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Deerfield pig farms to be inspected

Policy comes after Romanowski hearing

Superior Court Judge John Agostini talks with Stanley Romanowski during an inspection of his piggery property in February 2006.

Superior Court Judge John Agostini talks with Stanley Romanowski during an inspection of his piggery property in February 2006.

DEERFIELD — Every pig farm in town will now get an annual inspection along with a set of rules to follow.

The Deerfield Board of Selectmen, acting as the Board of Health, decided it will now issue site assignments for all piggeries as allowed under the town’s Right to Farm bylaw.

The site assignments — the set of rules to follow — will come after Zoning Enforcement Officer Richard Calisewski completes the annual animal count and inspections. Every year, from October to January, Calisewski is required to survey all the animals in town.

The new policy is a result of a hearing with pig farmer Stanley Romanowski of 97 Stillwater Road. This week’s hearing was the fourth this summer. The board continued the hearing several times because Romanowski or his lawyer did not show up.

For 25 years, the pig farmer has tussled with his neighbors at the Meadows of Deerfield condominiums over nuisance issues, including loose pigs, foul odor and traffic hazards.

As a result, the town issued Romanowski an annual site assignment that addresses the number of pigs, food storage, fencing and cleanup.

Romanowski’s annual site assignment expired this summer and the pig farmer informed the town he was no longer raising pigs commercially.

Romanowski’s lawyer, R. David DeHerdt of Ashfield, argued his client would no longer need a site assignment because he’d be raising pigs only for personal consumption.

The question became whether the town could issue a site assignment for a farmer raising pigs for that purpose.

Based on the pig farmer’s history with the town, the board wanted to issue another site assignment.

The board asked Romanowski to agree that if he decides to raise pigs again commercially, he would notify the board.

“Given the history, we’d like some procedure that’s agreed upon in good faith,” said Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness. “It would be my recommendation to continue the site assignment. ... There have been issues with the cleanup, fencing, and storage of food. We’re losing town resources to chase loose pigs.”

DeHerdt argued that his client be treated just as every other pig farmer.

“There are other people in town raising pigs for personal consumption,” DeHerdt said. “They don’t have a rule where they need a site assignment. Mr. Romanowski wants to be treated like everyone else. There should be no special condition for him to come to the board if he goes beyond personal consumption.”

Selectman David Wolfram agreed, stating “everyone should be on the same (page).”

Expert advice sought

Cheryl Sbarra, a lawyer for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, advised the board that whether a piggery is for personal consumption or not, it is a noisome trade and should trigger an annual inspection.

“You could do a site assignment right now, based on the fact that it’s a piggery,” Sbarra said. “My suggestion is to treat all piggeries as piggeries. If there’s another piggery in town, you could clearly cite it and it may not need any conditions.”

Historically, the board has not issued site assignments for farms raising pigs for personal consumption, Shores Ness said. The board hasn’t cited any other pig farms, which haven’t received complaints.

Different pig farms can get different conditions, Sbarra said. If a farm has no complaints, it won’t receive strict rules like one with numerous complaints.

What sets Romanowski apart from other pig farmers in town is the method of his operation, Calisewski said. Romanowski feeds his pigs food waste, which state law requires to be cooked to remove diseases. That can create a strong odor, which bothers neighbors.

Other pig farms use corn and other grains to feed the animals.

Sbarra said the town can also decide whether Romanowski is following “generally acceptable agricultural practices” allowed in the Right to Farm bylaw.

President of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau, Richard Bonanno, explained that generally acceptable practices refers to how a farmer operates.

“There is a broad range of agricultural practices that are common. The question is whether this is considered an acceptable practice. A lot of times that is determined by cities and towns,” Bonanno said in a phone interview.

Bonanno said the state law protects every type of farming. But it considers pigs nuisance animals. The distinction gives cities and towns the ability to restrict pig farms. A Board of Health has unlimited power to declare pigs a public health issue. And boards of selectmen can limit piggeries based on the animal nuisance law, Bonanno said. Bonanno said some towns have banned piggeries or required special permits.

There are two other pig farms in Deerfield — the Melnik Farm and Yazwinski Farm, which raise pigs only for personal consumption.

Calisewski said he doesn’t have a real count yet and he has to verify if those farms are still raising pigs. He expects they both have less than five pigs.

The board did not renew Romanowski’s site assignment, but continued the hearing again to a future date until Calisewski completes the animal count.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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