Editorial: Farming, with beer and a shot

Posted 4/12/19

With great enthusiasm, Town Meeting voters in Westport approved an ‘agri-tourism’ measure a couple of years back that would allow all sorts of fun on farms.

They did it because farmers say …

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Editorial: Farming, with beer and a shot

Posted

With great enthusiasm, Town Meeting voters in Westport approved an ‘agri-tourism’ measure a couple of years back that would allow all sorts of fun on farms.

They did it because farmers say they need the revenue to make a go of it these days, and they did it over the futile voices of a few who dared worry about the loose wording — for instance, isn’t a five-acre ‘farm’ a bit small for outdoor concerts?

So Little Compton, which is in the midst of similar debate, must be watching with amusement as some in Westport react with horror to a farmer’s announcement that he wants a full liquor license (rather than the special event type), 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., every day of the year, at his Weatherlow Farms.

Beautiful as Weatherlow Farms is, and as fine an addition to town its varied events may prove to be, the introduction of full-out liquor licenses into the midst of residential/agricultural districts “opens the barn door” (as one person put it) to all sorts of unforeseen and unhappy possibilities.

Rather than the weddings, farm picnics and cafe that this farm says it contemplates, another farmer might have different ideas of fun — topped, naturally, by beer and shots.

In Tiverton not long ago, somebody proposed transforming a big property into a giant moto-cross track. Had some Westport farmer proposed this, he would have put the town in a bind given the open-ended nature of agri-entertainment rules. How about tractor pulls followed by concerts and fireworks —a sort of back-forty Seekonk Speedway. Tractors are part of farming after all.

A guiding principal is that the ‘agri-entertainment’ needs to be somehow linked to agriculture. That’s easily done. In Weatherlow’s case, anything done to draw customers to the “proteins and flowers” it raises fits the bill.

At Town Meeting they scoffed at skeptics who worried that this “anything goes down on the farm” bylaw might come back and bite them.

Helping farmers, preserving agricultural traditions, and protecting open space are all worthy goals. These towns need to give more thought to the price that end may entail.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.