To maintain rural character in New Hampshire is to sustain agriculture, both as a vital part of the visual landscape and as a viable profession. Despite a community’s Master Plan mandate to maintain rural character, planners are often caught between preserving open space and encouraging development. Often there is a conflict between the town’s goals and local government policies which inadvertently create barriers to agricultural enterprises. Preserving Rural Character Through Agriculture: A Resource Kit for Planners offers insights, tools and resources to prevent the unintended negative consequences of land use regulations and decisions on agriculture, along with specific suggestions for enhancing and supporting agriculture. It also gives farmers resources to deal with planning and other regulatory boards when negotiating solutions to a regulatory conflict.
The content of the Kit attests to the economic, cultural and esthetic value of agriculture to communities. This message of value is supported by professional layout and graphics that make the Kit attractive, user-friendly and desirable as an engaging exhibit. Distribution to New Hampshire towns and cities is through participants who attend the “Is your community farm friendly?” program and who are agreeable to using the Kit in their Town to foster change. Each Kit is numbered (again adding value) so the use of Kit materials can be tracked.
The NH Coalition for Sustaining Agriculture used a collaborative approach to Kit development and implementation that involved state and regional planners, historic preservation staff, farmers, planning board members, Cooperative Extension and other USDA, state and private agricultural organizations. This approach was key to informing and involving diverse, especially non-farm, constituencies in supporting farm friendly municipal regulation.
-To present a rationale for supporting agriculture.
-To provide case studies of planning actions adversely affecting agriculture.
-To provide videotaped case studies of actions supporting agriculture.
-To redefine agriculture to include new growth in nontraditional products.
-To supply existing planning strategies for sustaining agriculture.
-To present a new model for land-use regulations to sustain agriculture.
-To provide references to additional sources both in print and on the Internet.
Project objectives were accomplished through development of a Resource Kit for professional and citizen planners, a traveling exhibit and a series of “Is your community farm friendly?” training sessions.
Objective 1: To present a rationale for supporting agriculture.
“Preserving Rural Character: The Agriculture Connection,” a revised Office of State Planning Technical Bulletin, is the first section of the Kit. Written by Lorraine Stuart Merrill, journalist and dairy farmer, the bulletin presents the rationale for supporting agriculture. It is supplemented with articles from the Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets and Food, The Director of the Audobon Society and the Deputy Director of the NH Division of Historic Resources. It notes common friction points between municipal land use regulation and agriculture, debunks popularly held “myths” about New Hampshire agriculture, and sets forth strategies for how to preserve rural character and foster local farms through agricultural friendly land-use regulation.
Objective 2: To provide case studies of planning actions adversely affecting agriculture. “Promoting Agriculture in Your Community,” the second section of the Kit, by Gary Matteson, anemone grower, gives real life examples depicting the complexity of issues between agricultural enterprises and municipal regulations. It is followed in section three by programming tools that can be used to raise agriculture/rural character/municipal regulation issues in a community: (1) A checklist which people can complete in order to determine whether their town is agriculture friendly and (2) A skit, “Is Our Town Farm Friendly?” that helps frame and surface the issues for participants.
Objective 3: To provide videotaped case studies of actions supporting agriculture.
The video is an additional programming tool to challenge communities to take steps to make their regulatory environment farm friendly. It reflects themes presented in the Resource Kit and encourages action. The video was developed by Gail McWilliam, NH Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, Agricultural Development Specialist and Gary Matteson.
Objective 4: To redefine agriculture to include new growth in nontraditional products. This message is included in the material discussed in Objective 1 and is a theme throughout the kit.
Objective 5: To supply existing planning strategies for sustaining agriculture.
This topic is covered in section one of the kit (Objective 1 above) and in the fourth section in the article: “Agricultural Friendly Planning Regulations” by Glenn Greenwood, a regional planner. Greenwood sets forth specific conflicts between farming and municipal land use regulation (e.g. signage, housing, on-farm retail sales) and recommends changes to the regulatory framework. The article is supported by reference to and inclusion of state laws pertaining to agriculture.
Objective 6: To present a new model for land-use regulations to sustain agriculture.
Rather than present a ‘model’, which research indicated was not feasible given the diversity of agricultural enterprises, information in the kit raises conflicts and gives guidelines for zoning and site review regulations that are agriculture friendly.
Objective 7: To provide references in print and on the Internet.
The “Resource Directory” by Linda Ray Wilson, Deputy NH Historic Preservation Officer, is a compilation of resource contacts, references and web sites for additional information about preserving rural character through agriculture.
Partners in the development process included the New Hampshire Office of State Planning, the Rockingham Regional Planning Commission, the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, the Division of Historical Resources and the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
In addition to SARE, funding for the Resource Kit was made possible through grants from the Northeast Farm Credit AgEnhancement Program, the New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation and Champions of New Hampshire Farms. Additional financial support came from the Farm Service Agency, Liberty Mutual Group, the Timberland Company and Warren, Morris and Madison, Ltd.
Preserving Rural Character: The Agriculture Connection, Office of State Planning Revised Technical Bulletin 6 by Lorraine Stuart Merrill, journalist and dairy farmer
Promoting Agriculture in Your Community, case studies of agriculture/municipality regulatory conflict: real life examples depicting the complexity of issues between agricultural enterprises and municipal regulations by Gary Matteson, anemone grower
Is Your Town Farm Friendly?, a checklist and skit for citizens developed by Gary Matteson
Agriculture Friendly Planning Regulations, guidelines for zoning and site review regulations that are agriculture friendly by Glenn Greenwood, regional planner
Resource Directory, a compilation of resource contacts, references and web sites developed by Linda Ray Wilson, Deputy NH Historic Preservation Officer
Videotape, Preserving Rural Character Through Agriculture, a presentation of agriculture related planning issues by Gail McWilliam, NH Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food, Agricultural Development Specialist and Gary Matteson.
Developing An Agricultural Profile For Your Town by David C. Seavey, UNH Extension Educator, Agricultural Resources
Guidelines for Space and Housing of Farm Animals by David C. Seavey, UNH Extension Educator, Agricultural Resources and John C. Porter, Extension Specialist, Dairy
The Economic Impact of Open Space in New Hampshire(Executive Summary) by Colin High, Resource Systems Group, Inc.
New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage at Risk by Citizens for New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage
Who’s Who in NH Agriculture by NH Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food
Kit distribution is through members of the New Hampshire Coalition for Sustaining Agriculture:
NH Farm Service Agency
NH Natural Resource Conservation Service
NH Association of Conservation Districts
New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation, Inc.
NH Natural Organic Farmers Association
UNH Cooperative Extension
NH Rural Development Council
NH Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Markets
NH State Conservation Committee
NH Division of Historical Resources
NH Department of Cultural Affairs
NH Office of State Planning
NH Timberland Owners Association
NH Wildlife Federation
NH Game Farmers Association
NH Beekeepers Association
Connecticut River Joint Commission
Audubon Society of New Hampshire
Stonewall Farm Educational Center
Lake Region Conservation Trust
North Country Resource Conservation & Development Area
Southern NH Resource Conservation & Development Area
Beginner Farmers of NH
And Other Interested Individuals….
The New Hampshire Coalition for Sustaining Agriculture has been promoting the kit and the concept of preserving rural character through agriculture for the past year.
NH Farm & Forest Expo, February 6, 1999- “Is Your Town Agriculture Friendly?” skit to illustrate conflict and mock public hearing held to gather input for “Is Your Town Farm Friendly?” checklist. 30 attendees.
May 22, 1999- Office of State Planning Spring Training Conference-introduced Resource Kit at breakout session for 35 citizen planners.
Northern New England Chapter American Planners Association Conference, focus on sustainability, UNH-display publicizing Resource Kit. 150 attendees.
October 29, 1999-NH Conservation Districts Annual Meeting-on panel and shared display publicizing Resource Kit. 100 attendees.
November 6, 1999-NH Association of Conservation Commissions Annual meeting-display publicizing Resource Kit. 300 attendees.
November 8, 1999 – NH Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting, Laconia, NH – roundtable session introducing Resource Kit. 15 attendees. Display publicizing Resource Kit. 150 attendees.
November 17, 1999-NE Women in Agriculture Workshop, Ascutney, VT – display publicizing Resource Kit. 75 attendees.
November 20, 1999-Office of State Planning Fall Conference, Concord, NH – training session, 40 attendees.
November 30, 1999- SARE Comprehensive Training Project meeting. Presented skit, mock public hearing and display to training team members. 20 attendees.
December 3, 1999- UNH Cooperative Extension In-Service, Concord, NH – 3 hour session training Extension Educators and NH Coalition For Sustaining Agriculture members in use of Resource Kit. 30 attendees.
The Resource Kit was unveiled as part of an Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Character track at the NH Farm & Forest Expo, February 11, 2000. A postcard invitation to all town select boards and planning boards was done by the Office of State Planning. Attendees at a session on using the Resource Kit received a copy of the kit for their town. 30 attendees, 20 kits distributed to towns.
March 1, 2000- New England Farm Bureau Leadership Conference, Laconia, NH. Training session, 40 attendees. 10 kits distributed.
March 16, 2000-Regional Planning Directors meeting, Concord, NH. Training session, 10 attendees and 10 kits distributed.
March 22, 2000-State FSA and NRCS staff meeting, Concord, NH.. Training session, 30 attendees and 20 kits distributed.
Future scheduled events include:
April 7, 2000-Grafton County Conservation District Annual Meeting, Littleton, NH. Presentation on “Is Your Town Farm Friendly?”
April 11, 2000 – Grafton County Commissioners Presentation, North Haverhill, NH.
April 12, 2000-Governor and Executive Council Presentation, Concord, NH.
April 20, 2000-UNH Department of Natural Resources Seminar series. Durham, NH. Presentation.
May 6, 2000-Office of State Planning Spring Conference, Concord, NH. Presentation.
A mailing list of contact people in towns has been developed from participation in the events listed. The contact people have been trained in the use of the Resource Kit and received a numbered copy for their town. Portions of the kit will be placed on UNH Cooperative Extension web page. The “Is Your Town Farm Friendly?” checklist is currently on the web and is interactive. After completing the checklist on-line, results are stored in a database by zip code for latter analysis. Copies of the “Is Your Town Farm Friendly?” checklist have also been distributed across the northeast. The Resource Kit is available for sale out of state as well.
Impacts of Results/Outcomes
The Kit is designed to make two basic contributions:
1. To inspire and give people (farmer and non-farmer, professional and lay planners) tools to undertake a review of town or city land use regulations in order to identify conflicts with agricultural operations and take steps to correct them (pro-active application).
2. To provide farmers with tools to deal with planning and other regulatory boards when negotiating solutions to a conflict in which they find themselves (re-active application).
1. More than 1000 individual citizens have been introduced to the Resource Kit in New Hampshire. Audiences have included citizen planners as well as resource people working with towns; Cooperative Extension, Regional Planners, etc.
2. A request list for the Resource Kit representing contacts in 100 towns has been compiled from these sessions. Resource Kits have been distributed to these towns.
3. Feedback from towns requesting the Resource Kit has been very positive with two towns committing to a farm friendly process. (see Farmer Evaluations).
Changes in Practice: As noted above , the Kit gives farmers strategic understanding of land use regulation conflicts, the rational for approaching those conflicts and state laws which support agriculture in these conflicts. It also directs farmers to appropriate resource contacts for assistance in dealing with these issues. Extension, NRCS and FSA staff have received Kit training and are able to support farmers, either directly or through referrals, in regulatory conflicts. On-going training at Farm Bureau conferences and other agricultural venues continues to spread understanding of the pro-active and re-active uses of the Kit to the farm community.
Farmers have been involved in all aspects of Kit development, training and distribution.
Response to the Kit has been very positive. Attached are two email messages from the towns of Springfield and Farmington, NH. Work will continue to help towns implement the kit. Because the Kits are numbered and can be tracked by town, future evaluation of the implementation and impact on a town’s rural character can be done.
At the spring Office of State Planning Conference in May model ordinances from actual towns will be reviewed with planners using the kit. The scores of towns completing the checklist on the UNH website will be used to evaluate how farm friendly New Hampshire is.
Areas needing additional study
It is clear while agriculture friendly ordinances help, they cannot solve the whole problem. Other tools are necessary. Renewed interest in and funding for agricultural easements is happening in New Hampshire and the Land Link concept is being explored as a way to facilitate the transition of farms from one owner to the next.