The loss of Project Native Farm is painful for obvious reasons, but the state's apparent indifference to the ramifications of its decision magnifies the loss.
After 15 years of promoting native habitat conservation and education in a county that cherishes its environment, the Great Barrington farm has closed. Funding was a struggle for the nonprofit, and its board hoped to sell the 54-acre farmland, barn and greenhouses to Helia Land Design, which seemed an ideal match going forward.
When the state Department of Agriculture short-circuited the process by choosing to take bids through the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program (APR) it was within its rights, and the DAR had a right to choose the bid of farmer and Great Barrington Select Board Chair Sean Stanton over that of Bridghe McCracken of Helia. The DAR did not, however, meet its obligation to at least explain its rationale to all parties and the public. The wishes of the Project Native board should have mattered, especially as Project Native was already proving its agricultural viability as required by the APR.
The native stock of Project Native has been distributed in the fashion of Johnny Appleseed, though Helia's fate is uncertain. Even if no rules or regulations were broken, the process shows why government bureaucracies have a reputation of failing to listen to and inform the locals.