CHICHESTER AGRICULTURAL COMMISSION
Commission Meeting, 7:00pm, Town Library, 07/20/2016
D R A F T Meeting Minutes
Present: Teresa Paradis, Catherine Snow, John Snow
Not Present: Jeff Jordan, Heather Barker, Steve MacCleery
1. John Snow made a Motion to approve the 03/16/2016 Meeting Minutes; Catherine Snow Seconded; all in favor; Minutes Approved.
2. Discussion re combining Ag in the Classroom with AgDays and date to be May 19, 2017. This could not be voted upon as the school has not yet confirmed May 19 date; matter tabled until which time an accepted date is agreed upon.
3. Expenditures: AgCom received $21.00 donation from sale of Prof. Carroll’s books; AgCom should reimburse Garden Club for half of refreshments, copies, speaker mileage fee totaling $21.95 in connection with joint Backyard Farming Program. Since this is nearly a wash, John Snow made a Motion to use the $21 donation to reimburse the Garden Club; Motion Seconded by Catherine Snow; all in favor; Approved.
4. A discussion re a Chichester Seed Library ensued - some Libraries throughout the country are offering packets of seeds for people to plant in their garden, returning the seeds they don’t use or donate saved seeds at the end of the season. It was decided to move ahead if Library is in agreement. It was also decided that seeds should at least be non-GMO.
5. Discussion: Agritourism is a huge business in both VT & NH and has been active since the 1800’s when farmers offered rooms for rent to summer vacationers. Agritourism is a unique industry in that it not only stimulates the economy, it provides agricultural education while offering a relaxing experience and vacation attractions. It is the obligation of AgComs to promote agriculture in NH, and therefore any Value Added element such as Agritourism. This matter should be more thoroughly discussed as it may be necessary to promote updating zoning laws to provide an avenue by which local farmers may enter into the Agritourism market.
Meeting adjourned 7:40.
Minutes Taken by Teresa Paradis
Chichester AgCom 2016: Aug 17; Sep 21; Oct 19
The purpose of an agricultural commission is to protect farmland, support the local agricultural economy, preserve rural character and promote local agriculture to community members and visitors. As ambassadors of the farming community, agricultural commissions act as educators, advisers and promoters to help keep agriculture viable in New Hampshire.
What is a farm? Zoning laws need updating EDITORIAL
A Henniker Christmas tree farmer has lost before the state Supreme Court in a case that could spell the end for some struggling NH farms. Citizens who don’t want to see more small farms turned into developments will need to act to prevent that.
To make ends meet, Stephen E. Forster of Forster Christmas Tree Farm in Henniker has been renting part of his 110 acres for weddings and meetings for a few years. Henniker officials ordered him to stop, saying it was a zoning violation.
Forster challenged the order, saying the new business activity was covered under the state’s 2005 law allowing “agritourism.” Last week the Supreme Court said agritourism was separate from agriculture and therefore not allowed under the town’s zoning ordinance. Forster must stick to farming only.
The court’s decision is debatable, but by the time such a debate is settled it could be too late for small farmers like Forster. NH has many small farms that stay in business by renting their land for non-agricultural uses such as weddings, tours and meetings. Though state law recognizes this as a legitimate use of farmland, some local zoning ordinances do not. Those ordinances could put these farms out of business.
Forster’s case illustrates the insane logic of such regulations. Forster may operate a working farm. Should he truck in migrant workers and run a noisy, traffic-heavy livestock or cash crop operation, his neighbors could do nothing about it. But if he opts for a few weddings a year, his neighbors can shut him down.
The ordinance does not protect neighbors from noise or traffic; it simply dictates the kind of noise and traffic allowed. The goal is not to protect neighbors, but to force property owners to conform to the town’s preconceived, outdated concept of a farm. If we want small farms to thrive in NH, we cannot constrain them this way.
Photos: March 2016 Ag in the Classroom and May 2016 AgDay