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Free pie! (And other reasons to attend the Greenbank Farm celebration Sept. 17)
The Greenbank Farm is ready to celebrate and wants community members to come join in the festivities. The farm celebrates 15 years of being a publicly-owned property this month.
The festivities will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17. RSVPs are requested at firstname.lastname@example.org so that the farm managers will know how much loganberry pie to have on hand for the party-goers.
“We want the community here celebrating what the community has accomplished,” said Judy Feldman, Greenbank Farm Management Group executive director. “The farm would not be here but for the community, Island County, the Port of Coupeville and the Nature Conservancy coming together.”
Greenbank’s history could have taken a very different course a decade and a half ago had the community and nonprofit groups not rallied around saving the farm. The property was put up for sale by its previous owner, the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, in 1995 and it looked like the former dairy and loganberry farm would be developed for private residences. The scenic vistas that currently beckon visitors to the farm could have been blocked by fences enclosing single-family homes.
Instead, the rolling, pastoral hills of the farm remain open to the public for birding or scenic walks. On the slopes that once grew rows of loganberry canes, trails cut through thick grasses that lead to protected forest land.
Each year, countless events such as the Greenbank Farm Loganberry Festival, the Whidbey Island Highland Games and a special monthly dinner, “First Friday at the Farm,” take place on the property. The Loganberry Festival, complete with pie eating contests, began in 1988 to celebrate the raspberry-blackberry hybrid.
In 1997, Island County, the Port of Coupeville and the Nature Conservancy purchased the 522-acre property. The port owns the 151-acre commercial core.
The former dairy farm was planted in loganberries after John Molz purchased the land in the early 1940s. By 1970, the farm had become the largest loganberry producer in the United States. Molz would also venture into Eastern Washington for grape growing and wine production, creating the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery.
Changes at the farm
The past 15 years have not gone by without changes to the property. The large, red 1904 barn and other historic buildings have been joined by newer but visually compatible structures to promote economic development in Central Whidbey.
Barn C was built 100 years after the historic barn, but blends in with the older structures. The building houses three art galleries.
“Under Laura Blankenship, the farm was able to get a grant from the state for the building,” Feldman said. “This brought an injection of energy to the farm.”
Feldman credits the Washington State University Extension Master Gardeners, Whidbey Audubon and the Central Whidbey Lions Club for helping make the farm what it is today.
“These community organizations have dedicated thousands of hours, dollars — and blisters,” Feldman said.
Other recent changes include the introduction in 2008 of the Greenbank Farm Ag Training Center. This seven-month program trains new farmers in sustainable agriculture and provides them with skills that can then be used for developing local, small-scale commerce.
And the outcome of negotiations between the Port of Coupeville and Island County could permanently shape the future of the farm. The port is trying to have a conservation easement placed on the property.
Laura Blankenship, Port of Coupeville commissioner, said that her hope is to permanently protect the farm from development with the easement.