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Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux on Friday picks out one of the 2,000 Christmas trees sold every year from Seekonk Tree Farm.
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MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux poses with family and employees of Seekonk Tree Farm.
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The farm was able to build this gift shop/workshop with the help of a $50,000 grant from MDAR.
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Lebeaux reads the proclamation on Friday morning.
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Christmas trees and holiday greenery pump $3.5 million into the state's economy every year.

MDAR Commissioner Marks 'Green Friday' at Seekonk Tree Farm

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Seekonk Tree Farm was selected for the annual 'Green Friday' pronouncement. MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux traveled to the family-owned farm to present Peter Sweet Jr. and family with the state proclamation encouraging state residents to buy their greenery local.

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — State Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux traveled to Seekonk Tree Farm to celebrate "Green Friday" with the cutting of a Christmas tree.  The day is meant to encourage residents to source holiday plants from local farms.

Lebeaux presented the owners of the farm, the Sweet family, with a proclamation that marked Nov. 26 as Green Friday and outlined the many benefits of their line of work.

This includes adding $3.5 million to the state's economy each year with the sale of about 83,000 trees, providing a renewable source of energy when burned, producing biomass and removing carbon dioxide from the air, and providing stable refuge for wildlife.

"We try to rotate every year and it was the Berkshires turn this year," Lebeaux explained.

The farm has been in business since 1979, when Peter Alden Sweet Sr. married Carol Joan Wright. With the help of a $50,000 grant from MDAR, the family was able to build a gift shop/workshop that was completed about a year ago.


Lebeaux was amazed to hear that they sell about 2,000 homegrown trees a year.

"We're honored to have them here today," Peter Sweet Jr. said. "This whole operation here was possible by the grant we got last year."

The grant was an APR Improvement Grant that gives business planning and technical assistance to commercial farms that have land already protected through MDAR's Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program.

Sweet said it would not have been possible without the department's support and help.


Tags: Christmas tree,   state officials,   

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W.E.B Du Bois Center to Host Elizabeth Freeman Roundtable

SHEFFIELD, Mass. — The W.E.B. Du Bois Center for Freedom and Democracy of Great Barrington will present a roundtable discussion on the life and legacy of Elizabeth Freeman, the first enslaved African American to successfully sue for her freedom in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The roundtable will take place Friday, Aug. 19, at 4 p.m. at Dewey Hall. A reception will follow the roundtable.

This the first in a series of events honoring Freeman's journey to freedom that will take place in Sheffield from Aug. 19-21. A full schedule of events can be found here.

In recent years, Freeman's life and legacy have been interpreted through exhibits at the Colonel John Ashley House in Sheffield, a stop on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail, and numerous books and publications. 

Much of her public story was shaped by an 1853 biography written by Catharine Maria Sedgwick, the daughter of Freeman's longtime employer. Nationally, Freeman has been memorialized by a statue at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture; her portrait appeared in The 1619 Project, the New York Times' 2019 exploration of the history and legacy of American slavery.

"But Freeman never told her own story," writes Sari Edelstein in "'Good Mother, Farewell': Elizabeth Freeman's Silence and the Stories of Mumbet, an article published by the New England Quarterly in 2019. "The recent proliferation of children's books on Freeman vividly demonstrates the desire for a celebratory national story, one that can be seamlessly woven into grade school curricula that enshrine the founding ideals and ennoble exceptional individuals.

"And yet, Freeman's story is more complex than such accounts allow, and the instrumentalization of her life narrative raises questions about the stories told in the absence or suppression of archival material and about how narrative serves as one tool among many for the containment of black lives, even those that are celebrated."

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