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Seed money granted for Greenbank Farm
The farmer training center got some funding that will help a seed project sprout at the Greenbank Farm.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture awarded a $140,000 grant to the training center at the publicly owned farm to fund continued work on developing organic seeds.
The staff and trainees participating in the training center are busy developing seeds that will help resolve a problem organic farmers face — they don’t often have organically developed seeds that can thrive in Whidbey’s climate. One of the challenges organic farms face is a lack of a suitable supply of organic seeds to grow. When that happens, organic farmers are left with using conventional seeds.
The training center is going to conduct two activities during the next year. Students will meet with area farmers to find out what they need and they will develop a list of crops to plant next spring, said Sebastian Aguilar, director of the training center at the Greenbank Farm.
Aguilar also highlighted the education aspects of the seed project. Once the season is complete, the students will publish their research about what worked and what didn’t work.
The students will also hold three workshops and two field days that will be conducted in collaboration with the Organic Seed Alliance. That will give local farmers a chance to “taste, touch and see” the work from the project, Aguilar said.
The $141,000 award the Greenbank Farm received was one of 25 projects that received a Specialty Crop Grant Award from the Washington State Department of Agriculture. In all, the state agency doled out more the $3 million in awards for 2012.
Judy Feldman, manager of the Greenbank Farm, said the project originally got a boost with a $4,000 grant from the Puget Sound Energy Foundation and a $15,200 grant from the Sustainable Path.
“It gave us the confidence to plant those crops,” Feldman said.
She added the initial funding also showed the state department of agriculture how serious the training center was to undertake its seed project.
Over the next several years, the trainees will be fine tuning the types of crops that will be effective. Aguilar hopes some Whidbey Island farms will also participate in the seed project.
As the project is developed, the seeds that are produced will provide a product that could be sold to local stores for the public to use.
The Greenbank Farm’s farmer training center trains a handful of students in the ins and outs of small-scale organic farming on eight acres of land.