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Greenbank funding clears legislative hurdle

Greenbank Farm's long-awaited renovation plans moved a giant step forward this week, as the state House included a $1.5 million request from the farm in its capital budget.

The money announcement was made Sunday. The full amount of the fund request was also included in the proposed Senate budget announced earlier this month.

Now, the farm will have to wait until the special legislative session convenes May 12 to hammer out a final budget.

While this legislative session has been mired in partisan politics, both sides of the aisle have supported the Greenbank Farm project.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) has long been a supporter of the efforts to make the farm an economic development magnet on the island, while maintaining a valuable link to the Whidbey Island's past.

"I feel we have to maintain the presence of this farm," she said. "It's a part of our heritage."

The central island loganberry farm with a commanding view of Saratoga Passage was once a vital part of the island's agriculture.

The berry fields are gone now, although stubborn loganberry vines continue to sprout in the tall grass and new plants have taken root.

Rep. Barry Sehlin (R-Oak Harbor) had no problem backing the project.

"This is one of the projects we do for economic development that has great potential for success," he said.

"People know and love the farm," he continued. "It's a very important feature for Whidbey Island just because of what it is."

Greenbank Farm Executive Director Laura Blankenship was taking a cautiously optimistic approach.

"I'm dancing with excitement, but trying to be cautious and sensible. It's not a done deal," she said.

Blankenship applauded Whidbey Island Representatives Barry Sehlin and Barbara Bailey for their efforts in keeping the project in the House budget, and seeing it through to approval.

"It's been a process of little miracles and a lot of hard work," she said.

The farm plans on using the $1.5 million to renovate one of the farm's vintage barns to use as an alpaca fiber processing mill, and replace a smaller barn to create more commercial spaces.

Money would also be used for general sprucing up, such as improving internal roads and parking areas and landscaping.

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