Several Connecticut municipalities have created a formal town commission or committee to both provide farmer input into town policies that impact local agriculture and to help develop initiatives that will keep farming in the community viable. "Agricultural Commissions" are typically advisory commissions created by ordinance, with no regulatory or enforcement authority. The size and make-up of agricultural commissions have varied by town, but most have five to seven members who are farmers or are involved in a farm-related business.
As an alternative to a formal agricultural commission, a municipality may consider appointing an informal advisory board or group of representatives to serve as the voice of agriculture in municipal affairs. Towns with few farms or insufficient farmer interest in a formal commission may wish to consider forming a region-wide agricultural commission that could serve multiple municipalities.
Agricultural commissions can provide a valuable voice for agriculture in town affairs. While their functions may vary by town, most agricultural commissions are established to help identify issues of concern to farmers, to raise public awareness of the benefits of local farms and working lands, and to identify ways in which towns can support the business and land use needs of local farms. An agricultural commission can help to see that the needs of agriculture are considered and integrated into town policies and regulations. A commission can facilitate the resolution of farmer-neighbor conflicts, sponsor farmers' markets or town celebrations of agriculture, and serve as a clearinghouse for information on state and federal agricultural programs.
Interested in forming an Agricultural Commission? To gather support in East Lyme, a working group created this flyer and wrote this article for the local paper: