Letter: Holistic farm is right choice for APR

Holistic farm is right choice for APR

To the editor:

I am writing in response to Richard Greene's August 25 letter to the editor regarding the Agriculture Preservation Restriction (APR) site on North Plain Road in Great Barrington.

Mr. Greene refers to the "Project Native/Helia Nursery mission." The conflation of Project Native and Helia Land Design is misleading. Project Native was a nonprofit with a mission to promote native plants through education and native plant horticulture. When it dissolved it gave up the state controlled APR land it was on and a Request for Proposal for use of the site was put out.

Bridghe McCracken, founder of Helia Land Design, a for-profit landscaping business, proposed using the site to expand her business by starting a native plant nursery, Helia Nursery. Her proposal included use of a small fraction of the land to propagate native plants and to maintain the one-acre seed bank which Project Native had maintained. This proposal was rejected by the state as it did not meet the fullest agricultural potential for the site, nor did McCracken have a proven track record in agricultural- an important requirement for use of APR land.

The proposal that was accepted was from Sean Stanton. Sean has been farming in South County for over 10 years. His North Plain Farm (NPF) is a diversified holistic farm which includes raising cattle for beef and dairy, chickens for meat and eggs, pigs, heirloom tomatoes, and more. Possibly most importantly, Sean runs a farming apprenticeship program, which over the years he has used to train many young farmers in sustainable and holistic farming.

Mr. Greene's analogy of Sean's proposal to that of industrial farming in Brazil is absurd. Sean does not intend to just raise beef cattle (or bulldoze anything), but to continue his holistic farm and apprenticeship program. Holistic farm management has been proven to have positive effects on the environment, including increased carbon sequestration, healthier soil, increased native plant diversity, and providing our local community with healthy, good food.

When we consider this site not in the context of its short-term history, but in the context of its longer-term history as a site of agricultural preservation we have to ask ourselves what proposal best suits the site and our community — a few acres of native plant horticulture or 50 acres of sustainable holistic agriculture and young farmers training. Native plant horticulture is a hugely important endeavor but it is clear that North Plain Farm best fulfills the site mission as an APR.

Jake Levin, New Marlborough


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