Community

Farmers plant away for CSA project at Greenbank Farm

Anza Muenchow leads a crew of 12 farmers at the Greenbank Farm CSA training center.   - Patricia Duff / The Record
Anza Muenchow leads a crew of 12 farmers at the Greenbank Farm CSA training center.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

The Calvin Phillips family would be pleased to know the Greenbank Farm is becoming a farm again.

The Phillipses farmed there in the early 1900s, experimenting with crops as the farmland went from a dairy to a berry farm.

By 1972, Greenbank Farm was the largest loganberry farm in the United States.

Ages have passed and the farm has seen transformations and revolutions.

But now, once again, garlic and peas are growing in that historic ground, and 30 or so varieties of salad greens started in a greenhouse will soon follow.

Greenbank Farm is coming back to itself in myriad forms.

Good organic food with a variety of crops is one of the main purposes of a Community Supported Agriculture program, and some local farmers want you to have it all.

With a staff of about 12 farmers, teachers and interns, the Greenbank Farm CSA training center is the newest endeavor of its kind on Whidbey Island.

It is a collaboration of the Port of Coupeville, the Greenbank Management Group and South Whidbey Tilth under the umbrella of the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, a nonprofit organization that provides northwest Washington farmers with the skills and resources required to supply their products to consumers.

The folks at the Greenbank Farm CSA want to “pay it forward” by helping the community eat good food.

The main thrust of getting the ground prepared for planting started in January, and the farmers have been working hard and steadily since then, hoping to attract a hefty group of community members to buy in.

“The objective here is to increase the number of active farmers on the island,” CSA farmer John Burks said. “There is a push to maintain and sustain the farming culture.”

It was mid-morning, and Burks was gathering with interns Katie Shapiro, Landon Primrose and Erik Swanson to tend the fields and await instruction from CSA training program coordinator Anza Muenchow.

You may have heard Muenchow’s name mentioned more than once in conjunction with farming and teaching on the island and in Seattle, particularly at South Whidbey Tilth, where she was market manager for a time.

With the training program, Muenchow has been using her expertise to teach organic gardening to a new batch of farmers on everything from garden sites, soil preparation, crop requirements, crop rotations, irrigation design and harvesting to what small farm tools are needed to have the most productive organic farm.

Shapiro said she felt like she was tending something beyond the crops, as well.

“We’re preserving the history of the Greenbank Farm as a farming organization,” she said.

Muenchow is determined to get people eating good food.

Also a nutritionist, she was recently given the Linda Lee Martens Memorial Health Hero of Island County award for her years of working with children and refugees toward a better diet and for this most recent endeavor, which aims to give everyone access to organic, healthy food.

“We’re just about ready to get to the real work,” Muenchow said.

“We’ll finally be planting the carrots, beets, bok choy, salad greens and all the other crops we’ve started in the greenhouse.”

Altogether, the team will have planted 50 to 60 crops and herbs for the community to enjoy.

“We have five or six different types of broccoli alone,” Muenchow said.

The weather of late has been a bit uncooperative with unseasonably cold temperatures, but Muenchow said the team has been working every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the field.

In two weeks, the farmers will lay out the irrigation system and they’ll be off and growing.

From the five acres of land available, each of the farmers will be assigned to 10 to 12 families for whom they will grow food. The Greenbank Farm CSA has sold a small portion of the 100 shares available to the community and needs to sell more.

Muenchow said that when this country lost its small farms, it lost a part of its culture. Before the industrial age took over, local farmers learned things from each other and learned from their mistakes, she said.

“I want people to start asking ‘Who’s your farmer?’ when they meet at the barber or the post office,” she said.

The CSA can provide each family with a weekly box of fresh, organic vegetables delivered to pick-up sites in either Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Greenbank, Freeland or Bayview.

A box of produce will come for 20 weeks from June through October, depending on the weather. Contents of the box will vary throughout the growing season, as farmers pick only the vegetables that are at their peak each week.

A typical late-spring box may include spinach, green onions, bok choy, lettuces, radishes, mizuna (an Asian green) and sugar snap peas.

By mid-summer there will be broccoli, carrots, onions, mixed salad greens, basil, garlic, beets, leaf lettuce and tiny summer squash.

In late summer and early fall customers will most likely have green beans, kale, leeks, potatoes, garlic, sweet peppers, winter squash and cherry tomatoes.

“When people taste the local produce they can taste the difference; it just tastes good,” farming intern Primrose said.

Recipes, too, will be provided by the farmers and suggestions on how to prepare simple delicious meals.

These new farmers were looking forward to a future of farming communities on the island; a revival of that small farm culture to which Muenchow espouses.

“Each of us strives to teach others who may have another five acres to plant,” Swanson said.

Burks talked of being able to provide a portion from the field to food banks, and Primrose hoped to succeed enough to see an accessible community facility with classrooms and a kitchen sprouting up at Greenbank Farm somewhere in conjunction with the CSA.

The bottom line, Muenchow said, is that CSAs foster the local economy.

“That’s one way out of this mess,” she said.

To sign up for a subscription to the CSA program, contact Anza Muenchow at anza@agbizcenter.org or call 222-3171.

A seasonal subscription costs $500.

Community Events, April 2014

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