Have you seen the signs along the road as you enter Rochester that say “A Right to Farm Community” and ever wondered, what does that mean?
It sort of serves both as a welcome and a warning to residents living in or moving to Rochester that this is a town that supports agriculture and a farmer’s right to farm, and the Town will stand by that farmer should a neighbor complain about the sounds of that next door cranberry bog pumping water in the middle of the night.
“Agriculture is a vital part of the [Rochester] community, and an essential part of the community,” said David Smith, chairman of the Agricultural Commission established two years ago by the Town’s Right to Farm Bylaw.
Town Meeting in 2012 unanimously voted to adopt the bylaw that, although it does not grant further rights beyond what the Commonwealth grants farmers, establishes a process to inform prospective residents that farming activities are abundant in Rochester. It also established AgCom, which acts as a mediator in resolving any conflicts between neighbor and farmer.
AgCom represents the farming community, “encourage[s] the pursuit of agriculture, promote[s] agricultural economic development and protects farmlands and farm business,” as stated in a new informative pamphlet available at Town Hall.
“We (AgCom) would very much like to advance agriculture in Rochester and do whatever we can to make it more successful,” said Smith.
The bylaw also requires that new residents to the town sign a Right to Farm Disclosure Notification – whether they lease or purchase property in Rochester – which must be filed with the Board of Selectmen, or they risk a fine of $300.
Although there have been very few complaints from neighbors of farms since the commission formed, Smith emphasized that, if a farmer is performing normal agricultural activities, then that is their right.
“You moved next to a farm,” said Smith. “The farm didn’t move next to you.”
The commission meets on an as-needed basis, and Smith said AgCom is looking for more ways in which the commission can serve Rochester’s farming community while it is “struggling with ideas on just how to go about this,” as Smith put it.
“We certainly welcome input from the agricultural community on ways that could help,” said Smith.
For more information about Rochester’s Right to Farm Community bylaw, or to seek appointment to the commission, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-245-0953 to speak with AgCom Chairman David Smith.
By Jean Perry