Greenbank Farm fires director; mission changes

After releasing its former executive director, the Greenbank Farm Management Group is still months away from finding a replacement to run day-to-day operations of the historic, publicly owned facility.

Virginia Bloom, former executive director, lost her job in late January and leaders of the Greenbank Farm Management Group are busy revising the farm’s mission and job requirements for the new executive manager position before searching for a replacement.

Michael Stansbury, group president, said with the addition of the farm operation of the Community Supported Agriculture Training Center and a renewed emphasis on agriculture, it was time to revise the position.

“We thought the fit wasn’t there anymore,” Stansbury said after Wednesday’s Port of Coupeville meeting. Currently there are five people serving on the board that was created to have nine members. The Port of Coupeville pays the Greenbank Farm Management Group nearly $50,000 a year to manage the commercial area. Stansbury would not disclose Bloom’s salary or how it would change when Bloom’s replacement is hired.

The Greenbank Farm Management Group recently took over the farmer trainer program from the Northwest Agriculture Business Center. The Mount Vernon organization cut the program in a cost-saving move. In addition, the Port of Coupeville, which owns the commercial area of the  Greenbank Farm, is lobbying state legislators to fund a food packaging and bottling facility to help Whidbey Island farmers.

With the renewed push on agriculture, Stansbury said it was time to revise the farm’s mission and adjust the director’s position. While Bloom has an extensive background managing small businesses, Stansbury said the management group wants someone with a nonprofit background and public relations experience, including experience building partnerships in the community.

Bloom said she was surprised when she heard the news she was losing her position.

“I felt I was doing a good job,” Bloom, a long-time Freeland business owner who now dabbles in the winery business, said Thursday afternoon. In her two years as director, she helped improve the management group’s financial condition. She also helped get state “Heritage Barn” status for the historic buildings.

She mentioned she had disagreements with members of the management group, but she didn’t think they were so serious.

While she understood the group’s desire to focus on agriculture, she said the change shouldn’t happen to the detriment of other programs taking place at the farm. For example, the management group is converting the Jim Davis House to a dormitory to house students enrolled in the farmer training center. The house has been a popular gathering place for community groups. She also questioned why the caretaker cottage should house the farmer who heads the training program rather than the farm caretaker.

Bloom said she isn’t sure what her next move will be. She enjoyed her time working for a nonprofit organization and she is thinking about taking a grant-writing course to improve her skills.

Stansbury said the management group will spend 45 days to re-evaluate the farm’s mission. He hopes to start advertising the position in late April and have it filled in three to four months.


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