Farm family’s fear over future
A family said they were in shock yesterday after they were given six months to quit the land they have farmed for more than 50 years.
However Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said he was open to discuss the matter.
Richard Bascome Jr, 83, and his son, also Richard, were told at the start of this month that they must leave Westover Farm in Sandys, one of the island’s main dairy farms, which they have leased from the Government since the 1960s.
The younger Mr Bascome said the short notice was “ludicrous”, and that the family had not been told what the Government planned to do with the land.
He said: “They have not been open with what their plans are. Our concern is the land and the infrastructure here.
“The slaughterhouse is the island’s only one for large animals. There is the dairy, the butcher shop, and the vegetable gardens.
“On top of that, what’s alarming to all farmers is the loss of nearly seven acres of arable land, which affects food security in Bermuda. It’s no secret that we are critically low on land.
“We’re not just a family business. One of a farmer’s main things, other than the supply of food, is to protect the open space that we have left.”
Mr Bascome said milk production at Westover had fluctuated over the years, but he estimated the farm provided a quarter of the island’s milk supply.
He pointed out that the notice to quit meant an uncertain future for about 70 cows, 50 sheep and the farm’s poultry.
Mr Bascome said “If they were going to move us to farmland somewhere else, a dairy would have to be set up immediately. Our cows are milked twice a day, but that’s if relocation is an option, which we haven’t been given.”
The Bascomes said that representatives from the Government’s estates division called at the Daniel’s Head farm to give them until December 1 to leave, but there had been “no dialogue” since.
Mr Bascome added: “They can say our lease has lapsed, but that leads to another issue. There are several areas of farmland around Bermuda with leases that have lapsed.
“Some have not been renewed since 2015 and they still pay rent, but this is probably the biggest in jeopardy.”
Mr Bascome said the silence from the Government was “deafening”.
He added: “We’re willing to talk, if we have some idea of what they want to do.
“We understand that Bermuda has some of the most expensive real estate in the world. The push for development seems obvious, but you have to have a balance. It’s not just the farm — Daniel’s Head has been a special place for the people of Somerset for ever.”
Mr Bascome said: “Maybe this area is its own downfall. It’s prime real estate.”
The property’s sea views of the West End led to the British War Department using the area in the First World War and the farm is still dotted with radio- mast foundations from when Daniel’s Head was home to a military base.
Neighbouring land once used for a Canadian base was converted to the 9 Beaches resort, which was approved by the Bermuda Land Development Company in 1998.
The failed holiday destination shut up shop in 2010 and the BLDC announced in March that it wanted to redevelop the site.
The Bascomes emphasised they had no knowledge of development plans for Westover, but said the loss of farmland was his top fear.
The older Mr Bascome said he was often late for school as a child because he delivered milk.
He added the loss of the farm would spell the end of a lifestyle rooted in the area.
He said: “It’s tough — you see so much, go through so much, put so much into the place, and then you have people tell you to get out.”
Tom Wadson, a Southampton farmer, said he was “extremely disappointed” with “yet another hasty decision”.
He added: “I just fail to understand why we would lose more farmland.”
Mr Wadson pointed out that Mr Bascome Jr had been awarded the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour in 2014 for his service to the community.
He said: “I don’t see how you can award the man for doing such a stellar job and then his life’s work, over three generations, is wiped off the board in six months.”
The Royal Gazette asked the Ministry of Public Works for information about its plans for the land, and whether the family would be relocated.
The Ministry initially declined to comment, but in a statement sent shortly after noon, Colonel Burch said he was open to discussion on the matter.
Colonel Burch said: “The Estates Department of the Ministry of Public Works in the normal course of their duties wrote to the Bascomes on May 14, 2018, concerning their lease that had expired in January 2017.
“When I was contacted some time later by Mr Bascome III — I agreed to investigate the circumstances of their lease. Before I could do that, however, I received written communication that included their lawyer — I indicated that this required me to alert the Government’s lawyer — the Attorney-General.
“As is their right, the Bascomes have sought legal advice and I’m fine with that. My preference, and I remain open to this, is to discuss how we move forward. I have a duty to inform the Attorney-General about legal issues but let me repeat, I’m happy to talk about this.
“It’s good that people feel confident to speak up and challenge us — it’s what we asked them to do in July 2017. As a Somerset ‘bye’ — I am well aware of the Bascome’s contribution to both the Somerset community and Bermuda — I would never willingly simply ignore the opportunity to discuss any issue.
“This Government is working every day to help more black businesses get off the ground and so there is no way we or I would participate in destroying one.”
• UPDATE: This story was updated after Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch provided a response.