Medway to Weigh “Right to Farm” Bylaw

J.D. O’Gara
Issue Date: 
May, 2019
Article Body: 

Agriculture is a very active part of the Medway community, says blueberry farmer and Medway resident Paul Atwood. “Our animals here, our produce here, our education, our community events, they happen in Medway because of our history and the people in the community continuing to put forward to maintain history.” And that’s the idea, says Atwood, behind the “Right to Farm” bylaw proposed at the upcoming Medway Town Meeting on May 13th.
“’Right to Farm’ just reaffirms and clarifies that Medway wants to maintain its rural and cultural characteristics and history,” says Allison Dempsey, Education Coordinator at Medway Community Farm. “This affirmation makes farmers feel they have the support of the town and as long as they follow the practices and the bylaws put in place.”
The bylaw can serve as a handy reminder when Winthrop Street is backed up due to tractors going up and down during peak season, when drivers find themselves behind trailers of manure, and when the summer heat gets to the compost from the local pig farm.
“A farm is more than just a picture. A farm is animals, and it’s work, and every now and then you’re going to know it’s there, but so what?” says Glenn Trindade, Medway Selectman and member of the Board of Directors for Medway Community Farm.
“We want everybody to know there are people who support agricultural pursuits in town,” says Atwood. “If we don’t it’s just to be more grocery stores and Starbucks.”
Atwood explains that as long as farmers abide by accepted farming practices, following rules and regulations of the town, the Right to Farm bylaw supports them. “The onus is on the farmers to follow accepted practices,” says Atwood. “They can’t be doing things that are abhorrent to those normal practices. There are guidelines by the state Department of Agriculture.
“The Right to Farm Bylaw doesn’t supersede any of our regulations, but it makes clear that, look, if someone moves in, and all of a sudden (they realize) that pastoral little landscape has odors in it, or if the tractor coming down the street holds up traffic, we all know that this is part of farming, and we’re reaffirming that right to do so,” says Trindade.
“We want to show support to local farmers, to continue to show how serious we are about reaffirming agriculture in our local community,” says Dempsey.
“The longer and more successful we can keep those farms, the better,” says Trindade, who says keeping farms in business keeps more Medway land from being sold and developed. The Medway Agricultural Committee is also looking to support farmers by growing its farmers’ market and bringing it back to Choate Park this June.
If the Right to Farm bylaw passes at Town Meeting, Medway will join surrounding towns Millis and Holliston, as well as 138 other towns in the Commonwealth with Right to Farm bylaws, according to the Massachusetts Agricultural Commission (
Trindade says the proposed bylaw was carefully drafted.
“What it does is it makes it clear to people who say, well, if there’s a right to farm, my next-door neighbor could decide he wants to be in the egg business. If he meets all the requirements set by law, then, yeah,” says Trindade. “I see a real value—in teaching kids this is where your food comes from, this is how it all works, and having that local food source option.”