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WSU starts looking at options of joining Greenbank Farm

As leaders for the Port of Coupeville continue to sort out how Greenbank Farm will operate, another entity is looking at whether to establish a presence at the publicly owned farm.

Officials from Washington State University’s Extension are talking with port officials about ways to expand the education program’s satellite facility in Mount Vernon.

Tim Lawrence, director for WSU Extension in Island County, stressed that no decisions have been made yet, but any possible work at the farm could be a benefit for small farms and small farm agriculture.

Officials from WSU and the Port of Coupeville are still researching options.

“The analogy is we’re kicking tires,” Lawrence said. He said that, theoretically, short courses taught by instructors and professors involved with Washington State University could take place at the Greenbank Farm.

The three port commissioners recently visited the Mount Vernon site to get an idea of the research being performed by the graduate students and faculty. Lawrence said that space is tight at Mount Vernon.

Marshall Bronson, commissioner for the Port of Coupeville, said that talks have focused on the idea that researchers would use some of the farm land for test plots to find crops that would thrive on Whidbey Island, but he said he needs to see a concrete proposal before moving forward.

Lawrence also said that a lot of questions need to be answered before WSU commits to the Greenbank Farm, most notably how the farm will operate.

The Port of Coupeville is currently looking at options for the management of the farm.

The lease the Port of Coupeville has with the Greenbank Farm Management Group expires in March 2014. Port leaders are considering a variety of options including sending out requests for proposals for an entity to operate the farm or managing it directly.

Lawrence said a number of other issues have to be examined as well including how the farm’s new conservation easement and current zoning would affect any potential proposal WSU might develop.

He added any talks would also include a discussion about the access public would have to the research that is being conducted at the farm and how other activities, such as dog walkers, would impact the research.

No decisions have been made. It’s a decision that will be made ultimately by the dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resources Sciences.

Lawrence added any proposal has to be economically feasible and a win for the university. His job so far was to make Washington State University aware of the Greenbank Farm.

 

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