Locke's budget boosts Greenbank Farm

They decided it was too early in the day to crack open the bottle of champagne waiting in the fridge, but the Greenbank Farm board of directors had reason to celebrate at their Thursday morning board meeting.

The year 2002 was a good one at the farm, with sales up, heat in the barn and a Special Review District rezone.

If that wasn’t cause enough to celebrate, Gov. Locke’s proposed 2003-05 budget has earmarked $1.5 million for the farm.

While the board expressed mixed feelings that the farm might get money from the state’s capital budget when so much was proposed to be cut from education and health, they felt it would be money well budgeted.

“We can do so much with this money,” secretary Marcia Comer said.

The group has big plans for the funding, including renovating the 5,500 square-foot Barn No. 2 to create more commercial space, replacing Barn No. 3 with a two-story 8,000 square-foot building with up to five new commercial spaces, improving the driveway and parking areas, and adding landscaping.

The projected cost of the improvements is $1.8 million, with the rest coming from local contributions.

The improvements are estimated to add up to 40 new jobs at the farm, which was a big selling point.

The Greenbank project was advocated by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, as part of an Island County economic stimulus package that includes $4 million for continued renovation of Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island.

“I’m deeply disappointed by the planned reductions to education and social services,” Haugen said in a prepared statement, “but these two capital projects are so critical to Island County. This state investment will help spur business growth and give us a badly needed economic boost when we need it most.”

“This was a total long-shot,” Greenbank Farm Executive Director Laura Blankenship said. “I didn’t think it was going to happen with all the cuts.” The governor’s budget must still survive rigorous scrutiny during the legislative session which convenes in January.

The news of the potential financial windfall came on the heels of the approval of a Special Review District rezoning for Greenbank Farm. The county approved the amendment to the Growth Management Plan at their regular meeting Monday.

Blankenship said while the farm was saved in 1997 when it was purchased jointly by the county, Port of Coupeville and the Nature Conservancy, “this saves it in a bureaucratic way.”

With the Special Review District designation, Greenbank can move ahead with its Master Plan, which envisions developing the educational and economic possibilities of the farm.

Vice-President Greg Osenbach said an earlier decision to focus the gift shop on wine sales had paid off, with those sales up 18 percent.

Blankenship noted the loganberry wine chocolates were “flying off the shelves.”

Renovation, and heating, of the 15,000 square foot main barn has resulted in a doubling of the event bookings, and they expect that to continue to grow. The barn also houses Whidbey Pies Cafe and is host to many social and community events.

Osenbach said the successful year was the result of the “wild and optimistic imaginations” of all who work year-round to make the farm’s vision a reality. “What a year,” he said.

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