Greenbank Farm Management Group hired a new farmer trainer straight from corn country.
The management group named Jessica Babcock as the training director of the Organic Farm School, which has been breaking in new farmer for the past several years. She replaces Sabastian Aguilar, who will help administer the farm on a contract basis. Aguilar moved to Oregon to start a farm.
Babcock comes to the Greenbank Farm from Decorah, Iowa, where she worked for the Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit organization striving to preserve heirloom seeds. She said the exchange is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States.
She learned about Whidbey Island about 10 years ago when she was a student at Northwestern College in Orange, Iowa. Back then, she traveled to Whidbey Island to participate in an internship at what was then known as the Au Sable Institute. She kept tabs on Whidbey while she finished her undergraduate degree, graduate studies at the University of Montana and working at organic farms and orchards. She had been thinking about returning to Whidbey.
“It’s a new climate and it’s a new farm, but it’s an existing farm,” Babcock said about moving to Greenbank.
With a new growing season drawing near, she is busy recruiting people to attend the upcoming class. She is trying to find local people to participate in the training program and offering a 20 percent tuition discount. The program exposes trainees to farming techniques and the skills needed to run a successful business.
“We take seriously not just growing local vegetables, but growing local farmers,” Babcock said describing the training program as a trade school.
She will also continue operating the organic seed project, which is designed to develop a supply of organic seeds that can flourish in the Whidbey Island climate.
“I think it’s a really good addition to farm school training,” Babcock said.
Greenbank Farm officials have been searching for new farmer trainer since September.
Farm Manager Judy Feldman said she received a “robust” applicant pool of 20 to 25 people from across the United States.
She said Babcock’s comfort with the community and her willingness to tap local resources to develop the training center made her stand out.
With the new class starting March 11, she is stepping up her recruiting efforts. She is advertising in a local newsletter, on a LISTSERV and through word-of-mouth.
For information about the training center, call 360-222-3171.