The Town Council approves ordinance changes clearing the way for food trucks on agricultural properties intended to help local farms more viable now and into the future.
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FARMERS GET MORE HELP IN MIDDLETOWN
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (NOVEMBER 18, 2021) – The Town of Middletown is looking to help make farming even more viable across the community.
Recently, the Town Council approved amendments to its business regulations that clear the way for large-scale farms 10 acres or bigger to have a mobile food truck or cart by right. For small-scale farms less than 10 acres, farms need to secure a special-use permit from the Zoning Board of Review.
Town Solicitor Peter B. Regan explained the goal was to provide another tool to help keep farmers viable in Middletown for years to come.
“Our zoning code contains a section on farm promotion accessory uses,” Regan said. “That section allows farms to engage in other accessory businesses in order to earn additional income to make the farm sustainable.”
Under the Town’s codes, farming is allowed on property zoned for agricultural use. In recent years, the council approved changes that cleared the way for such property to host farm stands, guest houses and farmers markets.
Regan said Simmons Farm approached the Town to ask if food trucks could be added to that list, a move that made sense with the council’s blessing.
As part of the revisions, the following rules govern the operation of food trucks on farm property:
- Only one food truck or food cart is allowed per farm at any time.
- The hours of operation for the farm food truck were limited daily from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
- The food truck or food cart cannot be the primary use on the property, only an accessory use.
- A proposal to have at least “some” of what was sold from the food truck or cart be grown on the host farm was shelved because at certain times of year it was too difficult to have “local” produce.
Regan explained it was important to have the special-use permit requirement for small-scale farms.
“I think the Planning Board didn’t want everyone who had a vegetable garden say they were going to have a food truck in their front yard,” Regan said, drawing chuckles from the audience.
Councilwoman M. Theresa Santos said at one time, there were 21 dairy farms in Middletown. Today, there are none.
According to Town Planner Ronald M. Wolanski, there’s not a recent specific count of how many properties in Middletown are used actively for farming.
However, he said data from a few years ago showed there were more than 100 parcels designated for agriculture and farming uses. Of those, Wolanski said it appeared there were six or eight active farms.
Regan said long term, the hope was that farming was more sustainable in Middletown.
“The idea here is to allow the farmers some additional opportunities for revenue,” Regan said.