The town of Madison, Maine – population 4,700 – passed an ordinance banning urban farming without grandfathering in current holders of livestock living on small parcels. The town ordinance bans any livestock on lots 1.5 acres or smaller and limits those landowners to no more than 12 chickens and/or 12 rabbits.
“I ordered some new chicks this spring, and now I am in violation of this new ordinance because I still had ten layers from last year,” said Lloyd Cowan, backyard farmer. “I have three goats. We use the milk to make soap, cheese and yogurt. Under the new ordinance we are not allowed to do that anymore. Nobody was grandfathered in.”
“We did not intend to do anything to harm or be anti-farming,” town manager, Tim Curtis, said. “Over the last several years the Madison Select Board has worked hard to enact ordinances that balance property rights and property values. The ordinance passed at the town meeting was the result of two years of work with much of the focus on property maintenance.”
Curtis has stated that he and the select board are seeking input from the Maine Farm Bureau and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry on possible re-wording of the ordinance.
“The Maine Farm Bureau is always available to work with municipal officials to resolve concerns about farms in their towns without resorting to ordinances that, oftentimes, have unintended and negative consequences,” Julie Ann Smith, executive director of the Farm Bureau, said. “Ordinances can unintentionally create burdensome restrictions for farmers. Farmers put food on our plates, and it is in everyone’s best interest to support the growth of agriculture in Maine.”