To The Daily Sun,
After reading Gail Ober's front page article (Daily Sun, Jan. 13) and also a letter which mercilessly berated Timber Hill Farms' abutter, I would like to make the following points.
In the article, I thought the words of John Moulton of Moulton Farm ("as long as there is a strong farm-to-agriculture connect" and "there needs to be a true farming enterprise") pretty much summed up whether or not Timber Hill/Beans and Greens' ambitions to hold a commercial wedding venue on their residentially-zoned property could ever fall within the parameters of any definition of agritourism that anyone could conceivably come up with now or in the future. To illustrate my point, let's examine what Moulton Farm does on their farm: they grow produce, they have a large indoor and outdoor farm stand, a bakery; a garden center, greenhouses, a farm kitchen, and corn mazes. They run periodic cooking classes and also host Farm-To-Table (or as they say, "Field-To-Fork") events throughout the growing season. All of these functions and activities are conducted on the same grounds. In other words, the Moultons seem to have truly defined agritourism: they actually bring people to the farm. When they serve their Field-To-Fork brunches, they are served within a stones-throw of where the crops are actually grown, as is the food actually cooked, the breads actually baked, the preserves actually preserved, the plants actually started ... etc., etc.
In the article, when Mr. Moulton further states, "doesn't change a heck of a lot" in reference to legislators Boutin and Horner's efforts in sponsoring their proposed bill; what Mr. Moulton is saying, in my opinion, is a total understatement. In fact, it will change nothing. There was one Supreme Court justice dissenter on Forstner v. Town of Henniker (which addressed commercial wedding venues on farms under the umbrella of agritourism) and in seven pages of argument he was still unable to get over the hurdle of: "the accessory use be minor in relation to the primary use and that it bear a reasonable resemblance to that use." In other words, commercial wedding reception venues have as much to do with agriculture as carpentry has to do with brain surgery.
It's interesting to note too that Forstner also tried to sway the justices by arguing, "there are all these other farms that are having weddings, why shouldn't I?", but the argument fell flat, because the other farms were either zoned properly and/or were careful not to alienate and anger the abutters by considering their privacy and rights to enjoy their own property in a reasonable manner. Exactly. It would seem, what Timber Hill/Beans and Greens has neglected to do with their abutter.
Anyway, I was thinking after reading the article that if the Legislature needs a definition of agritourism, they simply need to visit Moulton Farms, because there, it would seem, they are not working within any inflated, exaggerated or forced definitions of agritourism to fit their agenda, they are in fact by the very nature of what they provide and how they provide it ... defining it. Agritourism is a great tool for agriculture, and I support it. However, like any tool, if used improperly, it can have regrettable consequences.
- Category: Letters
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