Sunday March 17, 2013

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Project Native will open this spring with some new community projects and programs, including the construction of a new butterfly house, grounds groomed for more education in nature and a film festival.

Project Native is a 54-acre nonprofit native plant farm, nursery and public wildlife sanctuary in the Great Barrington village of Housatonic. Its mission is to connect people with nature.

Near the front of the farm is a community garden plot where a local youth group known as Greenagers will build a new permanent mesh-enclosed hoop house to raise and study native butterfly species.

Karen Lyness LeBlanc, Project Native's coordinator of education and outreach, said the farm is currently looking for an environmental education intern to help manage the project, insect zoo and lead children's programs this summer. She said students will be able to explore the farm and fields in the spring and summer to find caterpillars that will grow into butterflies.

"The closer you get kids to the ground they will be able to get to look at a species and see the relationship of the animal, for example, to the host plant and connect back to the natural history of this place," she said.

The farm also has ongoing partnerships with area youths, including schools, summer camps, Greenagers and the Heartwood School in Washington. Camp Becket Service Corp helped build benches for the grounds and created the Wislocki Woods Trail.

On Friday afternoon, operations manager Dave Ellis and propagator Lou Kratt walked the length of a new propagation house set up to help raise and shelter new seedlings, a project LeBlanc said community members, classes and volunteers can help out with.

"Right now is slow, we're waiting for Mother Nature to wake up, but soon we'll have lots to do," LeBlanc said.

The chores to get the nursery up and running will include seed cleaning and storing, plant tagging as well as grounds clearing and cleaning.

Project Native's garden shop is scheduled to open on April 19. The farm offers more than 200 species of native plants.

"This is a place people can really get their hands on," LeBlanc said. "We want to make environmental education possible for everyone."

Prior to the shop opening, Project Native will host its third annual environmental film festival on Sunday, April 7 at the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington. The festival is sponsored by the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation and will show five feature documentaries from the Toronto Film Festival, and a kids' festival of short films, all free to the public.

The 10 a.m. children's festival is programmed for kids ages 4 to 10 years old. The films are based on children's books.

The topics of the rest of the films, include farm debt and the epidemic of farmer suicides in India; a "docu-comedy" about a group of college students on a year-long environmental road trip; the survival of the Sanikiluaq people in the Canadian Arctic; the industries of carbon emissions reduction; and what happened when the spirit of civil disobedience was practiced at a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction in Utah.