The time to save farmland is now

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The brewery at Mapleview Farm. Submitted photo

We are about to watch another cornfield in town get developed—houses, condos, roads and driveways. I’m sure the people who will live there would love our little farm town. But will it still be a farm town when they get here? What makes a farm town? Are you still a farm town if travelers through town don’t see any farming?

We are third generation farmers. In 1950, my husband’s grandparents moved from their small plot in East Hartford, to a beautiful piece of land just south of the center of town on Rte. 10 in Granby. They noted how flat it was and how the brook wandered through it, bisecting the 50 acres and therefore providing easy access to water something coveted by farmers. But they didn’t start the farm. It was already a working dairy farm and the cows and tractors came with the land, written right on the deed registered in town hall. Our land that provides food for our family and our neighbors has been farmed back to Granby’s settlement in 1635, with the land along the southern part of Route 10 divided in long strips from the road down to the Salmon Brook. 

Passing a farm through generations can be tough. Many farm kids don’t want to come back to the family land. It’s too much work. Not enough money. And this is reality for lots of family farms. But really, a family farm is a small business. In order for the family farm to survive, the small business has to thrive. Otherwise, the only option is to sell the land. When we patronize family farms, we’re not just supporting the current farmers; we’re encouraging the next generation as well. Thriving family businesses are more likely to be handed down generation-to-generation; therefore, farmland is more likely to stay in farming.

Many farms are doing a great job diversifying, adding value-added products and creating multiple income streams: veggie farms that use the produce they grow in their on-farm restaurant, goat farms offering soap, vineyards offering a space for weddings. Our farm just opened an on-farm brewery where we feed our spent brewer’s grains to our pigs.

By the time the developer is talking to the Planning and Zoning Commission it’s too late. Some sort of development is under way. The time to save farmland is right now—so get out and stop at a local farm store, eat brunch or a slice of pie, have a beer, or a glass of wine. Our Farm Town depends on it.