Letter to the Editor: Farmers are good land managers

I have lived and worked in the Champlain Valley my entire life. I have watched many small family farms join to become only a few very large family farms. Most are now multimillion-dollar operations. I have worked for, and am on a first name basis with, many of these farmers. They grow thousands of acres of hay, corn, and beans to feed large numbers of extremely productive dairy animals. In doing so, they create and maintain a landscape that attracts increased tourism dollars.
With rare exception, there are no hedgerows where cropland meets highways in the entire Champlain Valley. The roadside areas are clean and neat. This makes for much safer entrance and exit from the fields, as well as showcasing the manicured beauty of Vermont.
Ferrisburgh is a perfect example — large family farms — and very few hedgerows. One of the Ferrisburgh farmers told me that, in the past, the highway crew helped in the hedgerow removal. No tree warden input. That farmer and a Ferrisburgh selectman told me they knew of no tree warden activity — ever. If this action is a first, my questions are: Why the change? Why this family farm? Why now?
The plain and simple words of Vermont highway statutes give the abutting landowner the right to cut and remove all roadside growth without permission of the town selectboard or state highway department (see Title 19, Section 901). The Ferrisburgh selectboard is aware of this provision in highway law, but it seems to be falling on deaf ears. A town owns no land in a highway right-of-way. Only the right of passage.
Perhaps the Ferrisburgh selectboard should review the results of Shelburne’s experience — $451,000 of taxpayer money down a legal rat hole which, from the outset, had a chance of winning that ranged from slim to none. They lost! Unless the Ferrisburgh board changes its ridiculous hardball stance, I believe they will also lose. They have chosen a hard, and expensive, row to hoe. Management of farmland is best left to the farmland owners. We owe much to our remaining farmers and none deserve such shabby treatment.
Tom Fisher

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