"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Thursday, September 24, 2015

“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.” —George Washington

The Laconia Daily Sun  had a story the other days about Beans and Greens in Gilford that are in the process of appealing a cease and desist order from Gilford preventing them from holding  agri-tourism events such as weddings and graduations on their property. Apparently a neighbor complained that what they were doing was not agriculture related. This led to the Town seeking advice from counsel who advised that based upon the recent Hennicker case ( Forster v. Town of Hennicker June 2015). In that Supreme Court ruling, the court ruled that “The legislative history … reveals that the legislature considered, but ultimately rejected, the notion that “agritourism,” as defined by RSA 21:34-a, VI, constitutes “agriculture” within the meaning of RSA 21:34-a, II. … Thus the legislative history demonstrates that the plain language of the statute is in accord with the legislature’s intent.” In other words, the statutes don't specifically mention agri-tourism, and not a permitted accessory use of the tree farm.
The owners of Beans and Greens,  Andy and Martina Howe, have been holding farm to table dinners on their property for a number of years.  According to the LDS article "Howe said he checked with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire's Forests and was told that even though the land was in conservation, as long as the food being served came from the farm, then it was agriculture by definition.
Howe said he also checked with the town's planning director who he said told him something similar to what he was told from the Forest Society.
"Our operation was based on an understanding that we can (host these types of events)".
According to the State of New Hampshire definition, agri-tourism means “attracting visitors to a working farm for the purpose of eating a meal, making overnight stays, enjoyment of the farm environment, education on farm operations, or active involvement in the activity of the farm which is ancillary to the farm operation.”
Beans and Greens Farms  conducts weddings at Timber Hills Meadows a sister site of Beans and Greens.  According to their website, "Our land has been continuously farmed since the 1700's and we are proud to continue the tradition today by offering one of New England's only truly genuine Farm-to-Table events venues. "
Timber Hill Meadow


Beans and Greens also has a Pavilion, an 1838 post and beam barn that has been restored and can accommodate smaller events, " such as concerts, workshops, and celebrations, in addition to private events, including rehearsal dinners, reunions, and birthdays ."      

Benas and Greens Pavilion

   An interesting spin to all this is that the official  NH tourism website VisitNH.Gov has a webpage devoted to agri-tourism: " New Hampshire's farmers, agricultural tourism, or "agritourism," means survival; it's a trend that has enabled many to diversify their incomes and preserve the state's generations-old family farms. For travelers, the rapid ramp-up of agritourism attractions means that there's a whole lot of fun and deliciousness in store as you explore rural New Hampshire."

So in Gilford, a neighbor doesn't approve of the farms holding these summer events and it may end up costing the Howe's their livelihood and the possible loss of a centuries old working farm.
Here is the solution: fix the RSA's so that the definition of agri-tourism is implicit and clear. It would be refreshing to see our legislature work together on issues that transcend politics and help preserve a valuable NH tradition. 


Anonymous said...

How do you stop Big Brother?

Anonymous said...

Agritourism is like Dollar Store in Moultonboro.
OK, as long as it sells cow manure. The town has enough from the bulls.

Did the code enforcement officer stop "Family" Dollar?

Joseph Cormier said...

RSA 21:34-a,VI does mention "agritourism".

VI. The term "agritourism" means attracting visitors to a working farm for the purpose of eating a meal, making overnight stays, enjoyment of the farm environment, education on farm operations, or active involvement in the activity of the farm which is ancillary to the farm operation.

RSA 21:34-a

2014 lawyerly arguments:

The courts "interpret" law, however, with the NH Supremes having final say.

Moultonboro Blogger said...

In case you didn't see this already, the Gilford ZBA voted 3-1 last night to allow Greens and Beans to rescind the cease and desist order and allow the Howes to continue their farm to table dinners. http://thecitizen.villagesoup.com/p/beans-and-greens-wins-right-to-dine/1419811?source=DailyHeadlines

Joseph Cormier said...

Update on "Beans and Greens".

Settled where it belongs ... at the local level; code enforcement, local zoning ordinance, ZBA. Don't like the decision (split decision) ... vote out the players!