Nearly two dozen people showed up to Monday night's Board of Selectmen meeting in Durham to show their support for .
The supporters, including some who wore stickers that read "I Love Deerfield Farm," said the town should continue leasing the property to Melynda Naples, who has operated a dairy farm on the town-owned property since 2005.
Durham's Conservation Commission, which meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Durham Public Library, is in the process of reviewing the way the town leases town-owned property.
"This has nothing to do with the quality of Deerfield Farm, it has everything to do with the responsibility of a government agency," said First Selectman Laura Francis who agreed with supporters that the town should take it's time in making a decision.
At a June 27 meeting, .
But several of the farm's supporters said they're worried about what might happen to the property if Naples is unable to continue leasing the property.
"If Deerfield Farm is forced to become just another farm of the past in Durham it will be a sad day for us," said Hank Hiller, a Durham resident since 1968.
"Agriculture is a huge aspect of my life, and it wouldn't have been without Deerfield Farm," said 16-year-old Bailey Basiel, who told selectmen that she attends vo-ag school and is a member of the 4-H club.
Sharon Reynolds, a Branford resident, told selectmen that she often takes her two grandchildren to the farm and always feels welcomed there.
"It is just a wonderful thing for the quality of life in this community," she said.
Several residents agreed that town officials should consider "stewardship" when negotiating a lease.
Another said the town must also consider its compliance with a federal grant that the town used to help rebuild the barn at Deerfield Farm after it was destroyed by fire.
Roger Passavant, who owns Rivendell Farm in Durham, said he felt lease negotiations should be handled by selectmen rather than appointed commission members.
"I would rather hold you guys responsible than holding a non-elected official responsible," he said. "I don't think they should have that power. They are handling millions of dollars of our property."
Francis said the lease agreement would need the approval of the Board of Selectmen.
Dianne Saunders, a Wallingford resident and member of the town's Conservation Commission, said she spoke from experience and urged the board against opening the bidding process.
"The problem we had with the open bid process was these deep pockets who are other corporations, other than farmers, and have the farm on their balance sheet for a tax write-off.
"You go with the best plan, and the qualifications and not the price," she said.