Bernie Guillemette is a second generation farmer in Shelburne.
My family has farmed our land here in Shelburne for more than 70 years. It’s part of our DNA. And our fields are part of the fabric of the landscape that is beyond beautiful. It’s no wonder it’s a lure for many when they want to build or buy a home and raise a family.
But I get concerned when developers come in and buy up land to build homes on. That’s because what looks bucolic when they show it to potential buyers, is often noisy, and doesn’t always smell so pristine depending on the season. I never know how I’ll be perceived as a neighbor.
I like to think I’m a good neighbor and a good environmental steward of the land. It’s important to me to protect our land not just because of business, but because it’s my family’s home and my children’s future.
It seems everywhere we turn these days, farmers are under attack for various issues and I worry that new buyers on the land across from our home will complain as soon as things don’t smell, or sound as good as they look. For instance, at manure spreading time, early morning milking and the sound of milking machines, putting up feed late at night and feeding animals early in the morning.
I raised the concerns several times with the development review board when they were deciding whether to permit residential zoning for this side of the property. And I wrote a letter suggesting they visit the site in May or June when our dairy is in full swing with normal activity, including all kinds of equipment moving around from three in the morning until nine at night. But the long and short of it is. the board zoned the land for residential use.
If those who buy the plots embrace what farmers and farming are about, there won’t be an issue. In fact, we’re more than happy to have families come see and watch some of what we do. It can be a terrific learning arena, especially for kids.
They can see how a working large-scale farm cares for its animals. Or maybe they can be witness to the birth of a calf. which is one of the most beautiful things to see. We can also show them what strategies we implement to protect the land such as crop rotation and cover cropping.
I’ve met with the developer. who seems to be a very nice person. I hope that anyone who buys these lots will find the same beauty in the pace and rhythm of farm life that we do and we hope that they will appreciate the open land that our business offers them for views. But those who move in must be aware of, and OK with, how farms operate when not looking at the beautiful scenes through a window. We are always happy to try to explain what we are doing and why and what our timing might be so that we can live in harmony with those who are our neighbors. Most of us who run dairies certainly aren’t in it for the money, as we all know prices have dropped to such low levels our livelihoods are threatened. We are farmers because we love it: the work, the animals and the land. We all care about the piece of earth we live on.
There’s a lot to learn from those who tend the land. Our farms are the perfect breeding ground to plant the seed for the next generation of farmers, ecologists, environmentalists and more. We love what we do and are happy to share how we do it.