- FUN FEATURES
The Cheshire Town Council unanimously approved leases last week that will allow different groups to continue to use the Boulder Knoll farm area for various charitable and community work.
At the Council's regularly scheduled April 26 meeting, a lease extension was approved for the Friends of Boulder Knoll, as well as for resident Kerry Deegan, who grows sunflowers on his property adjacent to the farm. Both leases were approved unanimously by the Town Council with very little discussion.
The Friends of Boulder Knoll has used some acreage on the farm to build a community garden, and has harvested vegetables the last two seasons. The Town initially approved a one year lease, then changed it to a three-year rolling lease for the Friends, extending it one year every spring.
However, a request was made by current Friends of Boulder Knoll President Bob Giddings to extend the lease to five years. Giddings explained the extension would help in two ways. First, the Friends of Boulder Knoll would like to plant perennial crops, such as raspberries and blueberries, but to justify those plantings "a longer look forward is needed," he wrote in a letter to the Town Council. Secondly, a longer lease term will help the group secure grant money from organizations like the United States Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Services.
"It is much easier to obtain grants if you have an established track record, which we now have, and a good prospect for long-term stability, which the lease term extension would help provide," Giddings told the Council.
Councilman James Sima explained that the amended lease will allow the group to obtain more funding and a new clause was added to protect the Town. The new provision added is a surrender clause that would be invoked at the termination of the lease. The clause states that the lessee, the Friends of Boulder Knoll, would need to leave the property in good condition and cannot remove any plantings on the property.
Those driving past Boulder Knoll in the summer have certainly noticed large sunflowers on Deegan's property. The retired police officer found a new passion and has considerable land to grow. Each year, the Town Council has to vote to renew the lease with Deegan and approve his request to grow sunflowers. As a condition of the lease, he cannot sell the sunflowers on the property. Sima noted that Deegan only uses a part of the property and keeps it in good condition. He sells the flowers off-site and then donates the money to charity.
Deegan grows the traditional yellow sunflowers but, last year, mixed in some red sunflowers as well, which stood out in the sea of yellow seen from the road. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to sell them because of the weather.
"Last year's crop went well until the high winds came at the end of August, early September. This caused the flower petals to bleach out and the crop could not be sold," Deegan explained. "I received numerous compliments from people traveling by on Boulder Road, as well as by neighbors. It was very disappointing that the sunflowers could not be sold for a fund raiser."
Deegan pays the Town $1 to lease the property for the year.