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Protect our right to farm

Once upon a time, this was an agrarian society. People lived off the land, and farming was king. Generations later, most of the dairy farms in our region are long gone, as are the many other agricultural operations that once dotted the countryside. But there are still those that remain. Tied to the soil, farmers continue to be an important part of our community, contributing greatly to the economy and our overall welfare.

To help agriculture adapt and survive, we must do all we can to support farming. That’s why, when Dutchess County Legislator Gregg Pulver (R-19) introduced a county wide Right-to-Farm Law, we were over the moon. 

The law does a few things: it creates a Right-to-Farm Dispute Resolution Committee — a local, free, non-binding mediation board that resolves issues between farmers and their neighbors. It also requires that Realtors notify purchasers of properties that are within 500 feet of land enrolled in an agricultural district, to help ease any tensions that could crop up when a home buyer first discovers that he or she lives next to a farming operation.

Those two things will benefit all of us, not just farmers. But it will mostly help farmers, who need all of the support and assistance we can offer.

Pulver, who is himself the only full time farmer in the Legislature, knows well what this law could mean to the agricultural community. It works hand-in-hand with the state’s Right-to-Farm Law, complementing and augmenting it where necessary. A lot of it, said Pulver, is about education. The law helps bring people together — both farmers and those who might not really understand what it takes to farm successfully — something with which our entire region should be on board.

Local farmer Mark Stonehill, of Full Circus Farm in Pine Plains, described the law as “common sense,” adding that nowadays, farming seems to be seeing a rebirth.

And he’s right. Although the Harlem Valley has lost so many farms throughout the years, the greater Hudson Valley is seeing more and more people interested in farming, and in agritourism. The industry is experiencing a revival — great news for all of us. Let’s do our part to help encourage that. Let’s support farmers who want to grow traditional crops, organic crops, heirloom crops; let’s support farmers who want to raise dairy cows, beef cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry; let’s support farmers who want to grow flowers and herbs, seedlings and trees. 

By encouraging mediation between parties that could otherwise get into petty battles about the land and farmers’ right to farm it, we are soothing tensions that could cause real problems. 

And by educating people about the land near their property — land that could be a part of some sort of agricultural operation — we are opening residents’ eyes to what’s happening in their communities and showing we understand the toil and trouble it takes to farm.

These are all good things. Thanks to Pulver and his colleagues who back this law, we are doing local farmers a great service. The law is expected to be passed without protest, and ideally will be signed by August. Thanks, Dutchess County legislators, for having our farmers’ backs on this one. They deserve the support — from the county and from all of us.