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Greenbank Farm's agriculture training group resurrected
Thanks to donations from residents and a tuition hike, the Community Supported Agriculture program at the Greenbank Farm will continue.
After being cut by the Northwest Agriculture Business Center several weeks ago as a way to resolve state funding cuts, the Greenbank Farm Management Group decided it would continue to support the farmer training program.
“We see the opportunity to revive a section of local agriculture on the island,” said Michael Stansbury, president of the Greenbank Farm Management Group during Wednesday’s Port of Coupeville meeting. He announced that the group is taking over the program, which is entering its third year.
Organizers are proposing to offer two programs during the market season. The first is a seven-month training program that will accommodate up to 10 students and cost $3,000 per student. The second is a local intern program which will offer one three-hour class a week for 26 weeks and cost $1,000 to participate. Organizers hope interns serving on Whidbey Island farms will attend the weekly classes.
The CSA program had been operated by the Business Center for the past two years, but they decided to drop the program since funding ran out and officials weren’t able to find alternatives. Staff wanted to focus its dwindling resources on current farmers.
“It was always a stretch of fitting in with the mission of the NABC,” Business Center board president Karen Bishop said of the Greenbank Farm program. She said it was costly, trained too few farmers. and did not produce enough farm produce sales.
David Bauermeister, executive director for the Business Center, noted that local students participated in the first year of the program. However, only one student from Eastern Washington participated last year. The other students came from across the country.
Maryon Attwood, who helped found the CSA training center, said the lower-cost intern program could be a boost to nearby farms that host interns. Because Greenbank’s training center offers an educational program, participating farms can get a student exemption on their Labor and Industries costs for their interns.
In addition to taking over the training program, the management group is looking at renovating the Jim Davis house to eventually provide housing for students participating in the program. Stansbury said the plumbing, electrical and heating have to be upgraded in the house.
Port Commissioner Ann McDonald wondered why students couldn’t find their own housing. Stansbury said that housing students at the farm would add to the their educational experience and they would also provide caretaking for the farm, which is needed to help prevent vandalism which has been a problem at the farm.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to keep some of these kids here,” Attwood said.