Letters to the Editor

State funds: Port's on the right farm track

In regards to Greenbank Farm’s $1.5 million state funding I support Coupeville Port Commissioner Mike Canfield’s view that the Port should review and approve the terms and conditions of the money’s use so as to assure compliance with the Port’s plans and legal obligations.

Senator Haugen’s and Port Commissioner’s Van Patten’s confidence in Greenbank Farm Management Group’s (GFMG) capabilities and competency is an opinion I do not share. According to the Farm’s Executive Director Laura Blankenship, "the farm board didn’t know about stipulations such as the 10-year lease until this summer.” That does not fit my definition of capable and competent.

When it comes to the process of the state appropriating $1.5 million to Farm’s 151 acres the Port purchased for $1.225 million, Executive Director Blankenship’s outlook is to take a "Zen" approach. That’s not how I want my public money and facilities managed. Although I hope that the situation is resolved to everyone’s benefit, until then I urge Port Commissioners Van Patten and Weber to support Mike Canfield’s course of action in this matter.

I also advise the commissioners to continue their business like approach in the lease development with Dick Whittick for establishing a fiber mill in barn number two. Since the commissioners aren’t experts in every facet of Port enterprises I suggest that they hire a consultant to review the mill’s feasibility study, market analysis, and business plan and then make recommendations as to the mill’s potential financial viability. If Mr. Whittick has not provided those documents then the lease proposal should be held until they are developed.

Decisions should be made in a business like manner and not be based on GFMG’s President Marcia Comer’s being "very excited" and the group having "felt very good." Did GFMG advise the commissioners that a fiber mill is a high water use industry? Depending on the type of fiber the process uses 2 to 5 gallons of water per pound of fiber. There are two critical issues with the water, first being does the farm’s water rights allow for the industrial use of the water? Second, is the farm’s water treatment system sufficient to handle this increased volume or will additions need to be made? Additionally, does the proposed contract stipulate the mill’s use of equipment that cleans the water and allows for its reuse? Is the fiber mill enterprise a good one for the Port and the farm?

In making that determination the commissioners should read the flyer available at the farm - Whidbey Island ALPACAS At Greenbank Farm. The flyer describes how you can buy an alpaca and recapture your investment in 3 to 4 years. You buy a gelded or breeding male for $750 to $1500 and the animal will produce fiber annually with a value of $250 to $450. Mr. Whittick will then board the animal for you at the Farm for $2/day. So at best case you buy a $750 alpaca, sell the fiber for $450, and pay Mr. Whittick $730 to board the animal. Without including the costs of medications and shearing, my math shows that to be a $280 annual loss for the alpaca owner. The port commissioners should do all their math before signing this contract.

Thomas Leahy


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