Project Native farmland changes hands, but McCracken won't leave
GREAT BARRINGTON — The former Project Native farm has been sold to local farmer and Select Board Chairman Sean Stanton, but the current occupant says she'll stay on the land as long as she can to move the plants and greenhouses to their new homes.
"I intend to stay through the legal limit of my time," Helia Native Nursery owner/operator Bridghe McCracken said. She plans to remain on the property until the thirty days required by law after an eviction notice have expired.
McCracken has a lease on the land that she signed in February. The lease was signed in advance of what she and the farmland's owner, Project Native, thought would be a quick approval process from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture. The department controls the development rights to the land through the state's Agricultural Preservation Restriction program.
The department exercised its right of first refusal over the pending sale between McCracken and Project Native and, after a bidding process, awarded the land to Stanton.
As of Friday the sale to Stanton's North Plain Farm had gone through and been logged in the Southern Berkshire Registry of Deeds. The sale terminates McCracken's lease, but she's waiting for an official eviction notice before she starts the process of leaving the land.
McCracken explained that the thirty days after the eviction notice are valuable for her. She said she is working to move the plants off the farm and believes she needs as much time as possible for the work.
"We have 7,000 plants that need to be under shade cloth and moved," McCracken said.
That's 7,000 plants that need to be moved in addition to the 1,000 already being stored by Ward's Nursery in Sheffield. McCracken said the limited water on the site makes irrigation a constant struggle, so she'll stay on site for as long as possible to avoid sharing the precious resource with Stanton's livestock.
Helia also plans to remove half of the structures on the site. In particular, the nursery will take down and transport the greenhouses for native plants on the property.
"Staying as long as legally possible isn't out of spite," McCracken said. "It's a business decision."