To The Daily Sun,
As farmers and folks who have gone through the town process of opening our farm to the public for additional revenue through agricultural tourism, we are quite dismayed to read Norman Silbers' hostile letter of March 2.
We all attended (including Mr. Silbers) a Senate hearing on a bill addressing agritourism. Many senators spent a lot of time explaining why the things that Mr. Silbers is claiming just could not happen due to local oversight.
Farming is and always has been a "commercial activity." By passing the article Mr. Silbers refers to, it sounds as though Gilford would be banning farming. How does no farms add to the "rural character" of towns? In many cases farms have existed in their current location before zoning was adopted by towns.
Zoning was intended to combat sprawl development, preserve open space and concentrate most commerce in downtowns, not to restrict farms from being able to function as businesses. And it needs to be noted that agritourism is not new. People have been leaving the city to visit farms for recreation since the early 1800s.
Farming has always been a fickle enterprise, with constantly changing consumer demands, weather extremes, pests, changing fuel costs and low profit margins are some of the many challenges faced by a farm. Trying to find ways to offset these challenges has forced farms to continue to diversify the ways they can generate income from their land.
The "conservation easement tax avoidance schemes" Mr. Silbers refers to are designed to help preserve rural character for all residents to enjoy. Farmers should be thanked for adding thousands of acres to conservation easements.
Those who are out of touch with the difficulties and realities of earning a living from the land may see conservation easements as such. They are misguided in their choice of classification. Conservation easements are a way for those who love forest and open space to make sure their land will always be protected from commercial development. Since development of these types is restricted the land is valued less and is taxed at a reduced rate. As a result owners of property adjacent to land that has been conserved will see an increase in the value of their property.
We do not live in Gilford, but we have gone through a similar process, and would like to say that a balance can be achieved, we would urge the voters to not feel bullied into voting in such restrictive articles as 7 and 8. The rights of property owners should be taken into consideration, as should those of farms, businesses that predate most neighbors by several generations, businesses that have preserved and enhanced the quality of life and picturesque landscape we all treasure, and so that current and future generations will have access to food and will have the opportunity to know a working farm. Restricting a farms ability to access ways to generate income puts all of these important values in great jeopardy.
Ruth & Dan Holmes
Bryn Dumas & Carrie Holmes Dumas
Four Winds Farm