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Right to Farm SignsAs you enter Lansing, new signs have joined the 'Welcome to the Town of Lansing' signs at six major entry points to the Town.  As of last week large signs inform people entering the Town that Lansing is a 'Right to Farm' community.  The signs are part of a new initiative by the Town Agriculture Advisory Committee to make people more aware of farming and what it means to the community.

"People need to be more aware that we are a farming community," says Agriculture Advisory Committee Chair Connie Wilcox.  "You're going to have big equipment on the roads.  You're going to get held up a little bit every now and then.  People need to slow down and respect what the farmers are doing -- and realize that if they want to eat they need to respect farmers, because that's where their food is coming from."

'Right to Farm' is more than just a concept in Lansing.  The Town has had a 'Right to Farm' law on the books since 1977.  The law affirms that agriculture is an essential business in the town, and requires that notice be given -- especially by real estate agents -- to future neighbors that they may smell fertilizer or hear heavy farm equipment, and that farmers have do the things essential to farming that may not sit well with non-farmers who live nearby.  The law requires that building permits include a paragraph warning that the property may border a farm.

The law requires that part of this warning include the text, "Residents should be made aware that farmers have the right to undertake good or acceptable farm practices which may generate dust, odor, smoke, noise and vibration."

Right to Farm SignsLansing Agriculture Advisory Committee Chair Connie Wilcox next to one of six new 'Right to Farm Community' signs, entering North Lansing from Cayuga County.

It also means that large, slow farm vehicles may be on public roads from time to time.  Wilcox says there have been recent accidents in Lansing where farm vehicles have been hit by motorists who have been too impatient.

"That's just foolishness," she says.  "It does more to wreck their car than it does to the farm equipment.  Some people are going to be annoyed no matter what.  There are certain times of year when there is more equipment on the road than others.  You just have to take heed and be careful and be safe.  For the most part the farmers do try to pull off to the side to let people go around them if they can, but there are some places where it's just not safe to do that -- safe for them or for the car behind them."

The advisory committee was formed this year after the Agriculture Protection Plan was officially accepted by the Town Board last September.  It meets once a month most months, skipping the times when farmers are most busy, such as planting and harvest times.  Although the committee hasn't existed for long, the new signs aren't the only tangible thing the committee has produced.  It has worked on education and agri-tourism initiatives that include farm tours and a potential 'farm day' at the Town hall complex in October.

Walnut Ridge Dairy got that ball rolling in May with tours of their unique milking carousel, and plan more open houses in the future.  Wilcox says she and Andra Benson of Bensvue Organic Dairy Farm are planning to approach school officials about putting an agriculture program in place and possibly starting a local Future Farmers of America chapter in Lansing.

"It's not just about farming -- it's agribusiness," Wilcox says.  "It's putting together a business plan and things like that, so it's not just about going out and milking the cows and tilling the fields.  There's a lot more to farming.  It's big business any more, so I'd like to see more education in the schools."

Wilcox notes that Agri-tourism is also part of the new Comprehensive Plan.  She had also hoped to bring back the farmer's market at the Thursday night Concerts in the Park series, but there was not enough interest.  She says part of the problem has been the dry weather, which has seriously impacted local farmers.

"People just don't have the produce that they would normally have," she says.  "Hopefully that can be a goal for next year."

Lansing farmers are hoping the new signs will bring more awareness about their industry that generates more than $20 million per year from over 17,000 acres of Lansing farmland and provides over 100 jobs in the town.  The signs were erected last week at the six major entry points to the Town, from Cayuga County to North Lansing and Lansingville; from Dryden on Peruville Road; and the three southern entry points on Warren and Triphammer roads, and East Shore Drive.

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