Stink over farmer's manure still going on

Susan Parkou Weinstein

Rick Chaves farms with the seasons.

He keeps his beef and dairy herds indoors during the winter and puts them out to pasture when the temperature rises.

He follows the same routine with the manure they produce.

He stockpiles it when the ground freezes and cracks the mounds open in the spring thaw.

When he hauls the manure away, it gives off a different aroma than when he spreads it on his fields at Leonard Beef Farm, he said.

This year it was really pungent.

“It was a lot warmer earlier,” the 51-year old former vegetable farmer said.

The unseasonable weather could account for the “non-manure” odors and “terrible garbage” stench that neighbors were sniffing in May.

Their complaints set off a two-month skirmish between Chaves and the town over who could regulate his business.

Chaves said his farm fell under the jurisdiction of state and federal agricultural departments, but he finally allowed local officials onto his property to inspect.

“It smells more of manure. It’s not the same as before,” Health Agent Alan Perry told the Raynham Call the next day.

Perry said neighbors had reported “a flurry of activity and things being hauled away,” after the May hearing. That might have taken care of the odors, he said.

Both parties described the meeting as friendly, although Chaves says he was only removing construction material from his barn and nothing of a “garbage” nature.

But his problems may not be over.

The town plans to ask him to get a hauling permit to move his manure from his Raynham property to his farm on Kingman Street in Lakeville.

Selectmen Chairman Joseph Pacheco said state law requires it.

“We want farms in Raynham. But at the same time, we have an obligation to the public to enforce the law,” Pacheco said.

Chaves will ignore the request.

He says the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Protection have assured him he does not need a permit to truck manure.

“They’re going to find out it’s going nowhere. You can’t make a farmer do that,” he said. “We’ve been hauling manure for as long as we’ve had the farm.”

Chaves doesn’t have a permit to haul manure in Lakeville. But he is licensed for a septic removal business.

Lakeville Health Agent Lawrence Perry said the town received one complaint about his farm last year.

A resident objected to open piles of fruit and vegetable waste he stored at his farm.

Chaves allowed Perry onto the property to inspect and take photographs.

Later the Lakeville Board of Health worked out a compromise to have him store the material in a closed container.

“He was very cooperative and the issue went away,” he said of Chaves. “The neighbor looked at the materials as garbage. He looked at it as animal feed.”

Overlapping regulators and multiple jurisdictions do muddy the hauling issue though, he said.

The permits may be controlled by the Department of Public Health, Agriculture or Transportation, even local fire departments.

“Does manure fall into the category of farm material or garbage? It depends on your perspective,” he said.

Chaves has a clear picture of who his boss is.

“The Farm Bureau keeps us on the straight and narrow. They’re the ones who really assist us and keep us out of trouble,” he says.

“I haul feed in and haul manure out. It’s a pretty clean operation as far as farms go,” he said.

Raynham Call reporter Susan Parkou Weinstein can be reached at