|MARCH 25, 2011 --
More than forty people attended a workshop Tuesday evening at The Great Path Academy Community Commons, on the campus of Manchester Community College sponsored by The Manchester Planning Department on the topic of preserving farmland in town.
Manchester residents expressed thier concern over the loss of many of the town's farms through the years to home site development. The meeting was part of the Town's 2020 longterm planning workshops to gather input from residents in order to update the town's Plan of Conservation and Development.
Town of Manchester Environmental Planner and Wetlands Agent Matthew Bordeaux gave an overview of the current farms on a town map. Three parcels had a large X over the lots indicating that a housing subdivision had been approved for the former farm. He described the farming activities that are allowed in a rural residence zone.
“In our current zoning regulations, there isn't a definition of agriculture or farming,” Bordeaux said.
Bordeaux also identified on the map many additional parcels that could be farmed but are currently vacant land.
Joan Nichols, government relations specialist of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, had some upbeat news about farming in Connecticut.
“Agriculture is the one sector that is growing in this economy with 3.5 billion dollars in sales and 20,000 jobs” she said. Although the average size of a farm in Connecticut has declined by a few acres over the past ten years, the number of farms has grown from 4250 to 4900 and there are 1232 farm that are less than ten acres in size.
Art Ruff, a local farmer and member of the Manchester Conservation Commission, made a plea for a “right to farm” ordinance that helps residents, developers, and farmers resolve conflicts. He also expressed his concern about the disappearing farmland in Manchester. “We the farmers are endangered in Manchester. Please don't let us become extinct” he said.
John Weedon, of the Manchester Agricultural Preservation Association, spoke about several strategies to preserve farmland and help farmers including forming a Agriculture Protection Zone, passing a “right to farm” ordinance, and taking advantage of federal and state programs as well as setting aside local funds to purchase farmland or development rights through funding from the town budget or through bonding. “Manchester is not set up to take advantage of these programs,” Weedon said.
Diane DeJoannis, a Manchester resident since 1952 who attended the workshop with her husband Gene said, “we think that preservation of open land is important”.
Manchester resident Eileen Sweeney, who had attended all of the previous 2020 planning workshops said she was exited about what she heard Tuesday evening. “I support local farmers and farmer's markets in Town. We need to preserve our farmland. We need to have a safe food supply nearby,” she said.
Mark Pellegrini, the town's director of neighborhood services and economic development, announced that the next Manchester 2020 workshop would be about the topic of transportation in Manchester, and will be held later this year.