Sherman farmers seek zoning change
Published 10:15 am, Thursday, September 10, 2015
SHERMAN — To urbanites, the difference between a “farm stand” and a “farm store” may seem negligible.
But for certain farmers in Sherman, the difference is large. These farmers say they need more flexibility in what they can sell from their properties and when they can sell it.
Town zoning rules permit farmers to have only farm stands, where at least half the products must come from their own farms. The stands must be closed for at least six weeks each winter, according to the zoning rules.
But farmers like Carol Royal, of Strawberry Fields Farm, would prefer to stay open year-round, and to sell a substantial share of farm products from other suppliers, in what state statute calls a “farm store.”
“There are skin-care products that use my herbs, strawberries and flowers, but the farm that produces the products is in East Haven,” Royal said. “I’m hampered from selling those lotions and creams from my farm.”
“There’s nothing on the books now about having a farm store,” Royal added. “We need that clarification to match state statute.”
“As eating local and
buying local gets more prevalent, we want to make sure Sherman zoning keeps up with the change,” Mantzaris said. “It’s important for farmers to be able to sell retail, wholesale, and what other farms produce if their farm is going to be financially viable.”
When Motsinger and Mantzaris approached town Zoning Enforcement Office Ron Cooper shortly before Memorial Day about selling produce from Happy Acres, he told them opening a farm stand was their best bet on such short notice.
He offered to meet with Mantzaris and Motsinger to help them apply for a change in zoning rules to allow options to sell their goods. Once that document is submitted, a public hearing could be called by the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission to get input from other farmers and residents.
“Sherman is pro-farming,” Cooper said.
“As long as you sell 51 percent of products coming from your farm, you can sell other farms’ products from your stand,” Cooper said. “If times change and farmers want to sell differently, petitioning for a change has to happen. And if they want to have commercial ventures that may or may not relate to farming, they need to apply for that.”
Cooper said Royal’s son asked to open an artist’s studio on her farm and sell his artwork from the farm, but under town regulations that does not qualify as farm-related commerce.