Tonneli Gruetter holds a jar of colorful, edible flowers in shades of pink, purple and white. The farm specializes in providing unique arrangements for bouquets. (Photos by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group)

Tonneli Gruetter holds a jar of colorful, edible flowers in shades of pink, purple and white. The farm specializes in providing unique arrangements for bouquets. (Photos by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group)

Farming family brings flowers to Greenbank Farm

Greenbank Farm, currently known for its retail stores, pies and dog park, is getting back to its roots with some good, old-fashioned traditional farming.

The fertile soil is being painstakingly plowed and sifted through by a farming family who think Greenbank Farm can use a good pop of color.

“Finally, some agriculture is going to come back to Greenbank,” Kim Gruetter said.

The farm, Salty Acres, consists of Kim and her husband Paul Gruetter, their daughter Tonneli and her husband John Loughman. The team has been working for the past few months to establish what will be primarily a flower farm at Greenbank.

Their crop of dahlias, blue cornflower, daisies, roses, peonies and more will be in high bloom by June, Tonneli said. “It’ll be a selfie hotspot by July,” she said.

The bouquets they make from the flowers are not only eye-catching, but unique. Salty Acres puts a twist on tradition, such as adding garlic blossoms, tomato greens or asparagus to their bouquets, Tonneli said. Many of the flowers they grow are also edible, so they produce a colorful “flower confetti” that can be sprinkled in a bath, tossed at weddings, or put on top of cupcakes and cheese.

“We don’t spray any chemicals,” Tonneli said. “…We let the earth do the work.”

They family moved four years ago to Whidbey Island as a military family after running the flower farm under a different name in Oregon. This is Salty Acres’ first year selling bouquets and flowers at the Coupeville Farmers market, which runs Saturdays April through October. Salty Acres’ main farm is currently located next to the Three Sisters market near Coupeville.

The idea to bring their flowers to Greenbank came after the family was walking their dogs along the Greenbank Farm trails, and Tonneli spotted the empty greenhouses and open land. They reached out to the Port of Coupeville to see if the land could be rented to them. The Port was open and enthusiastic about the idea, Tonneli said.

“It’s hard to make a living as a flower farmer and Whidbey has been particularly supportive,” Tonneli said. “We have really amazing soil on Whidbey. You really have to try to kill anything.”

The name Salty Acres comes from the farm’s other main product, Penn Cove sea salt sold in small batches using a solar powered process.

Local florists have increasingly been noticing the farm, and they’ve expanded from selling from one florists to six in the past year, Kim said.

Greenbank Farm is a popular destination for weddings, so the family is hoping to get their flowers featured in the “big day.” They’re also working to establish a relationship with the Greenbank Farm stores, talking with the wine shop about the possibility of setting up a flower stand there. Wine and flowers, a pairing made perfect for romantics, or those looking to apologize with a grand gesture.

So far, the public has been respectful of their new plot of land, Tonneli said, but the Port is working to reeducate the public about where the dog park trails end and the agricultural land begins.

“I hope that we attract other farmers,” Tonneli said.

There’s a satisfaction that comes from seeing a bloom after months of hard work. It’s pretty amazing — creating something from nothing, Kim said.

• Salty Acres farm can be reached at 503-997-0714 or by visiting the website at https://saltyacresfarming.wixsite.com/farm

Tonneli Gruetter sifts through the soil to eliminate all traces of prairie grass. Any strands that remain will sprout and produce unwanted grass, choking out the flowers.

Tonneli Gruetter sifts through the soil to eliminate all traces of prairie grass. Any strands that remain will sprout and produce unwanted grass, choking out the flowers.

This little fire truck can be spotted at the Coupeville Farmers Market on Saturdays. The vehicle is known as a Japanese Kei fire truck, Tonneli Gruetter said, and the family uses the street-legal truck to transport and display their flowers to buyers at the market.

This little fire truck can be spotted at the Coupeville Farmers Market on Saturdays. The vehicle is known as a Japanese Kei fire truck, Tonneli Gruetter said, and the family uses the street-legal truck to transport and display their flowers to buyers at the market.

Kim Gruetter explains what crops are being grown in the rows of plowed soil. A hose runs down the untarped aisle, providing water to the growing plants.

Kim Gruetter explains what crops are being grown in the rows of plowed soil. A hose runs down the untarped aisle, providing water to the growing plants.

Salty Acres salt pouches made from the water of Penn Cove.

Salty Acres salt pouches made from the water of Penn Cove.

Tonneli uses fire to burn holes in tarp that allow for young plants to sprout without weed growth. The burning process seals the edges of the holes, making it a quick and uniform way to grow the plants.

Tonneli uses fire to burn holes in tarp that allow for young plants to sprout without weed growth. The burning process seals the edges of the holes, making it a quick and uniform way to grow the plants.

Soon, Greenbank Farm will have colorful flowers growing from the soil.

Soon, Greenbank Farm will have colorful flowers growing from the soil.

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