Sherman voters to make the call on Happy Acres

Sherman voters will determine soon the near future of Happy Acres Farm.

A referendum will be held Saturday, Dec. 6, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town's emergency services facility along Route 39.

Voters will decide whether the town should enter a five-year lease with Full Circle Farming for the town-owned farm.

Opinions clearly still differ on the desirability of the contract.

Selectmen picked Full Circle Farming because of the progressive ideas and innovative approach to farming of it partners, John Motsinger and Adam Mantzaris.

Yet several residents question the partnership's qualifications. Neither of the men has more than two years of farming experience.

John Greiner said he believes Jeff Lescynski's proposal to tenant-farm the property is more viable. Lescynski is currently managing Happy Acres for the town and has proposed keeping it a beef operation.

"I know the Lescynskis. They have the same ideas that Tony (Hapanowich) did about running the farm," Greiner said, referring to the farm's former owner and ex-longtime first selectman, who sold the farm to the town several years before his death.

He also questions whether Motsinger and Mantzaris could properly maintain the buildings on the property and is skeptical the town could be relied on to properly maintain the farm.

"I did roofing of the whole complex and was taking care of Tony's buildings until he died," Greiner said. "The south barn is deteriorating now and caving in."

For Gerard Diemer, it is the financial viability of Motsinger's and Mantzaris' plan that worries him.

"My concern is if this will be financially doable," Diemer said. "I don't want their (Full Circle) success to hang in the balance if town land-use boards don't approve the necessary changes."

Diemer noted Full Circle's plans are based on revenue the two men don't seem to have.

"At what point do they throw up their hands and walk away?" he asked.

Motsinger and Mantzaris propose using rotational grazing, adding free-range chickens and eventually a small goat herd and pigs.

They have developed a three-phase operational plan how they will develop the land, expanding into retail sales at a farm store and starting a community supported agriculture operation for meat and eventually vegetables.

Sherman farmer Dick McGoldrick also likes the Lescynski proposal. He said they are experienced local farmers and should be "given a shot."

"I like the other (Full Circle) proposal, but I'm not sure it will work," McGoldrick told selectmen in September.

Will Knaak, 86, a close friend of Hapanowich, has another view of Full Circle's plans.

"This is America, the land of enterprise," Knaak said. "What they (Full Circle) are talking about is long-range planning. They're not saying they can do this overnight. You've got to give them a chance."; 203-731-3352