×

Destructive drivers destroy Deerfield farm’s crops

  • Ruts in farmers’ fields in Deerfield's North Meadows. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Ruts made by errant drivers are wrecking havoc in farmers’ fields in Deerfield's North Meadows. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Signs instruct cars to stay off fields near Yazwinski Farm in Old Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Signs made by Donna Yazwinski’s kindergarten class at Erving Elementary School instruct cars to stay off fields near Yazwinski Farm in Old Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Erving Elementary School kindergartens at Yazwinski Farm in Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Erving Elementary School kindergartens at Yazwinski Farm in Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Erving Elementary School kindergartens at Yazwinski Farm in Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—



For the Gazette
Thursday, July 06, 2017

DEERFIELD — Deep tire ruts carve through dried mud up and down town-owned Old Ferry Road in Deerfield’s North Meadows, destroying rows of tiny green corn stalks and running sharply into local farmer Chester “Chet” Yazwinski’s hayfield.

“People end up driving across the field, or they turn around in the field,” Yazwinski said Friday, pausing from his afternoon work milking dairy cows in a barn resonating with soft lowing. “The bigger issue is people just don’t understand this is food — mud bogging puts dirt into food, and when it’s dry, its dust.”

Out in the meadows, thick clouds diffuse cascading light down onto rows of crops far into the distance. A sign posted at the beginning of the dirt road warns drivers that “damage to road or farmland (is) subject to fine,” and just recently a “seasonal access” notice was changed to “agricultural access only” in an attempt by town officials to curb crop damage.

“All the way to Deerfield Academy is ours, and down to the river (300 acres). Every inch is used,” said Donna Yazwinski, an Erving Elementary School teacher and wife of Chester Yazwinski, while driving and pointing out damages. “See where those telephone poles are? (The road) comes right to a stop. There is no access to the river.”

Crops are damaged in two ways, Donna Yazwinski explained, noting Ciesluk Farm also owns land in the meadows. First, cars kick dirt onto corn and other crops; second, drivers maneuver right over fields, through privately owned property, to get to the Deerfield River.

If crops are damaged, or caked with dirt, the farm loses money. Despite that, it’s not uncommon for the farmers to find people where they’re not supposed to be, and frequently call police about unruly drivers — once, someone was caught doing doughnuts in the field.

“The town is very supportive of the farms,” said Select Board member Carolyn Shores Ness, who came to the farm Friday as a show of support, emphasizing the Police Department also takes close notice and has instructed farmers to take pictures of offenders’ license plates.

At least in part, Chester Yazwinski said, trespassing happens because, over the years, property lines in the North Meadows have moved as land has changed hands. For example, a road that once led to the river isn’t there anymore.

It’s not a new problem. Yazwinski Farm has been in Old Deerfield for four generations, dating back to the early 1900s.

These days, the farm is owned by a partnership between Chester Yazwinski, cousin Frank Yazwinski, and his sons, Skip and Samuel Yazwinski.

“The road problem has always been an issue. Since Tropical Storm Irene, it has gotten steadily worse,” Donna Yazwinski said.

More than that, though, is lack of education about the effects vehicles have on crops, and “a disconnect between farms and people, now — there is no common sense,” Chester Yazwinski continued. Further, many people they confront don’t recognize the crop as intentionally planted, and drive over them thinking it’s an unused field.

“There has to be education, because people are so far removed from farms,” Ness said. To that end, Donna Yazwinski’s kindergarten class recently made and posted hand-made signs pointing out where the corn is, telling drivers to stay on the road — even if there’s mud or puddles.

Despite the trespassing problems, Donna Yazwinski said they’re happy to see people enjoy the road recreationally and responsibly. Walkers and runners frequently traverse the road, enjoying its beauty, and some groups have been given permission to access the river. But it’s a privilege given by the farm, not a right.

“You need to have some stewardship,” Ness said, noting town officials are looking for grants to build a sanctioned boat launch elsewhere in town, at the Stillwater Bridge.