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Commission focuses on farming issues; Members to attend information session.

Byline: Shirley Barnes

TEMPLETON -The new Agricultural Commission will focus on education for people who want to become involved in some aspect of agricultural business.

The three-man board decided last week it will attend a daylong conference at the Hotel Northampton Jan. 12 to learn how to get the Agricultural Commission off to a good start.

The commission will explore current agricultural laws and legislation, agricultural land protection, farming in the wetlands and how to inventory the farms in town. Members said they are new to the commission and want to learn all they can about the scope of their work beyond the basic authorization to arbitrate disputes in agricultural practices.

The commission steered two residents, who wanted to put land to an agricultural use, to the U. S. Department of Agriculture office in Holden for advice and direction. That department will answer most questions on how to start an agricultural project. Members also suggested that as a first step, farmers should register with the town clerk as a farm business.

"You just have to go to the town clerk every four years and get a business permit for around $8 or $10. It's worth it to be an established farm business," commission member Wayne Beane said.

Matt LeClerc of Valley View Farm and Enterprises said he feels that any education for youngsters will make them aware of what farms are and what a rural community should be like. He said he would be willing to hold classes at his farm in the spring and sponsor a 4-H, Future Farmers or any other farming youth group at his farm on Barre Road.

"Educating youngsters will educate adults in the community because the kids will bring what they learn back to their parents," Mr. LeClerc said.

Local shepherd John Brooks urged the commission to continue to pursue the educational aspects of their program.

"Don't lose faith; don't give up; just keep at it," he said. "For the last three years, I've brought baby lambs to Templeton Center Elementary School to let youngsters see real animals. The excitement and interest the children exhibit is amazing. Some have never been that close to a live farm animal before," he said.

Mr. Brooks also advised commission members to become involved with groups such as the Farm Bureau, Extension Service, Hardwick Coop and Greenfield Farmers.

Committee members said they will contact the School Department to see if there is an opportunity to bring back some form of agriculture in education.

"Education is the most important part of the job. Perhaps youngsters could be brought to a farm to see baby chicks, or be given an egg to hatch in their classroom," Mr. LeClerc said.

Committee members said that although the Right to Farm law includes such rights as running equipment to harvest crops as late as needed, farmers seldom need to offend neighbors by running equipment at midnight to save a crop.

Commission members also said a potential Board of Health restriction on any outdoor burning would not apply to farmers with a need to burn brush using their year-round burning permits, because the local fire chief is in charge of those permits.

Commission member Michael Wilson said, "I'm new to this committee. We're a new committee and we can't hit the ground running until we know what's available. We all need to attend meetings and learn where to go for information to give people who come in."

The next meeting will be Feb. 13, after the commissioners attend the learning session in Northampton. Anyone interested in farming and what is available for farmers is invited to attend the meeting. Members said they will try to bring back all of the information that they learn in Northampton.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 10, 2007
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