Boston Common, a cow pasture during the Colonial era, was once again taken over by livestock Wednesday as local farmers sought to generate support for Massachusetts agriculture and legislation to support it.
A Scottish highland cow, a goat, two lambs, and a llama were on display as part of the sixth annual Livestock on the Common, put on by the Massachusetts Farm Bureau. Passersby could pet the caged animals and also talk with farmers.
“The event was originally designed to get the folks from [the State House] to come over here and see what a cow is like, what a sheep is like,’’ bureau president Mark Amato said, as a group of schoolchildren swooned over the llama. “It creates a personal relationship so when we need to be in their space, you already have a connection.’’
Beyond that connection, the farmers were there to pitch a few bills to state lawmakers, both sponsored by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue.
One would allow young farmers to pay the estate tax on the agricultural value of the land rather than the development value, allowing them to inherit farms without having to sell some of the land. Another measure would increase the dairy farm tax credit from $4 million to $8 million.
Both bills are aimed at bolstering family farms across the state, as time of growing interest in farm-to-table agriculture. In 2017, there were an estimated 7,800 farms in Massachusetts, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In 2012, there were 7,755 farms.
People came and went throughout Wednesday’s event. Several groups of schoolchildren, as well as people passing through the Common, paused to observe and pet the animals.
“Many of our businesses are direct-to-consumer, so it’s really good to have the facetime,’’ said Heidi Cooper, a farmer from Rochdale, outside Worcester, and an organizer of the event. “In the age of social media, where most of the things that get shared or talked about are the negative things, it’s good for people to see who we are.’’
Ryan Mackay of Holden, who was responsible for bringing the animals to the Common, echoed Cooper’s sentiment.
“It’s not very often that farmers get into the city,’’ Mackay said. “It’s about telling our story and educating people about our farming practices.’’
Not everyone was there was in support of the farmers. About 20 people from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stood nearby, many holding signs that read, “No such thing as ‘humane meat.’ ’’
Sarah Loscutoff of Beverly, a vegan for 20 years, said she disagreed with some farmers’ practices and said there are other food options.
“We want people to wake up, open their hearts, love animals, take care of our planet, and be healthy,’’ Loscutoff said.
Thomas Oide can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thomasoide