Pesticides nix Greenbank tree orchard proposal

Because of the negative effects to nearby organic farming projects, the commissioners for the Port of Coupeville will likely reject a proposed Douglas fir tree orchard for the Greenbank Farm.

Canadian companies, Island Timberlands and Select Seed Company, wanted to use 40 acres of land at the Greenbank Farm to grow Douglas firs and harvest their seeds.

Two factors are prompting port officials to quash the proposal. Company officials said they would use pesticides on the trees, and those chemicals would threaten the organic certification of neighboring agriculture land.

Jim Patton, executive director for the port, said part of the land targeted for the orchard falls in the same watershed as organically certified land currently used for a Community Supported Agriculture training center, a market garden and a community garden. He was concerned the pesticides would trickle down to the farmland and contaminate the organic land. Once a property loses its certification, generally it takes three years to reestablish.

“That’s a show-stopper,” Patton said. He talked with the orchard proponents asking if they would use organic methods for the trees, but they weren’t willing to change their plans. Patton told them the commissioners will likely reject the proposal.

“There wasn’t a single argument we got from the public that was a bad argument,” Patton said.

Patton said staff learned some useful things about the Greenbank Farm during the process. They have a better idea of the exact location of specific parts of the farm property, and officials are starting to get a better idea of water usage at the farm.

He said measurements are being taken to determine how much water is going in and out of the pond located next to the buildings at the Greenbank Farm. That 750,000-gallon pond supplies the Greenbank Farm’s fire suppression system and provides irrigation water for the farmland.

Patton said it would take about a year to accumulate the data needed to come up with an accurate amount of water coming in and going out of the pond.

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