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Letter: Greenbank needs to renew contract

March 8, 2013 · Updated 3:30 PM
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Editor,

As tenants at Greenbank Farm we would like to voice our support for the Farm’s volunteer board The Greenbank Farm Management Group, and for its executive director and the farm staff.

In the 15 years since it became public property The Greenbank Farm has seen many accomplishments and transitions under a changing volunteer board membership and several executive directors.

The farm has changed from the run-down dilapidated set of barns amidst remnants of loganberries that once filled the open space, to a vibrant community resource and an attractive destination point for both locals and visitors to Whidbey Island because of its beauty and variety.

Historic buildings were restored and new buildings constructed with the help of state grants. Working with community groups like WSU Master Gardeners and the Greenbank Garden Club beautiful gardens were created and the grounds greatly enhanced.

Walking trails and organic community pea patches were established.

The farm was awarded organic status, farm and pasture land was rented out, and an effort was made to save the Loganberries. Working with Whidbey Audubon Society bird watching platforms were built. In addition and an off-leash dog walking park was created with the help of FETCH.

The farm has become the host of year-round weddings, festivals and events.

New businesses joined the popular Wine Shop and together, they are a draw to the public, significant contributors to Island County employment and tax coffers, and in-line with the port’s mission.

Through the Northwest Agricultural Business Center an organic farmer training center got started and when lost after one year due to budget cuts, was taken over by the management group.

The training center is now in its fifth year and attracts students from across the country. Working with a grant from Puget Sound Energy, one acre of the 150 acres of open space was rented by private investors and developed into a Solar Power Array which generates enough power to offset the farm’s electricity use.

Just last December, after years of work, the management group, in partnership with the port, Island County and the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, successfully placed a Conservation Easement on the non-commercial portion of the Farm, permanently ensuring the Farm is saved from inappropriate development and subdivision.

All these changes have been guided by the Comprehensive Plan and Master Site Plan developed by volunteer committees and adopted by the Port of Coupeville; both efforts had broad community input, participation and research.

None of these positive changes would have happened without the great many people who volunteered countless hours to assist the managment group.

Recently, The Port of Coupeville commissioners appointed an Executive Planning Group to review the farm’s operations and management.

On Jan. 2 the planning group presented its findings and recommendations were very critical of both the port and the management group.

The planning group recommended that the port not continue to work with the management group when their current contract expires next year, that the port not manage the farm itself, and that the Port send out a request for proposals to possible new managements groups.

Without the slightest acknowledgement of the hard work and many accomplishments of the management group, the group proposed to do away with the years of organizational knowledge and memory that has accumulated with the current management board and staff.

While much work remains to be done and room for improvement exists, the port’s 20-year Master Site Plan is steadily being implemented.

We strongly urge the port commissioners to reject the Executive Planning Group’s findings and renew the management contract.

 

 

Rob Schouten

Victory Schouten

Jan Gunn

Erin Stonefelt

D.M. Windwalker Taibi

Mary Jo Oxrieder

Elizabeth Polasek

Greenbank Farm

 


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