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Future island farmers emerge
A new training center on Whidbey Island to help people learn the skills needed to become successful farmers has sparked interest.
After a community open house at the Greenbank Farm Monday evening, Dec. 1, several people applied to participate in the Community Supported Agriculture Training Center that is opening at the farm. Nobody has yet been selected to participate in the 10-month-long program. The six people who’ve applied so far will be interviewed next month.
Community Supported Agriculture is a way to provide islanders with more locally-grown vegetables. People wishing to buy food from CSA purchase shares of a farm. In the program at the Greenbank Farm, $500 would provide a family with one bag of produce each week for 20 weeks.
Program Manager Anza Muenchow said she is hoping more people willo apply to the new training program.
Landon Primrose, a 2005 graduate of South Whidbey High School, applied to the program because it provided a continuation of his college studies.
“I’ve been studying sustainable agriculture at Evergreen State College,” Primrose said. He is a supporter of CSA because the majority of the money made from the produce sales stays with farmers and gets reinvested in the community.
Clinton resident Adam Wundrow heard about the new program at the Tilth Farmers Market on South Whidbey Island.
“I came here to get involved in agriculture,” Wundrow said.
He has work for several farms selling at markets but he said he wants to get his own hands dirty.
Participants chosen for the training program will grow crops on an eight-acre parcel of land that was provided by the Port of Coupeville, which owns the commercial area of the Greenbank Farm.
The aspiring farmers will learn from veteran farmers about how to grow on the certified organic land and how to sell products to nearby residents. Residents wishing to invest in the Greenbank CSA have to pay $500 to receive food. Organizers hope between 80 and 100 residents will invest in the CSA.
Jess Dowdell, CSA advisory board member and chef at Hedgebrook, a writers’ retreat near Freeland, highlighted the importance of new CSA farms by pointing out the three remaining ones on the south end of the island are completely sold out. She will teach students ways to cook local produce.
There are several challenges participants will have to meet. First off they have to be selected for the program.
Once accepted they have to meet the time commitment to grow crops on their acres of land.
That commitment wasn’t lost on Wundrow. Although he wants to participate, he also has a wife and 13-month-old son to consider. He hopes an arrangement can be worked out that will allow him to go through the training.
There are people who live off the island who want to participate as well.
Seattle resident Dan Luethy dropped off his application during Monday’s open house. He is learning about the logistics of the program and, if selected, he said the time he spends in the program would work like an extended weekend for him.
Muenchow is still looking for applicants for the Greenbank Farm Community Supported Agriculture Training Center. People interested in participating should call 360-222-3171. She hopes to have around 10 students for the first training period scheduled to begin in early 2009.