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Sean Stanton | Blue Hill Farm | Great Barrington, Massachusetts

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Published on Jan 7, 2014

When Sean Stanton started improving the pastures surrounding his small farm in Great Barrington, Mass., his efforts not only benefited the natural resources of this scenic southwest corner of Berkshire County, but also diners at an upscale eatery on the lower west side of Manhattan.

That's because he supplies the Blue Hill Restaurant in Greenwich Village with pasture-raised beef, veal and pork, as well as eggs and farm-fresh tomatoes. Standing among his 20 head herd in a field skirted by the Appalachian Trail and the rolling Berkshire hills, Sean explains how his farm products found their way to the Big Apple.

"I started farming because I wanted to know more about food, where it comes from, how it's produced," explains Sean. "I started on 10 acres that my parents own in Great Barrington. Then I met Dan Barber, a chef who owns Blue Hill Restaurant and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York City."

Dan and his brother David own the 135 acre Blue Hill Farm, which Sean now leases from the Barber family. It's a relationship that goes beyond customer and supplier, tenant and landlord. They share a belief that sustainable agriculture produces high quality food.

For help achieving his sustainability goals, Sean turned to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

"I've been working with Sean since 2006. He came in as a beginning farmer," says Kate Parsons, District Conservationist in NRCS' Pittsfield office. "We looked at all the issues on the farm and helped him with a milk house waste system and a nutrient management plan."

In the conservation plan that Kate developed with Sean, she included 35 acres of rotational grazing -- a management system where livestock is moved from one field to another -- to improve pastures that were dominated by vegetation that the cows had no desire to eat.

"It's been amazing to watch the pastures change here," says Sean, explaining that the action of the cows on the pasture -- the regular grazing down and regrowth, and added nutrients from cow manure -- has turned the grass into a nutritious food source for his herd.

"It's been exciting to work with a new farmer who's willing to try new things and to see him succeed and improve his farm and his business," says Kate.

Sean agrees. "It's really been quite a pleasant experience."

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