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Farming in Woodstock. Photo by Bet Zimmermanprinter friendly page

Agriculture in Woodstock, CT

Woodstock's history is tied to our agricultural heritage. Currently, Woodstock's agricultural community consists of approximately 45 farms (Source: Woodstock Open Space Preservation Group). Twelve of these farms (down from 16 in 2002 or 2003) are family owned dairy farms.  In addition to the traditional dairy and horse farms, agriculture in Woodstock is believed to include: 57 acres of apples, five acres of peaches, four acres of blueberries/raspberries, 334 acres of Christmas trees, and five nursery, bedding and vegetable operations. (Source: Woodstock Agricultural Action Committee)

Hansen Family Tree Farm.  Click to go to their website.  Photo by Bet ZimmermanThe majority of farm acreage in Woodstock is devoted to pasture for dairy cattle, silage corn, hay, and Christmas tree farming.  Several landowners also grow fruit and vegetable produce and nursery stock, some of which is sold in town at roadside stands.  There are also boarding horse farms, beef cattle farms, maple syrup producers, honey producers, and a poultry farm.  Woodstock is also fortunate to have many landowners who maintain agricultural fields for lease to farmers.  The availability of this acreage for lease in close proximity to working farms is also an important part of Woodstock's agricultural resources. 

In addition to their farm crops and products, these farms add greatly to the aesthetic beauty and rural character of Woodstock, which is so often cited as one of its greatest assets.  Farmlands are the principal component of "manmade" open space.  Farmlands also provide excellent wildlife habitat for many species, and in some cases recreational opportunities such as hunting, walking and bird watching.

The economic and tax advantages of Woodstock's agricultural community to its citizens need to be fully appreciated before they are Farmer's field in Woodstock.  Photo by Bet Zimmermansignificantly threatened.  There are numerous studies that support the conclusion that farming and agriculture provide more tax dollars to the town than they require in service expenditures and their preservation will provide Woodstock with added income.  In a study published in June of 1998 by the American Farmland Trust, Farmland Information Center, entitled "Summary of Cost of Community Services, Revenue-to-Expenditure Ratio in Dollars," the central conclusion is that farmland only costs a community, on average, $.31 in services for every $1.00 it generates in revenue.

Dairy farmers in Woodstock generate annual gross revenue of approximately six million dollars.  Agriculture is estimated to provide at least 103 full-time jobs and from eighty to ninety part-time jobs (Source: Agenda, Town Of Woodstock Special Town Meeting, 06-21-2000).

In June 2000, town residents affirmed the rights of farmers by adopting a special Right to Farm Ordinance.

For several reasons, farmland in Woodstock is probably more threatened by loss to development than any other type of open space.  Therefore, farmland preservation deserves special consideration.  

  • Unlike wetlands, state laws or regulations do not restrict farmland use or development. Most of Woodstock's farmland is quiteFarm for sale.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman. suitable to residential development. In the last decade, Woodstock's population increased more than 20%, with the approval of 349 new residential subdivision lots. Agricultural lands are especially vulnerable to development because they are generally flat, cleared, beautiful, and have soils suitable for septic systems. Since 1984, Connecticut has lost 21% of its farmland to development and urban sprawl. (Source: USDA 2001 Farmland Protection brochure, 12/01).
  • Many of our active farms and prime farm soils are adjacent to or within Woodstock's most rapidly developing neighborhoods. 
  • Commercial farm owners have been caught in an economic squeeze between the rising cost of doing business and markets for farm products that are holding steady or declining. 
  • These farms are family businesses, and the land may represent the owner's greatest asset. 

For these reasons, developing and implementing a farmland preservation plan appears to be the town's greateHolstein at Fairvue Farms.  Photo by Bet Zimmermanst long-term conservation challenge. 

Central to our approach is raising awareness among Woodstock's citizens that maintaining a healthy and thriving agricultural community is the backbone of any potentially successful open space plan.  It is our goal to work in close concert with all facets of Woodstock's agricultural community to establish and maintain Town objectives that protect existing farms, that encourage the continuing presence of farming and that promote the successful practice of agribusiness by local farmers.

 

More Information and References:

 
Conservation Commission
Farming is about 20% agriculture and 80% mending something that got busted.

- E. B. White (who lived on a farm in North Brooklin, Maine)