Port dreams of food processing at Greenbank Farm

A food packing and bottling facility on Central Whidbey could provide a boost to small farms by giving them a place to package their products.

The Port of Coupeville and Greenbank Farm want state funding to build a 10,000-square-foot building at the publicly owned farm.

For the building to get off the ground, officials have some huge hurdles to jump. They have to coax nearly $1 million from tight-fisted legislators and they have to go through the lengthy process of changing the farm’s zoning terms to allow construction of such a large building. That process could take as long as a year to complete.

Maryon Attwood, who coordinates the farmer training program at the farm, said Whidbey Island needs to improve production facilities for farmers, some of whom have to transport their crops as far away as Oregon to package their products.

“We really need to focus on the needs of the community, which is ag-infrastructure,” Attwood said. She added that the proposed facility should provide a place for farmers to package and bottle goods and laboratory space so they could test food to ensure their product is safe.

Approximately 6,000 square feet of the building is penciled to be the processing facility.

To get the funding needed for the processing facility, port leaders are applying for a $985,000 grant from the governor’s capital budget. Several commissioners and executive director Jim Patton are traveling to Olympia to meet with legislators Monday to push the building project.

The amount will cover the construction of the building and the packaging facility, but it won’t be enough to finish the entire structure or provide equipment for packaging and bottling.

It would cost nearly $2 million to finish the entire building.

Patton said after meeting with state representatives he learned it was better to break the project up into two phases because the smaller price tag would be more favorable to lawmakers. The remaining work, such as office space, retail outlet, and possible farmers market space, would be complete if more funding becomes available.

The building funding doesn’t include funding for equipment purchases. Attwood plans a fund-raising campaign to buy food packaging equipment.

Port Commissioner Marshall Bronson questioned how many jobs will be provided and whether the proposed facility would be seasonal. Estimates place the job creation at 25 to 48 positions.

In addition to seeking legislative funding, port officials would also have to adjust the Special Review District zoning to permit construction of the building. Zoning currently allows for a maximum size of 5,000 square feet, which is half of the proposed design. However the process to change zoning language takes approximately one year to complete and cash-strapped port officials don’t want to dole out the more than $5,000 needed to apply to start the process.

The Port of Coupeville two years ago tried to get funding for a similar building. Back then, the port wanted money to construct a two-story building that would house a training center, indoor farmers market space and office space. However, that proposal didn’t receive any traction in the previous legislative session.

The commissioners for the Port of Coupeville unanimously approved applying to receive $985,000 in funding from the state local community project grant.


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