Berries may return to Greenbank Farm
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey Examiner Staff
September 26, 2012 · Updated 10:47 AM
Berries could once again be an abundant fixture at the Greenbank Farm.
The owners of a small Central Whidbey farm are hoping to lease land from the publicly owned farm so they can plant berry bushes that will comprise a U-pick operation open to the public.
Five Acre Farm, on Hwy. 20 between Coupeville and Greenbank, wants to lease 7.5 acres of land and plant rows of loganberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries on the farm of the one-time largest loganberry producer in the United States. The small farm would also request an option to lease an additional 7.5 acres.
Five Acre Farm owner Damon Gibson said he wants to ensure the public is involved in the berry operation.
“We had a lot of success with our farm’s expansion into strawberries and felt confident that we could transfer that success to the Greenbank Farm by establishing mixed berry fields there,” Gibson said.
Five Acre Farm started growing vegetables in 2009. Since then it has expanded to 12 acres, with produce sold at local farmers markets and other venues.
After seeing the abundance of blackberry bushes growing at the farm, he thought the U-pick proposal would be a timely project.
The commissioners for the Port of Coupeville, the entity that owns the farm, tabled the proposed U-pick project during a recent meeting.
The Greenbank Farm has expanded its agricultural operations in recent years. Most notably, a farmer training center opened. A small loganberry patch remains at the farm along with a public garden.
Both the executive director of the Port of Coupeville and the manager of the Greenbank Farm think the berry proposal is a good idea, but they have some questions that need to be answered first.
Port of Coupeville executive director Jim Patton said in an interview after the meeting that he would like to sit down with Gibson to start talking about a lease.
Patton needs more elaboration about the location Five Acre Farm wants to use for the berry fields, how the land will be irrigated, what kind of parking will be provided and how the berry proposal will affect the Greenbank Farm’s organic certification.
“I think this is a viable project,” Patton said.
There are also concerns about how the additional berry fields would affect the amount of water available at the farm.
Judy Feldman, manager of the Greenbank Farm, said she’s heard concerns from people over the past several years about the water levels in the nearby wetland.
She doesn’t know yet how much water is available, and wants to make sure the plants used will thrive at the Farm.
The Greenbank Farm is supplied by a spring located on the other side of Highway 525.
Gibson is quick to point out that the farm’s water right allows use up to 129.5 acre feet per year, 21 gallons per minute to irrigate a maximum of 25 acres.
That number is also reflected on the Port of Coupeville’s website.
Both Patton and Feldman said the water right doesn’t translate into the amount of water available for irrigation.
“We don’t have any idea what is coming out of the spring,” Patton said.
Similar concerns about expanding agriculture were expressed in 2010, when a proposal for a tree orchard was axed.
Back then people were concerned about water usage and that a conventional agriculture operation would threaten the farm’s organic certification, which took three years to obtain.
Contact Whidbey Examiner Staff Nathan Whalen at email@example.com.