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Farmers united in push for new commission

By Ryan Blessing, Norwich Bulletin (11/3/10)

  NOVEMBER 4, 2010 --

Showing their strength in numbers, Colchester farmers crowded the Board of Selectmen meeting last month to offer support for an agriculture commission in town.

The commission would advise town officials and other boards and commissions. Selectmen Oct. 21 approved the concept, but it must go to town meeting before the panel can be established.

First Selectman Gregg Schuster said a group of farmers brought the proposal to the board. He said there are numerous benefits to preserving farms.


“By ensuring the viability of farms, we help prevent large pieces of land from being developed into subdivisions, which can add a lot of expense to the town,” Schuster said.

Farms also help continue a local supply of produce, he said.

“We all know that the closer the farm is to us, the quicker and fresher it can get to our kitchens.”

Chris Bourque and his wife, Carol, own and operate Birch Pond Farm in Colchester, where they raise angus cattle for beef.

“Farming is important to Colchester,” Bourque said. “There’s more demand at local farmers markets than farmers to supply them.”

Bourque supports forming an agriculture commission. Its members would be farmers and non-farm members.

“They can enhance the other commissions,” he said. “Members would have an insight into how agriculture works.”

Wayne Budney, president of the New London County Farm Bureau, said about 12 towns in Connecticut have agriculture boards, and more than 100 do in Massachusetts.

“An agriculture committee does not make or enforce regulations,” Budney, of Lebanon, said. “Its role is to advise.”

The big benefit to a town is that it can bring in money for agriculture in the form of grants, he said.

“Lebanon has received $50,000 this year,” he said.

Schuster said the town must set a date for a town meeting, which would include other town business, but promised the farmers the vote would come “as soon as possible.”


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