Farmers seek change in Knox zoning to raise pigs

Enterprise file photo — H. Rose Schneider

Some farmers in Knox would like to be able to raise pigs. The pigs they’d hope to raise would be larger than this young Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, displayed this spring at an agricultural fair at Berne-Knox-Westerlol.

KNOX — Some farmers in Knox would like to raise pigs but say they are limited by town law, which allows pigs only in the agricultural or agricultural-and-mining districts with a special-use permit, unlike other livestock.

Gary Kleppel approached the Knox Town Board with these concerns at its July 9 meeting, during an update on the Agricultural Advisory Committee, which Kleppel chairs.

He told The Enterprise that, at a committee meeting, some residents mentioned they wanted to raise pigs but legally couldn’t.

At the July 9 meeting, Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis said that the board would discuss possible changes to the zoning law at its Aug. 13 meeting, with a public hearing possibly taking place a month or two after.

Resident Brigitte McAuliffe asked whether there should be some regulations as far as the number of swine on one’s property, adding later that communities have suffered from things like runoff from dairy or hog farms. Kleppel said that the state has regulations on pig farming, and added that there are ways to ensure pig farming is not a nuisance.

Councilman Kenneth Saddlemire, a dairy farmer and liaison to the committee, noted that farms follow a number of state regulations, including rules on water and soil quality, animal control, and the effect on neighbors.

Besides the two districts zoned agricultural in Knox, portions of the town are also part of the county’s agricultural districts. Farms not in an agricultural district  fall under local law, according to state Department of Agriculture and Markets spokeswoman Jola Szubielski.

But farms in agricultural districts may fall under state oversight to protect land for farming. Larger pig farms may be designated as Concentrated Animal Feed Operations, or CAFOs, and would be regulated by the state and possibly the federal government, Szubielski said.

Unless local governments can demonstrate raising pigs is a threat to public health and safety, farms in an agricultural district are protected under state law from unreasonable regulations, Szubielski wrote in an email answering Enterprise questions last week.

Kleppel told The Enterprise that he believes the town’s zoning law is a relic from when Knox drafted the law, using a more suburban town’s zoning ordinance as a template. And, while New York has been known as a dairy-producing state, pigs became anathema in local development, despite pork being a popular meat, he said.

Kleppel, a sheep farmer and emeritus professor of biological sciences at the University at Albany, said that issues can arise if any type of livestock is raised poorly. He noted that pigs can actually wander pastures or help root out weeds to clear ground in wooded areas, like living “steam shovels.”

The Capital District and Hudson Valley are viable markets for organic or pasture-raised meat from small farms due to their proximity to New York City, something the Hilltowns should take advantage of, he said.

“There are people who can afford to pay a little more for meat,” noted Kleppel.

More Hilltowns News

  • Frank Bryant, of Westerlo, was arrested at his home on June 20 after police say he assaulted a man with a pipe on the side of County Route 404 in Westerlo, leaving the victim with broken teeth and a facial laceration.

  • To close an expected budget gap, two Republicans on the Westerlo Town Board are recommending cutting the Democratic supervisor’s two staffers after the Democrats and one tie-breaking Republican authorized the layoff of two of the highway department’s roughly seven workers. 

  • Kathleen Spinnato

    Westerlo Town Clerk Kathleen Spinnato announced at the town board’s special June 11 meeting that she would be resigning on June 21. On June 18, the town board appointed Deputy Clerk Karla Weaver as acting town clerk.

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