By Caroline Gordon
FRAMINGHAM – With a new chair and new goals, the Framingham Agricultural Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting of the year on Monday, February 14.
The 7-member advisory committee has struggled since Framingham became a City on January 1, 2018. The Committee has hardly met in the last four years – just three times – and is short three members.
The Committee met once in July in 2018. In 2019 and 2020, the Committee never met. In 2021, the Committee met twice, once in October and again in December, when it elected District 4 resident Natasha Rausch as its chair.
On December 13, the Framingham Agricultural Advisory Committee met via Zoom discussing their vision and goals for 2022, such as making Framingham more sustainable through increase of agriculture on the South side and how to categorize farms in the City.
City of Framingham Senior Planner Shane O’Brien hosted the meeting.
The Agricultural Advisory Committee is tasked with “servicing as as a local voice advocating for farmers, farm-related businesses, and agricultural interests in general, providing visibility for farming in Framingham, working with the City of Framingham on issues facing the town that affect agriculture, helping to resolve farm-related issues, and protecting farmlands and natural resources.”
During the December meeting, Committee member Linda Kirchman discussed community food assessment, noting how it consisted of “lots of different pieces of the food chain in Framingham.”
Kirchman said there is a lack of agriculture on the South side of the City.
She said the community food assessment had three components of policy: agriculture by right in all zones and residences, the Board of Health’s rules for utilizing animals for food production, and roof gardening by right or by permit.
Kirchman said she believes agriculture by right is different than the right to farm.
In agreement, O’Brien said he believed agriculture by right in all zones is more of a “commercial mechanism that’s not under the aspects of a commercial farm.”
The Committee also discussed roof-top gardening by right or by permit.
O’ Brien said within Framingham’s zoning, green roofs are allowed, noting they are encouraged in the corporate mixed-use, Nobscot districts, and shopping plazas. He added rooftop gardens “come into fruition” with the food assessment.
The Committee also discussed community gardens.
Kirchman said there was a community garden on Pratt Street, but the farm was shut down due to lead or “another contamination.” Kirchman referred to Pratt Street as “our one community garden on the south side that has potential to be helpful for production.
Kirchman, a District 6 resident, is the only one of the Committee members who lives on the South side of he city. There are no members from Districts 7-8-9.
The Committee also strategized their goal of producing a list of farms in Framingham.
Chair Rausch said, “Agriculture in a City such as Framingham has so many forms it can take. It is important to hear from all voices and experience levels, from our full-scale farm operations to our backyard chickens and gardens.”
Committee member Aljani Stanley suggested asking a survey question that called for people to report if they have agricultural farm animals. The District 4 residents said this data could help shape the list of the different kinds of farms people have.
In order to visually portray the data, O’Brien suggested creating a map of Framingham that shows the different types of agriculture.
Kirchman said she is part of Transition Framingham, whose “mission is to work towards a socially-just transition for the City of Framingham, away from fossil fuel dependence to local resilience and sustainability.”
Transition Framingham’s goal is to “focus on community gardens and helping people garden on their own,” said Kitchman.
Stanley proposed the Committee pulls data from Transition Framingham to add to their agricultural census.
O’Brien said one goal for the Committee could be to collaborate with downtown Framingham and Transition Framingham as well as updating the inventory for agricultural-based businesses.
Another goal of the Committee is to invite Eastleigh Farm owner Doug
Stephan, a former member of the Committee and current member of the Framingham Community Preservation Committee, to a meeting to “pick his brain.”
“It’s good for us to see where our agricultural goals are from a CPA’s standpoint,” O’Brien said. “I think the people of Framingham would like to protect places like Hanson Farm and Eastleigh Farm and not see it become a subdivision in the future.”
O’Brien also reminded Committee members of the multiple openings on the 7-member Committee. There are currently three openings to be filled by Mayor Charlie Sisitsky.
“We’re in an interesting time in terms of people joining the membership. But, people who are members are members. We can just have general discussions and presentations from different groups at these meetings,” O’Brien said. “We can just say, “hey, tell the people at home what’s going on.” We can expand from there. These first few meetings that we are having are about growing and expanding this committee and educating people on the importance of agricultural resources within the City of Framingham and how they do exist and how we want them to continue to exist.”
“I think the biggest thing we need to deal with right now is getting the Committee re-established and making connections, both with our City boards and with the community,” said Chair Rausch. “We want to see how we can help and promote what is already happening in the City. We’re laying groundwork.”
Caroline Gordon, a spring 2021 SOURCE intern is a senior English major with a concentration in journalism at Framingham State University. Gordon is the Arts and Features editor for Framingham State’s student newspaper, The Gatepost. During her free time on campus, she works as a Student Desk Attendant. Caroline enjoys photography, working out and spending time with friends. Connect with Caroline on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/caroline-gordon98