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Farmers find new Greenbank home

A small group of students hoping to cultivate a career in agriculture are busy harvesting crops at the Greenbank Farm.

Four students are attending the organic farm school located on about eight acres of land at what was once the largest loganberry producer in the United States.

They are busy picking crops that are being sold at the Coupeville Farmers Market that takes place Saturdays behind the Coupeville Public Library.

“Everything has been maturing much faster because the weather is so nice,” said Jessica Babcock, director of the organic farm school. In addition to the Coupeville Farmers Market, the students’ produce is also available for purchase at the Star Store in Langley and the Goose in Freeland.

They are also seeking subscriptions for a CSA.

Babcock highlighted the CSA program as a way to get students to understand the opportunities and challenges of growing a diverse set of crops through the season.

Students are busy picking turnips and various varieties of greens for sale, such as bok choi, spinach and arugula.

The center, which opened several years ago under the auspices of the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, offers participants classroom instruction along with practical, hands-on training. Throughout the course of the growing season, the class is exposed to every aspect of operating a small farm. They learn agricultural techniques, marketing strategies and business practices throughout the course of a growing season. The Greenbank Farm Management Group a couple of years ago took over operations of the training center.

This year’s crop of students come from as far away as Georgia and California.

Mitia Dion, who recently lived in Seattle, came to Seattle because she wanted to expand her horticulture background.

“I’ve always loved nature and growing plants,” Dion said while working in the field. She said she hopes to work on an organic farm and she’s interested in teaching children who don’t have access to such places.

Fellow student David Hunter decided to join the farm center because he has an interest in farming. He said attending the classes in Greenbank gives him the confidence needed to start his own farm.

He was living in Berkeley, Calif., when he decided to enroll. He heard about the Whidbey school through Rob Schouten, a local artist who sells his work at the Greenbank Farm. Hunter said he was buying a work of art from Schouten.

Babcock said she is trying to recruit Whidbey Island residents to give the Organic Farm Center a try. She pointed out two former students spent two years at the center before starting their own farm on South Whidbey Island.

The training center offers an incubator program for students. They grow their own crops and sell them independent from the farm center.

She hopes to attract more Whidbey Island residents interested in farming as the program becomes more will known and the students become more visible in the community.

In the meantime, the new farmers are busy growing, harvesting and selling their crops.

Babcock said subscriptions are available for the CSA program. For more information, call 360-222-3171 or email csa@greenbankfarm.com.

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