Published DateTo the editor,
Over the past few months a group of Gilmanton citizens have explored the benefits of establishing an Agricultural Commission in the town. The first task was to find out exactly what an agricultural commission is and why it would be a good idea for the Town of Gilmanton.
The legislature has authorized towns to establish Agricultural Commissions in RSA 674:44-e. If approved by the town at Town Meeting, the selectmen appoint members who then work to implement the purposes of the commission.
First of all, it is important to understand that Agricultural Commissions do not have any enforcement powers or regulatory authority. Their role is to advise other town boards and advocate for farming.
Agricultural Commissions serve as an information bridge between farm businesses and the non-farm public. For example, the Planning Board may draft an amendment to the town zoning ordinance regulating signs. The Agricultural Commission can advise the Planning Board of potential impacts on farm businesses, and recommend ways the ordinance could be written to assist farm businesses, such as allowing temporary signs for seasonal crops.
Contributions an Agricultural Commission can make to farming in the community include:
— Advise and work with other boards and commissions on issues facing farming in town;
— Conduct inventories of agricultural resources;
— Conduct inventories of historic farms and buildings;
— Educate the public on matters relating to farming and agriculture;
— Serve as a local voice, advocating for farmers, farm businesses and farm interests;
— Provide visibility for farming;
— Give farmers a place to go for help;
— Help resolve farm related problems or conflicts;
— Help protect farmland and other natural resources.
The warrant article authorizing the selectmen to appoint an Agricultural Commission is #39 on the March 12 ballot.