One of the most interesting stops on Whidbey Island while traveling the Cascade Loop is at Greenbank Farm.
If you think of cheese when you hear that name it's because Erin Stonefelt has done a good job marketing world cheeses and other gourmet foods and gifts from her Greenbank Cheese and Specialties shop in Greenbank.
But that's only one of many shops and many attractions on the pastural farm at Whidbey Island's narrow waist, between Coupeville and Langley.
In the 1970s, Greenback Farm was well known as the state's — and possibly the nation's — largest loganberry farm. But its history began long before that.
Calvin Phillips started the farm around the turn of the 20th Century. The big red barn that now serves as a Whidbey Island landmark and attracts thousands of tourists was built in 1904.
Phillips named the farm and surrounding area Greenbank after his former East Coast hometown. He raised dairy cows on the farm until it was purchased in the 1940s by John Molz, who planted loganberries and other berries. Chateau Ste. Michelle purchased the property in the 1970 and expanded the berry plantings when it began making wine in Washington. Some of the wine barrels and vats are still there on the property.
You will find Whidbey Island and other wines there in the Greenbank Farm Wine Shop. Wine nor cheese, however, are made at Greenbank Farm. Loganberries no longer grow there, although the farm still holds its annual Loganberry Festival and you can get the best slice of Loganberry pie you ever ate in the farm's Whidbey Pies Cafe.
Chateau Ste. Michelle abandoned its Loganberry wine business and put the farm up for sale in 1996. When plans moved ahead to develop the acreage for homes and condominiums, the community and Port of Coupeville decided it was important to preserve the historic farm.
They worked with the Nature Conservancy and Lands for Public Trust to purchase the 522 acres. About 150 acres is operated as a community farm, said Judy Feldman, executive director.
Today, the farm is home to dozens of shops, galleries, studios and businesses. In addition to being a tourist attraction, the farm is the hub of community action. Instead of berries, it's acres grow solar panels, water conservation demonstrations, flowers and community gardens.
Washington State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners oversee the elaborate flower gardens and other demonstration projects and offer classes. An Organic Farm School offers internships to train farmers in creating ecological, community-based farms. The produce is sold at local farmer's markets and the excellent Whidbey Pies Cafe.
Trails meander through the properties fields and woods for hiking, off-leash dog walks and birding classes.
Farm halls are used for music events, weddings and community events.
It's a working Utopia when things go smoothly, said Feldman, who looks for grants and coordinates business and activities with the farm's many tenants, sponsors and visitors.
"It's like Alice in Wonderland," she said about her many faceted job. "When it works, it's absolutely wonderful. When it doesn't, it's absolutely horrid."
It's always a wonderful place to stop on the Cascade Loop.
This is one of a series of stories Rick Steigmeyer found while traveling the Cascade Loop this summer for a story in Foothills magazine. For more information about the Loop and its many offerings, check out the website cascadeloop.com