TOWNSEND -- The newly formed Townsend Agriculture Commission will serve as a voice for farmers throughout town by providing input on issues affecting the agricultural community.

Townsend Conservation Agent Leslie Gabrilska said creating the commission was a logical step for a rural community like Townsend.

"We have a pretty strong agricultural community here, so it felt like they should have a unified voice in issues that come before the town. When boards are making a decision about things that might impact agriculture, the commission can represent that part of the community and give boards more information to make more informed decisions."

The commission, which was voted on at this spring's Town Meeting and staffed with appointments at last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, will hold its first meeting later this month, although a date has not yet been set.

Gabrilska said the commission will be whatever members make of it, with a slew of options for what efforts they could choose to pursue.

"There's been more of a movement to be more locally sustainable, so hopefully this will help organize that effort. They could create a Farmers Market, help educate people who are interested in backyard farming and provide a resource for people in the community," she said. "They can do whatever they want with it. The sky's the limit.



Gary Howland, an Americorps volunteer with the Nashua River Watershed Association, helped get the commission off the ground.

Howland, who also helped form a similar organization in Ashburnham, worked with the Conservation Commission to run meetings gauging interest within the farming community in forming the Agriculture Commission.

"It's just a wonderful way of farmers networking and being able to help each other to make farming sustainable in the community," Howland said. "This is a resource for the town to get input from an educated advisory group."

Townsend selectmen appointed five members and two associate members to the Agriculture Commission at their meeting July 2.

The members appointed are Charles Rossbach, Keith Hutchins, James Deroian, Bart King and John Trovato. Alternate members appointed are Susan Greenough and Nancy Chapman.

Gabrilska said there is one more slot available for an associate member if anyone is interested in filling it.

Hutchins, who owns The Flower Hutch on Bayberry Hill Road, said the commission will help farmers like himself gain the representation they previously lacked.

"I'm a farmer, and this is a way to keep people informed of the farmers' needs and requirements to do their job properly, and to help people and town boards understand the effects of their decisions on the agricultural community," he said.