Sherman selectmen move forward with Happy Acres reorganization plan
SHERMAN — The Board of Selectmen is moving forward with its reorganization plan for Happy Acres Farm.
During a special meeting Tuesday evening, the board reviewed and discussed two aspects of the farm’s future: management and cattle.
The town purchased the former dairy farm on Taber Road in 2012 and leased it to Full Circle Farming LLC in 2015. With Full Circle Farming leaving Dec. 31, the town has been trying to figure out what to do with the nearly 50-acre property.
Last month, the Board of Selectmen presented a reorganization plan for the farm that includes securing and upgrading the property and hiring a farmstead manager.
During Tuesday’s special meeting, Sherman’s selectmen reviewed a draft farm property manager job description and contract.
“We agreed on some changes, and I am sending these to the town attorney (Matt Willis),” First Selectman Don Lowe said Thursday morning.
According to the draft job description, the manager’s primary purpose would be to “play an integral role in the upkeep, preservation and accessibility of the property,” report to the Board of Selectmen, work with town officials and committees “to ensure the upkeep and smooth operation of the property,” and “support the programming of routine and special events.”
Lowe said the job description, as well as the contract, “may change slightly” upon Willis’ review.
The manager would get to live on the property rent-free as part of their compensation, and the town would be compensated through the Happy Acres Restricted Fund, according to Lowe.
The fund had a $1,942,742 balance in the most recent annual town report, and Sherman taxpayers recently approved to allocate $80,000 of the funds to go to barn repairs and electrical upgrades at the farm.
Lowe said the board also discussed selling the farm’s 21 cows, 14 heifers, 10 young bulls and 21 calves to a local herdsman during Tuesday’s meeting.
That discussion, however, was tabled “because a certain share of the present herd belongs to the tenant at Happy Acres,” he said.
“We haven’t been able to determine his share, so consequently, we can’t negotiate with the local herdsman because (we) haven’t concretely established what belongs to the town,” Lowe said.
There is, however, good news for those who wish to continue seeing cattle at Happy Acres, Lowe said: The local herdsman — whose name has not yet been revealed — will be keeping much of the herd at Happy Acres.
“This is also a positive outcome for the cattle as they won’t be shipped anywhere, which can be very stressful for a herd. Also, none of the calves have been weaned, so we aren’t disturbing any of that. This is a win-win,” Lowe said.
Having grown up with farmers in North Dakota, Lowe said he knew “a little about cattle” — but he got a “crash course” on the subject over the last month.
“I have been up to my elbows in cattle and up to my shoelaces in cattle ‘you-know-what,’ and I can tell you this: a town should not be in the cattle business,” Lowe said, adding that he’s looking forward to the Happy Acres cattle issue being resolved.
Overall, he said, the farm’s changeover and transition is going “very well,” and he believes it will “end up being a wonderful town resource and an esteemed destination for visitors.”