The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 7, 2001


The Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) renewed the license that permits farmer Mark Duffy to grow and harvest corn for his Great Brook Farm cattle on approximately 18 of the 57 acres at the town's Foss Farm multi-use parcel. The dairyman was present to give an accounting of his stewardship of the tract, along with representatives of the Carlisle Recreation Commission (RecCom) and School Committee, who have expressed a strong interest in using some portion of the property for athletic fields.

Many stakeholders cooperate

The atmosphere was reassuringly cooperative, as school committee, RecCom, and Pony Club member Cindy Nock, plus RecCom spokesman Mike Brophy, talked about the wide-ranging activities that have, over the years, taken place there, including community gardening, dog sledding, kite and rocket launching, dog walking, hiking and equestrian competition. Citing existing good relations between Duffy and other present users, Nock added, "I'm hoping all the committees in town will cooperate to help meet the needs of the whole community." Representing RecCom member Maureen Tarca, Brophy reported that RecCom is presently studying titles, surveying the tract and identifying possible sites for "active recreation," i.e., soccer fields.

An aside from conservation administrator Sylvia Willard made it clear that the farming license, even after signing, could be terminated by either party with 30-days notice. This brought a comment from commissioner John Lee that, although he realized the bind the RecCom is in with probable school building plans threatening the presently available ballfields, he sees the Foss Farm and Robbins/Hutchins fields as the only active agricultural expanses in Carlisle. As such, he said, "They are our most prominent 'rural vistas.' "

To a question about how seriously he would be hurt by loss of the cornfields, Duffy replied that agricultural land is hard to come by today and that lack of the Foss Farm crop would indeed be a blow. Earlier in the meeting he had reported that unlike the cranberry harvest, this had been a banner year for corn, which had allowed him to swap some of the crop for much-needed hay.

In keeping with the terms of his license Duffy said he continues to use Integrated Pest Management, which encourages reduced application of pesticides and commercial fertilizers. He says he spreads herbicides and fertilizers as sparingly as possible, "and since the cows don't mind bugs with their corn, I need no insecticides." Also as specified in his contract, Duffy has planted winter rye as a cover crop. "The field is still green, but the geese are doing their best," he concluded.

In closing the discussion, commission members indicated they too favor a cooperative approach and urged the RecCom to complete their study and come up with a specific request. Brophy, in turn, told all present, "Our goal is not to harm or displace anyone else," and commissioners reassured Duffy somewhat by promising that were a portion of his fields taken, he would be allowed to harvest any crop that had already been planted or prepared for planting. However, in the end there was a disquieting caveat for the RecCom, and probably many others, to consider. Because Foss Farm was acquired with both state and federal funds, any facilities developed there must be open to use by residents of other area towns.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito