[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Northampton 12-15-2005 (Ch. 2, §§ 2-700 through 2-707, of the 1977 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
Agriculture is an essential and valued activity in Northampton. It provides fresh food, clean air, economic diversity, and open spaces to all the citizens of Northampton.
Due to Northampton's growing desire to protect agricultural land in the community, this chapter establishes a right to farm. The mission of this chapter is to provide a voice and a network for farmers within Northampton, while, at the same time, to maintain farmland and agricultural-based opportunities in the City for the benefits of its citizens and future generations.
Further, the purpose and intent of this chapter is to state with emphasis the right to farm accorded to all citizens of the commonwealth under Article 97 of the Amendments to the Constitution and all state statutes and regulations thereunder, including but not limited to MGL c. 111, § 125A and c. 128, § 1A. We the citizens of Northampton restate and republish these rights pursuant to the City's authority conferred by Article 89 of the Articles of Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution ("Home Rule Amendment").
This chapter encourages the pursuit of agriculture, promotes agriculture-based economic opportunities, and protects farmlands within the City of Northampton by allowing agricultural uses and related activities to function with minimal conflict with abutters and City agencies. This chapter shall apply to all jurisdictional areas within the City.
Editor's Note: Former §§ 111-2, Membership of Agricultural Commission, and 111-3, Commission duties, as amended, were repealed 12-4-2014. See now the Administrative Code, included in the City Code following the Charter.
As deemed by Chapter 61A of the General Laws of Massachusetts:
Land shall be deemed to be in agricultural use when primarily and directly used in raising animals, including but not limited to dairy cattle, beef cattle, poultry, sheep, swine, horses, ponies, mules, goats, bees and fur-bearing animals, for the purpose of selling such animals or a product derived from such animals in the regular course of business; or when primarily and directly used in a related manner which is incidental thereto and represents a customary and necessary use in raising such animals and preparing them or the products derived therefrom for market.
Land not less than five acres in area shall be deemed to be actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural uses when the gross sales of agricultural, horticultural or agricultural and horticultural products resulting from such uses together with the amount, if any, payable under a soil conservation or pollution abatement program of the federal government or the commonwealth total not less than $500 per year or when the use of such land is clearly proven to be for the purpose of achieving an annual total of not less than $500 from such gross sales and program payments within the normal product development period as determined by the Farmland Valuation Advisory Commission established pursuant to § 11 of Chapter 61A of the General Laws. In cases where the land is more than five acres in area, the gross sales and program payment standard above set forth shall be increased at the rate of $5 per acre except in the case of woodland or wetland for which such increase shall be at the rate of $0.50 per acre.
Farming in all its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil.
Production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural, aquacultural, floricultural, viticultural, or horticultural commodities.
Growing and harvesting of forest products upon forest land, and any other forestry or lumbering operations.
Raising of livestock including horses.
Keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise.
Keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle, exotics (such as emus, ostriches, rheas, llamas and camels), and other domesticated animals for food and other agricultural purposes, including bees and fur-bearing animals.
"Farming" shall encompass activities including, but not limited to, the following:
Operation and transportation of slow-moving farm equipment over roads within the City.
Control of pests, including, but not limited to, insects, weeds, predators and disease organisms of plants and animals.
Application of manure, fertilizers and pesticides.
Conducting agriculture-related educational and farm-based recreational activities, including agri-tourism, provided that the activities are related to marketing the agricultural output or services of the farm.
Processing and packaging of the agricultural output of the farm and the operation of a farmer's market or farm stand including signage thereto.
Maintenance, repair, or storage of agricultural equipment, or apparatus owned or leased by the farm owner or manager used expressly for the purpose of propagation, processing, management, or sale of the agricultural products.
On-farm relocation of earth and the clearing of ground for farming operations in-line with federal and state regulations.
The right to farm is hereby recognized to exist within the City of Northampton. The above-described agricultural activities may occur on holidays, weekdays, and weekends by night or day and shall include the attendant incidental noise, odors, dust, and fumes associated with normally accepted agricultural practices. It is hereby determined that whatever impact may be caused to others through the normal activity of agriculture is more than offset by the benefits of farming to the neighborhood, community, and society in general. The benefits and protections of this chapter are intended to apply exclusively to those commercial agricultural and farming operations and activities conducted in accordance with generally accepted agricultural practices.
Notwithstanding any language in this chapter, a right-to-farm declaration shall not be deemed as acquiring any interest in land, or as imposing or superseding any land use or environmental regulation, which is properly the subject of state statute, regulation, or local zoning or other ordinance.
Any person who seeks to complain about the operation of a farm may, notwithstanding pursuing any other available remedy, file a complaint to the Agricultural Commission. The filing of the complaint does not suspend the time within which to pursue any other available remedies that the aggrieved may have. The Agricultural Commission shall review and facilitate the complaint and report its recommendations to the referring City authority within an agreed-upon time frame.
The Agricultural Commission looks to ease disputes and administer workable solutions to potential farming issues.
In order to promote harmony between farmers and their new neighbors, the City of Northampton requires landholders and/or their agents (i.e., homeowners and real estate agents) and assigns to provide notice to prospective purchasers and occupants of land located within 1/2 mile of any active farming operation as follows:
"It is the policy of this community to conserve, protect and encourage the maintenance and improvement of agricultural land for the production of food, and other agricultural products, and also for its natural and ecological value. This disclosure notification is to inform buyers or occupants that the property they are about to acquire or occupy lies within a city where farming activities occur. Such farming activities may include, but are not limited to, activities that cause noise, dust and odors. Buyers or occupants are also informed that the location of property within the City may be impacted by commercial agricultural operations including the ability to access water services for such property under certain circumstances."
A copy of the disclosure notification shall be given to and signed by the landowner prior to the sale, purchase, exchange or occupancy of such real property. This notification places the burden of awareness upon the landowners surrounding agricultural areas, and not on the farmers of Northampton. A copy of the disclosure notification must be filed with the Agricultural Commission prior to the sale, purchase, exchange or occupancy of such real property.