Note from Barbara Zheutlin, executive director of Berkshire Grown: The Berkshires are much loved for the pastoral beauty of the region. This gorgeous landscape attracts visitors and development, producing a rich culture, while simultaneously raising the cost of land. The high cost of land is one of the many challenges facing farms, the farms that are at the heart of the beauty of the Berkshires. So a challenge to all who treasure the Berkshires is how to sustain the old and new farms of the region that make the Berkshires extraordinary. In this series you will “get to know your local farmers,” the individuals who grow the food you eat and care for the land you see.
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Great Barrington — North Plain Farm moved into its new location at 205 North Plain Road last summer after receiving the contract to take over APR land that was previously stewarded by Project Native. APR stands for Agricultural Preservation Restriction, which means that the state owns the development rights to the land, making it more affordable for the farmer to purchase. Acquiring the land was key to the life of the farm for Sean Stanton and Tess Diamond, who were seriously questioning the future of their farm if they couldn’t secure adequate land in the area. They currently navigate relationships with 12 different landowners and manage over 250 acres of land. Having farmland with housing and living closer to where most of their animals live allows them to take care of their animals more easily and has been a huge time saver.
Berkshire Grown was excited to host John Lebeaux, the State’s Agricultural Commissioner on a tour of North Plain’s new location. We walked a wide circle around the land, visiting the black tomatoes in the greenhouse, the seed bank started by Project Native that the farm is preserving, several chicken “tractors” home to pastured laying hens, and baby piglets scrambling over one another to find a good spot to nurse. We paused to look out over a knee-
high green field near the pastured hens. “A diverse and healthy ecosystem and a livestock farm are not mutually exclusive” says Tess. “After one season of careful rotational grazing, the diversity of pasture grasses is coming back where invasive weeds were taking over. There are butterflies and bees everywhere.”
Our walk ended where we began, back at the lapis blue farm store, where you can buy North Plain’s pasture raised beef, pork, chickens, eggs as well as beautifully tanned cow, sheep and goat hides. To finish up the tour, we took a short ride down the road to see the Angus cattle, finding refuge in the reeds on a warm day.