Friday, March 5, 2010
Dreaming of fields
It is surprising that in the year 2010 agriculture still plays a part in the lives of many who live in Carlisle. In large part, this is due to the foresight of the many people who over the past several decades have worked to preserve the town’s open space.
Admittedly, it has been a long while since farming provided the livelihood of the majority of residents. A recent town census included only seven residents who listed farm work as their primary occupation. However, thanks to the two-acre zoning first established in the 1950s, homeowners have room for ample backyard gardens, while some with more space raise chickens or keep horses, as well as the occasional llama or guinea fowl. Carlisle also includes professional nurseries and is home to cattle, goats and sheep.
In the ’60s, at the same time that many farms were being sold for development, the town began to set aside land for conservation. The decade saw the preservation of Towle Field on Westford Street and the creation of the private Carlisle Conservation Foundation. In the years since, over 2,000 acres have been protected in Carlisle through both private and public (town, state and federal) efforts, including many agricultural lands.
To name a few acquisitions, in 1971 the town purchased Foss Farm, which is located in the Concord River floodplain (see photo, page 5) and has fertile soil, free of rocks. The community gardens are located there and are surrounded by fields which have been used to grow a variety of crops, including hay, corn and soy beans. The creation of Great Brook Farm State Park in 1974 preserved over 800 acres, including a working dairy farm.
In the ’80s the town acquired the Cranberry Bog on Curve Street and the Bisbee hay field on Concord Street. A decade later the town voted to purchase the Hutchins-Robbins fields and placed an agricultural preservation restriction on the property.
The town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan values land suitable for agriculture when ranking undeveloped land for potential preservation. The Conservation Commission maintains license agreements with those who farm conservation lands (see article, page 7) and promotes environmentally sound farming methods.
These days everyone is talking about the benefits of locally-grown food. Each growing season people living here enjoy opportunities to garden or purchase home-grown agricultural products. Carlisle can thank both those who helped preserve the land, as well as those who help care for it today. ∆
Republicans and healthcare reform
So much has been written and said about healthcare reform that it is hard to know where to begin. There is no question that the issue is important. It affects all of us now, and, given that on their current trajectory existing entitlements will shortly begin to be paid with borrowed money, it will saddle our children and grandchildren with truly burdensome debt. It seems unconscionable that there should be a large segment of the population without healthcare insurance, though this issue is muddied by the facts that even those without insurance get some healthcare through emergency rooms and other facilities and that many of those without insurance are merely between jobs or, being young and healthy, have chosen to spend their money otherwise.
It is easy to agree that something should be done. But what the Congress has proposed should not be done. It is social legislation of the worst kind: overambitious to remake the largest industry in America, eager to create a great new bureaucracy, careless of the consequences to a system that works well for the vast majority of Americans, full of tricks to make the costs appear less and replete with favors for political friends. Republicans are right to assert that we should start over.
More than anything, the public debate has made clear for this issue the enormous philosophical divide between Democrats and Republicans. Judging from the kluge that has emerged as Obamacare, the Democrats believe that Americans cannot be trusted to spend their money sensibly on their own healthcare and that the business aspects of providing healthcare so corrupt the system that it must be overturned, even though nearly everyone agrees that quality of American healthcare is unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. With this underlying philosophy there is no solution except government-managed healthcare.
A better approach that is more consistent with American ideas of economic freedom, broached by Republicans but utterly ignored by Democrats in the House and Senate, holds promise of controlling costs, insuring the uninsured, and avoiding blatant unfairness, all the while preserving the many things that are desirable in our current system. It would not do this in one “swell foop” but in increments, since there are always unintended consequences. Three things that could be done today would start us down a better path by realigning incentives in the system: make all healthcare insurance purchases tax-deductible, make insurance purchasable across state lines, and reform tort law. These steps would increase competition and provide greater individual control over health spending.
Proponents of Obamacare seem to believe that the problem is one of communication, that they have failed to make clear the shining beneficence of their plan to the dull American people who can’t be bothered to understand it. The American people understand it all too well – a bloated government that even now runs on vast deficits will take on even more obligations with who-knows-what unpleasant consequences. Opponents – Republicans and some Democrats – are not merely saying no; they are standing on principle. ∆
© 2010 The