Here at our insurance agency we love supporting local businesses here in Stafford Springs. In fact, a big part of our community is made up of agricultural businesses and local farmers. However, due to a proposed zoning regulation created by town officials, these new regulations would have an effect on many of the local farms here. Foster Hill Farm, for example, would feel major limitations on their business because of these new rules. So what are the new rules and regulations for farms in our town?
Well, first off farm stands would only be allowed to be open from April 15th to October 31st. Stands would be allowed to be open a week before Easter for plant sales, as well as 4 weeks before Christmas to sell trees. However, this still places some restrictions on when a farm could legally sell their goods to the public. Additionally, many other towns require a stand to be closed for 8 consecutive weeks a year, rather than enforcing the closure of a stand for months. This also allows the farmer to close their stands during slower or colder months, rather than by a town regulation.
Farm stands also wouldn’t be able to exceed 500 square feet for both indoor and outdoor display areas. Additionally, in order for a farm to be allowed a bigger space for sales, the farm must be selling Christmas Trees. Unfortunately, this is not enough space for Foster Hill Farm to display or sell their goods such as bigger plants and shrubs. Moreover, because they do not sell Christmas Trees they wouldn’t be granted a bigger space to sell goods.
Farms that are used as wedding venues, have “pick your own fruits” sections, wineries, and host farm to table events would need special use permit. While a permit is understandable to keep order and safety regulations in places, this would add to the expense of keeping an agricultural businesses running. Many farmers already spend a lot of money on feed, machinery, maintenance, and modern amenities to make their farms function.
Commercial Agriculture will also be limited to 2 greenhouses with a total area of 2,500 square feet. Currently, 5,000 square feet is allowed for commercial spaces, however both greenhouse areas at the Stafford Conservatory and Chestnut Hill Farm exceed 30,000 square feet each, so it’s unreasonable to push limits on Foster Hill Farm. Crops and flowers need a lot of space to properly grow, therefore, 2,500 square feet would not be enough space to run a viable agricultural business.
All farm stands would have to be registered with the ZEO (Zoning Enforcement Office) before selling goods, additionally a permit would not be required for this. This may cause an inconvenience to farms who are ready to set up shop, as well as put limitations over what they sell and the size of their stand.
Agricultural and Animal Commercial businesses would no longer be allowed to raise or sell swine or rabbits. This may not directly affect Foster Hill Farm as they do not raise or sell swine or rabbits, but it would still affect the various farms in our town that do.
If you’d like to help out in defending our local farms and agricultural businesses, don’t let your voice go unheard. There is a public hearing being held to discuss the future of agricultural and farming spaces in Stafford at the Town Hall in the Veterans Meeting Room. The hearing will be February 28th, 2017 at 7:00 PM. We hope to see you there, please spread the message to your friends and family! Let’s take a stand for our friends at Foster Hill Farm!