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Voice of the land welcomes new steward

In his letter to the editor, John Donovan writes: “There is a wonderfully growing appreciation for Organics today. Simply put, organic farming is the creation of new soil through wise, natural, husbandry and farming techniques.”

To the Editor:

Best of greetings to all…

I am writing with joy and happiness as the voice of the APR (Agricultural Preservation Restriction) land at 342 North Plain Road in Housatonic.

Historically, my land was part of the Peter C. and Fay Lavan Esq. estate on North Plain Road. I am easily identified by my beautiful rusty ruby painted Yankee dairy barn and golden-rod yellow farmhouse.

It was about 1989, I was a tired old 54 acres. I had suffered the abuse of a commercial dairy using conventional chemical farming practices. I provided corn for a local dairy operation and was agriculturally monocropped for far too long. Essentially I was reduced to an earthworm void “corn desert.” Not fertile land.

The original CSA farmer/gardeners … Hugh Radcliffe and John Donovan … were asked to do an agriculture-based land-use plan for Dr. Jesse Stoff.  As they walked my land they were introduced to Mrs. Fay Levan and from that initial meeting a famous friendship occurred between Fay Lavan and Julie Donovan. Julie Donovan subsequently hired Steven Small Esq. from Boston and created a plan with George Wislocki from Berkshire Natural Resources Council to preserve my organic future for this local community as a state APR parcel. I was to be farmed organically for 99 years. I became Sunways Farm.

There is a wonderfully growing appreciation for Organics today. But most people cannot define it other than telling someone what it is not. Simply put, organic farming is the creation of new soil through wise, natural, husbandry and farming techniques. Organic farming is true land preservation. Otherwise, I naturally revert to “God’s garden,” reforestation in spite of the best conservation efforts.

The Sunways Farm Growers; Morven Allen, John Donovan and Hugh Radcliffe restored my soil fertility with their certified organic/biodynamic farming and gardening stewardship. In just three years my “organic heart” returned to agriculturally serve this lovely community where most of you live. “Sunways” quickly became a community-based farm: Blue Rider Stables, Mahaiwe Harvest, Frazier Food Fermentation, Holy Cow Dairy, seasonal festivals, school gardening and community supported agriculture all planted, grew and socially blossomed at Sunways Farm. For various reasons the star that was guiding Sunways faded and the torch was taken up by David Inglis.

David continued growing my organic “heart” of fertility through his seasoned land stewardship and superb organic farming gardening tenure and I became Mahaiwe Harvest. David decided to move to South Main Street and my care was taken on by Project Native. I mostly rested during Project Native’s seed and plant restoration project and Helia Wildflower habitat design, marketing and landscaping services.

Now, there is another young, gifted, community service-based, organic farmer to take up the original intention of land preservation through organic farming methods. I refer to Sean Stanton. Sean Stanton has a heart of community service. He has been the head of town’s Selectboard for eight years and raised locally on North Plain Road where Stanton Home is today. He has a great track record in local organic food production for over 15 years. You can meet Sean and his family at the Great Barrington Farmers Market on Saturdays grilling his organic sausages and sometimes offering horse-drawn wagon rides. The state of Massachusetts deemed Sean Stanton worthy of the specific APR responsibility to preserve my land through his stewardship.

I would like to herald Sean’s arrival this fall. He has been serving the local community’s need for grass-fed raw milk, organic eggs, chicken, beef, pork, delicious sausages and heirloom tomatoes. His work will expand and improve still … that is his standard, commitment, and track record. His existing customer base and restaurant accounts are delighted with his products. He has a history of returning customers who trust him. Professional chefs and restaurant owners trust him. The state’s APR Department chose him. I invite you all to join me your new community farm to celebrate the arrival of our new organic land steward  and farmer … Sean Stanton!

I, the ghost author of this letter, have known him and his stewardship, dependable character, heart of community service and proven organic farming practices for over 25 years. I trust him. I am the original CSA Sunways farm organic/biodynamic grower.

Life to the land!

Happy New Year…and beyond…to you all.

John Donovan



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