1904 barn and other historic buildings have been joined by newer but visually compatible structures to promote economic development in Central Whidbey.
Building C was built 100 years after the historic barn, but blends in with the older structures. The building houses art galleries.
“Under Laura Blankenship, the farm was able to get a grant from the state for the building,” Greenbank Farm Management Group Executive Director Judy Feldman said. “This brought an injection of energy to the farm.”
Feldman also credits the Washington State University Extension Master Gardeners, Whidbey Audubon and the Central Whidbey Lions Club for helping make the farm what it is today.
“These community organizations have dedicated thousands of hours, dollars – and blisters,” Feldman said.
Other recent changes include the introduction in 2008 of the Greenbank Farm Ag Training Center, a seven-month program to train new farmers in sustainable agriculture. The program has generated a lot of interest and allows for local, small-scale commerce, Feldman said.
A very visible addition to the farm are the solar arrays that began energy production in 2011. The panels will eventually cover an acre of the farm.
“People hear a lot about the farm, but you have to come here and experience it,” Feldman said. “We want the community here celebrating what the community has accomplished. The farm would not be here but for the community, Island County, the port and the Nature Conservancy coming together.”
Save the date
Greenbank Farm celebrates 15 years of public ownership from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17. The party features free slices of loganberry pie. The farm is located at Hwy. 525 and Wonn Road north of Greenbank. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org so they know how much pie to order.