Urban Right-to-Farm Laws

Sharon October 1st, 2009

One of the things I’ve been saying for a long time is that we’re going to need to address zoning questions early in the process of adaptation.   In an increasing number of rural areas, “Right-to-Farm” laws are in effect – that is, there are laws that protect farmers who are engaged in the normal practice of agriculture, when suburbanization or urbanization enters the picture.  The assumption is that if it is part of the normal practice of agriculture, the neighbors can’t complain.

Now obviously, in city centers, standard right to farm laws can’t be applied wholesale.  First of all, most of the farms have been removed – that is, we’re not talking about protecting existing farmers, but enabling new ones so the “sniff before you move” test can’t be applied here.  Second of all, I think we can all reasonably agree that some kinds of agricultural and livestock production are probably not appropriate in urban environments, and that living in cities requires a high degree of accomodation of others. 

That said, however, 5 of the 6 largest US cities permit chickens in backyards.  Many have minimal or no restrictions on urban livestock – there are goats in LA and pigs in Brooklyn, and chickens nearly everywhere, and people manage to get along quite well.  A friend of mine has 5 acres in an affluent suburb of Boston (it wasn’t affluent when she bought them), and has horses, goats, a pig, chickens, turkeys and geese.  I know another person with three cows inside the city limits of Evanston. 

But there are also cities that permit no livestock, not even poultry – as Gene Logsdon has put it, “you can have a barking, crapping dog the size of a pony, but not three quiet hens.”   In other cities, there may be elaborate and excessive laws that benefit neither residents nor the city that has to enforce them – for example, in Beverly, MA, where my mother and step-mother keep 4 hens, they were required to get permission from every single one of their abutters, to have their property inspected, and have a yearly inspection by the town vet.  Any increase in flock size requires more queries, more permissions, more visits.  Meanwhile, the next town over has a “six chickens per household” flat policy – no inspections.  Given the cost in time and effort to her city, as well as the barrier having to approach your neighbors offers, this process really ought to be streamlined.

The same goes for gardening – some cities and suburbs restrict front yard food gardening, or don’t permit the use of sidewalk marginal strips, to which ornamental gardeners have full access, to be planted in food plants.  The reality is that growing food is at least as beautiful as flowers, and we need to change those laws.

We also need to clarify laws about water use and capture, that make home scale agriculture possible in the dryer parts of the US – rainbarrels should be permitted in every state and city in the US.  In many cases, the dryest parts of the US are subject to heavy rains, when they come, and large portions of the rain is lost into flooding on asphalt and overflowing storm sewers – allowing homeowners to capture rainwater is an essential part of the picture of creating sustainable cities.  Moreover, some cities make no distinction between lawn watering and food garden watering – Gary Nabhan, in _Coming Home to Eat_ his book about living the 250 mile diet in one of the dryest areas of the country cites research that confirms that sustainable home food production uses less regional water than trucked in produce - the high water cost of most electrical generation means that growing in your backyard will use less water in total than buying produce that was shipped and held under refrigeration.

What is needed, then is a set of consistent legal parameters that can be applied in cities and suburbs throughout the country – that can be pointed to as a reasonable norm, that protect the neighbors of city dwellers within reason, but that also balance that protection with the right to practice subsistence activities, and the recognition that urban dwellers already accept nuisances of all sorts as part of living with neighbors.  That barking dog next door, the cats that pee on the back fence, the rumble of trucks delivering to the grocery store, the traffic pollution.  If we’re going to complain about the smell of a neighbor’s rabbits, it would have to be an abnormally strong smell – not the earthy smell of reasonably kept rabbit cages, which is less strong than the smell of diesel exhaust to which most urban dwellers are accustomed, but the smell of unhealthy and dangerous conditions.

I’m not a lawyer, and these guidelines would need to be drafted appropriately by one, but I’d love to see some discussion here about the appropriate way to begin establishing an urban right-to-farm movement, and the appropriate parameters for one.  Because in our increasingly poorer world, it cannot be left to an accident of geography – where our jobs or our family are – to decide whether we are to have enough good and safe food to eat.

What do you suggest we include? 

Sharon

20 Responses to “Urban Right-to-Farm Laws”

  1. AnnaMarie says:

    I’d start with a review of Vermont’s laws, they are pretty much what you’ve stated but are tied to commerce. Strip out the commerce requirement and maybe you’ve got a start.

  2. Good idea, it’s about time for a big right to farm movement rather than the constant fights by the one little guy having it out with each city by-law officer in each town.

    While jurisdiction issues probably makes these laws a local concern, a national movement (in both our countries) which defines a rational set of rules gives local advocates a lot of support and direction. It also gives people running for an office something concrete to run for. Supporters of a larger movement can run for office in support a known platform without having to make the attempt at crafting their own rules.

    It’s simply a rights issue, right to manage the water that falls on your yard, right to utilize your land to grow anything that cannot be proven to endanger your neighbours. It needs to be packaged as a civil rights issue and then get those existing civil rights movements to add it to their agendas.

  3. Brad K. says:

    Sharon,

    Ponca City, OK, is a small town, about 29,000 last time I checked. I asked the mayor about expanding allowance for small livestock, his response was that pigs were too much nuisance to neighbors. For the level of husbandry I have seen in the area – fence off a 10′ square patch, put the pig in, throw it feed and water until ready to butcher – yep, they are fly and stink factories. My neighbor proved that to me.

    I countered that I didn’t consider hogs “small livestock” with a mature animal weight of 250-550 pounds. I asked about pigeons, chickens, rabbits, small goats. He hadn’t thought of drawing a line at that range of livestock. Nothing came of the brief conversation, at the time. Ponca City did pass an ordnance this year, requiring $100/yr fee for un-neutered dogs and cats in the city limits, and $100/year fee for a single litter each year.

    I wonder – does Urban Farming open a niche for cage, fencing, and shelter carpenters and other related crafts? Someone that had researched local zoning ordnances, discussed with city council about best practices, that could put up a pigeon, duck, goose, chicken, or rabbit hutch or nest, establish and review composting arrangements, advise on feed and litter handling and storage? Farmers markets might start attracting craftsmen putting together transport creates to convey livestock to the vet for treatment. Transport for small livestock – including cleaned and sanitized transport cages – a kind of “chicken taxi” – will be needed or useful.

    California recently intruded into best practices for raising chickens. Whether that kind of rule should be overturned – my own thinking is that California should be permitted to push livestock production at all levels out of state, and let them pay the price of rebuilding a food chain at their leisure, at their starvation, or whatever level in between they choose – any small livestock proposal should include a best practices recommendation, regarding space and facility needs of various classes of bird or animal. And, there should likely be allowance for pet livestock, like the free-running pet shop rabbit, the guard goose. You would want to establish livestock protection such that livestock owners have recourse against anyone that lets their child or dog loose to injure or kill your livestock. I like the Oklahoma rule that an owner has 24 hours to put down a dog that harms livestock, but that likely wouldn’t work with unruly children. Arizona’s rule that a dog owner is liable for three times the value of the livestock if the dog hassles – gets into the pasture with – livestock, regardless of physical harm to the livestock – that would suit me fine.

    Not everyone knows that you should clean eggs before selling, or safe handling for meat. There should be a certification to sell or barter eggs and meat for the urban farmer – a class on keeping the birds or animals, and on preparing meat and eggs for sale, a standard for such sales, and a penalty considered for violations. I would recommend relying on complaints rather than inspections to assure responsible husbandry and product preparation. I would recommend a similar approach about garden produce, too, of establishing a complaint system rather than inspectors.

    You might also want to consider breeding and selling fertile eggs or selling young birds or animals.

    I hate to say it, but perhaps getting Congress to authorize hemp production, similar to the authorization for head of household to brew 200 gallons of beer or wine for personal family consumption, might be the best way to get more urban residents interested in gardening, at least in outdoor gardens. *sigh* Or maybe suggest garden-raised tobacco. It seems a shame that commercial cigarettes have destroyed country use and knowledge of the versatile tobacco plant.

    Anyone planning to plant a catfish pond in the back yard probably needs a good plan for keeping water levels sufficient in case of drought or damage to city supplies of water.

    And I have to question your statement, Sharon, that food gardens are as attractive as ornamental gardens. In well-maintained gardens, that might be true. But people that plant a single crop at one time, let the plants remain after harvest and the plant has died off, or weed at least once, just after planting (Yep. Same neighbor with the pig.), unless you get lucky with the attractiveness of the particular weed cover, not all gardens compete well with minimal landscaping for appearance.

  4. I recently spoke with a woman who owns two acres in Easton, PA. She had six free range hens, but also, unfortunately, a building full of condos that abutted the back of her property. Some woman in that building took it upon herself to make a stink about the free range hens, even though, by her own admission, the hens weren’t bothering her in any way. There was no noise, smell, or uncleanliness nuisance she could point to. She simply believed “they didn’t belong there.” She was successful, and the hen-keeper was forced to give up her layers. The kicker is that the woman in the condo moved out of the city shortly after this, AND *she knew that she planned to move* the entire time she was raising the issue with the city of Easton.

    My suggestion, wish, and hope is that right-to-farm laws will be biased in favor of farming activities, such that the burden of proof will be on those wishing to curtail the production of food or medicine on private property. If we can tolerate barking dogs, free range cats, and wild birds flying overhead and crapping where they please, we can tolerate, within reason, similar traits in farm animals.

    I do believe that right-to-farm laws should allow municipalities to take action where animals are kept in inhumane conditions with regard to space or cleanliness. Manure is a fact of life, but can be managed if animals are not overstocked. Anyone who wishes to keep animals on small properties must be expected to do so responsibly.

    Also, I had cause recently to look up the PA right-to-farm law for rural areas. This too could use some work. The annual gross income to qualify as a farmer is $10,000. Obviously, many cannot meet this requirement though they may have significant excess to sell. Also, any change in agricultural practices on existing farms are not protected until they have been in operation for one year without any complaints registered. So the right of an established farmer who decides, for example, to keep bees, is not protected until a full year has passed without complaint. Agricultural practices change all the time. This requirement seems burdensome and arbitrary.

  5. Susan in NJ says:

    “consistent legal parameters that can be applied in cities and suburbs throughout the country”

    Sigh, what you are talking about is a sort of Uniform Code for Right to Farm, like the UCC or the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act, etc. I very pessimistic that such a thing is possible although model acts or ordinances for parts of this, things like backyard chickens sound both doable and useful.

    The problem, as you probably know, is that land use is a widely varying pastiche of federal, multi-state, state, and local laws, ordinances, statutes, compacts and common law doctrines, regulated by legislators, local city councils and land use planning folk, other entities including as interpreted by courts. And that’s not even getting into covenants that transfer with the land and homeowner associations. You’ve got land rights, water rights, health code concerns. So even if you have a model ordinance for backyard chickens, you still need on a locality by locality basis a roadmap to where the changes need to be made . . . city council, zoning, state legislature, liitgation. West of the Mississippi water rights are horrendously complicated (from my more watery perspective). Plus the whole history of land rights and state rights makes the idea of country-wide consistency for property rights anathema to anglo-american jurisprudence.

    My town’s ordinances incorporate state laws which to some extent adopt “international” maintenance codes drafted by “independent” professional groups, but I am at least spared home owner association concerns.

    You can’t have more than four dogs, but they can all be huge; you can’t have goats no matter how tiny unless you satisfy all kinds of permiting and state requirements and have at least 100 feet between your livestock shed (which must be a separate building) and any other building (pretty much making it impossible given the lot sizes) and then if you want to milk them. . . . You can’t have rabbits,guinea pigs, pigeons, chickens or waterfowl of any kind (even as pets!). The state beekeepers association model guidelines for backyard hives means even a window hive wouldn’t fit my yard (and not complying with the guidelines probably sets you up for a nuisance action if your neighbors complain).

    Right now the town is obsessed with regulating the size and shape of buildings, garages, and breezeways built on the larger lots in the more upscale portion of town which already support large homes . . .and starting community plots SO you don’t have to dig up your own yard.

    My feeling is that here in old suburbia, at least, things will only change when it’s a necessity and then it may just be folks will ignore the laws on the books. It may actually be easier in a city where you have more diversity in what is happening in a smaller area (residential, commercial, industrial).

    Hey, but it would be fun to try.

  6. AnnMarie says:

    Maybe you’ve heard already, but I just got an email from Amazon saying that your new book would be published, hence shipped, sooner: “Previous estimated arrival date: November 13 2009 – November 19 2009 New estimated arrival date: October 16 2009 – October 23 2009″

  7. DEE says:

    Son lives in Columbia, MO with his 16 chickens…found a 17 acre “lost paradise” actually within the city limits. So,of course, the city has to spoil things by trying to come up with a new improved chicken policy…get this one proposal….chicken houses much be HEATED and painted in/out once a year!!!!!! Even the dogs don’t get that much consideration…so are they going to have chicken police next? Can’t afford new police and firefights but those dangerous chickens must be controlled! Thank God I live in the way boonies of the MO Ozarks. Bad enough we’ve been rejected for insurance policies ’cause we have bees. 99 out of 100 people don’t want to get anywhere near a bee hive but they are considered a nuisance in the same way as a pool…huh? Makes you wonder how dumb our country is getting….DEE

  8. dogear6 says:

    This one is tough. I would love to have more critters in my backyard, but in fairness to my neighbors, I have a very small backyard and it would be a nuisance to them.

    However, when I lived in the county on an acre, the neighbor next door had horses, chickens, and geese in her backyard. It stunk all the time and I couldn’t keep my windows open because of the stench. They were irresponsible in many ways and not just with the animals. The county said they couldn’t do anything about it because the ordinances allowed them to have animals.

    So. . . no easy answers. Yes, I’d like to do more but I also don’t want to live on a city lot by someone who cannot take care of their menagerie.

  9. Alan says:

    Good points, Sharon, all the way down the line. But I have to point out something about water out here in the “drier parts of the U.S.” where you assert that “large portions of the rain is lost into flooding on asphalt and overflowing storm sewers.”

    Well, not exactly. That water isn’t “lost”. Those storm sewers drain into waterways — creeks and rivers. And all — and I do mean all — of the water that flows in those creeks and rivers is spoken for, its use “appropriated” sometimes on a first-come, first-owns it basis as much 150 years ago. Anytime someone “appropriates” that water (i.e. keeps it from flowing into that waterway), whether he’s filling a 50-gallon rainbarrel or a 50 acre-foot stock pond, he is taking what legally belongs to someone else.

    I’m not defending that system of “water rights”, but that’s what some people in the West who want to collect rainwater are up against. Some places (including here in Portland) things are a lot looser and the authorities actually encourage rainwater collection. I get a small but significant reduction in the “stormwater” charge on my city water and sewer bill because I can store 1500 gallons of rainwater on my property. Each year I keep somewhere upwards of 3000 gallons of rainwater from running down the street into a storm sewer and then into a creek.

    It’s easy to say that people in Colorado or New Mexico ought to change those water rights laws, but if it were easy to do, we wouldn’t have the old saying out here that “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”

    Big and little agriculture, industry, power generation, barge companies, municipalities of all sizes, recreation (golf courses, fishermen, and river rafting companies) all have major stakes in how much water is in the waterways and who gets to use how much of it. Against that kind of power, a few (or even quite a few) urban homesteaders aren’t going to make much headway.

  10. Kirstie says:

    Off topic – but my email from amazon was even better than Ann Marie’s! My new ship date for Independence Days is October 7th!!

    Perhaps it’s on topic – I know the book will be loaded with inspiring ideas for agriculture in urban areas as well as rural. :)

  11. Michelle says:

    How about some common sense? If people would just take a look around and pay attention a bit, they would realize how shortsighted it is to have covenants AGAINST hanging your clothes out to dry, having a few chickens in the yard, growing a garden or collecting rain in barrels really is to our current and future needs. I mean, really – why does there even have to be discussions to the contrary? Have we just completely lost our minds here in America?

    Are we really too uppity to allow folks the basic human needs of drying their clothes, feeding their families and making use of the rains without the use of complicated, expensive and unreliable systems in place?

    What exactly are people so afraid of?

  12. Holy Toledo.... says:

    …Trinidad & Tobago — I applaud your consideration to start a movement that addresses urban right-to-farm issues in one solid, en masse front, Sharon.

    We have an opportunity and a responsibility to generate meaningful and uniform laws that positively impact the greatest number of urban and suburban milieux, because, frankly, aren’t we all very tired of reinventing the wheel of change tidbit by tedious tidbit? And at this global point in time, I know in my heart of hearts, and in my gut of all guts that we have to do this.

    I make myself available to support your efforts in any way that I can so that once this matter is underway for applied consideration, we can then go on to the next imperative item on the local-to-national-and-back-impact hit-parade agenda.

    There is no imagining the world without you, Sharon Astyk. You are a constant source of enlightening inspiration, and may I have the honor to occasionally PUMP *y*o*u * up?!!

    As one of your reader-supporter, and a validated, card-carrying member of the Urban Farmer Club of America & Beyond:

    What can I do?

    With gratitude and warm salutations,

    Danielle Charbonneau
    Tucson Community Advocate

    As a devoted harvester of rainwater currently storing nearly 1700 gallons of pure refreshing nectar from the sky on my petit plot in East-Central Tucson, Arizona, could I possibly help make an improvement dent in rainwater harvesting laws in the Southwest??

    What I learned, I began learning from our International Tucson Expert Brad Lancaster…..maybe I could ask him where he sees an important need to upgrade, and then tag along for an assisting ride toward change…??
    http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

    Albeit urgent, if this gets any more exciting, I’ll need me a shot of whiskey to calm me down!!! ;)

  13. Sharon says:

    Alan, but backed up storm sewers mean water contamination and flooding, and no, not all that water does get effectively harvested – flooded streets are periodic, regular problem in many dry areas, including Vegas, Pheonix, etc… Some of that water gets soaked into ground or backed up into places where it can’t be properly used. The point being that the consequences of harvesting water aren’t always bad even within old-style water rights systems. Brad Lancaster, who Danielle mentioned above, has a really good analysis of how much rainwater collection will affect water harvesting, and the effect of widespread use is very small – which is why some even very dry communities with contentious water rights (Tucson, say) issues encourage private harvesting of rainwater.

    Dogear6, I’ve got a neighbor who lives in a trailer on his sister’s land with about 14 dogs, that he does not restrain and sometimes gets drunk and shoots at deer through his windows – on good days he opens them ;-) . So yeah, there are bad, stupid, incompetent neighbors everywhere. And if you don’t think your lot can sustain more animals, you shouldn’t have them – the point of this is to assume that most people will have common sense, and that the burden of proving a nuisance should be on the petitioner. It doesn’t mean that farmers in the country or the city should be able to do anything they want – no one wants a confinement hog operation in their city lot, for example. I tend to agree with Brad that most pigs (except dwarf breeds) should be classified as large livestock and restricted to large lots – 1/2 acre, perhaps. But I would never suggest that people who believe their lot is at animal carrying capacity increase their production – that’s how we got into this mess.

    Susan, I was hoping you’d comment on this – thank you. I know it is probably a pipe dream, and that zoning laws are a mess, but I still think there’s something to be said for a national right to farm movement for cities that offer some kind of broad template. After all, much of the present reconsideration of zoning in any given city is based on “well X and Y and Z city allow this and this…” – bringing that information together and giving people the tools to use it would help in a lot of little battles, even if it won’t fix everything for everyone.

    Sharon

  14. Susan in NJ says:

    Sharon, given the popularity in some circles for backyard chickens and frontyard gardens, it seems to me that a search of legal literature might turn up a few law review articles (probably written by students) on the subject. Also, IMHO, compiling information on what’s out there for particular parts of this project . . . such as chickens or f.y. gardens or urban fish farms . . . would be a good Law Review project.
    If you know any farm-centric law students. It also seems to me that someone in a Ag School somewhere or other environmental program might be working on this. No reason to re-invent the wheel if all you need is to develop the transmission.
    I’ll put it on my list of things to think about in my free time . . . I may have some contacts/more suggestions.

  15. NM says:

    I don’t think Alan was disagreeing that the laws should be changed, just saying it would be really hard to do, because of those laws.
    Laws the state Legislature doesn’t want to get anywhere near.
    We’ve already been having water fights out here for the last decade (or 10) and they are only going to get uglier. All the water doesn’t get harvested — here, although there are places where rivers actually peter out, due to overuse — but under Oregon law, we actually have allocated more water to people than exists in our waterways.
    This is nuts. And every city manager I’ve spoken to about it admits that the ##%# is going to hit the fan in probably less than a decade. Many have to declare water shortages during the summer months.
    And yet, state law forbids cities from declaring a moratorium on growth due to lack of water, except very temporarily.
    Meanwhile the warming climate is worsening summer water shortages, well levels are dropping, and some cities are just now starting to think that maybe all those restrictions on grey water use and rainwater collection should maybe be rethunk.
    And there are some fine organizations working, for example, to get some of that water actually allocated to fish (! Truly. Under state law, water left for the fishes is water wasted. I said it was nuts).
    The next decade out here is going to be an exciting one, as people try to work out a solution. I just hope not in a wild west sort of way.

  16. NM says:

    On rereading, that first sentence doesn’t quite make sense. Sorry.

  17. Susan says:

    In Australia it is mainly chicken keeping laws that your blog applies to. They vary all over, any which way you can.

    Recently we had 2 dogs maul a lady walking on the footpath, just a block from where I live. I have spent all of 2009 warning council large dogs are roaming in increasing numbers in this area. I met with the Mayor just the day before the attack, to plead my case. No sympathy. They don’t want to offend dog owners. Of course my concerns about wandering dogs related to my small animals (chickens and guard geese) which council view disapprovingly. (I notice neighbourhood chicken nos. are on the rise around me).

    And why do I even have guard geese? That’s a whole other story. Both stories involved govts providing housing for “the needy” who turn out to be less than needy, less than sociable and not people you want with large dogs vaguely attached to their households. In the latest case the guy keeps the dogs to slow the police down in a drug raid and sools them on to passers-by for sport.

    I truly wish we had more focus on domestic food production systems and less on large dogs as status symbols. My roosters have to be licenced in case their night time crowing causes offense but if your dog mauls a 59 y o lady walking down a street in broad daylight, you’re home clear.

    Sorry I’m ranting but this whole subject is one I read about periodically on USA websites and see unfolding here. We don’t have homeowners assocs (thanks be to G-d) but we don’t have right to farm laws either. I dare not even use the word ‘farm’ on my web page – read it yourself, do you see the word ‘farm’ there? No, you see, ‘food production systems’ instead.

    Gee I hope you guys can pull off some ‘right to farm’ laws, I’ll be watching you closely.

  18. Aaron says:

    I suggest mass civil disobedience. It’s the fastest way to get the laws changed or amended and is the fundamental American way of doing things. Asking permission and spending years jumping through hoops is time consuming, a pain, and costly. It’s easier to do what you want and ask for forgiveness later. If enough people are doing what they want, the forgiveness will come automatically. If not, you need to question what kind of government you really have then. Because only tyranny will resort to force immediately.

    Here in Wyoming, we have a proud tradition of ignoring those laws that don’t suit us. Our town has a law from 1864 that prohibits the carrying of firearms within town limits. We do it anyway. The town cop doesn’t bother anyone with it because it’s a stupid law and everyone knows it.

    In lots smaller than 1/2 acre, livestock are not permitted including poultry, geese, etc. People keep chickens anyway. So long as you don’t have a rooster waking everyone up at all hours, nobody cares. I asked the town historian and she said this was enacted in the late 1800s because subletting was common and tiny lots with cows on them don’t work well.

    When we lived in the big city (we’ll never go back) in Utah, it was relatively the same. They were more Nazi-esque about enFORCEment, but the zoning laws were all old and usually for the same kinds of reasons. The difference there versus here was that the cops weren’t shy about making threats, throwing out huge fines, and being general a-holes about it. In our neighborhood, though, we told them to shove off and successfully kept our front yard gardens (most of us had no back yard) and poultry and one guy even had bees.

    Once again, just do it and screw them. If they come after you, make to the press about being the little guy just wanting to live a better life and getting screwed by The Man. They eat that up and make life suck for the establishment. Worked for us.

    If more Americans did this sort of thing (you know, acted like Americans), we wouldn’t have all of this crap going on around us. Mass compliance with stupidity is the surest way to become a slave. Worry less about the bureaucrats and more about yourself.

  19. Jaime says:

    1) I suggest we make allowances for beehives in higher density locations.

    2) I suggest we extend the farm tax rate to those with around 0.5-1 acre or more of land, who show they are operating as a small scale farm to increase local food availability.

    Currently I live in rural Tucson, Arizona where we have begun to farm a small portion of two 5 acre lots. The name of the farm is ReZoNation, is based on a whole systems (permaculture) approach, and natural beekeeping is my specialty.

    The Arizona Revised Statutes gives the local assessor the authority to “overlook” the law which requires that a farm be twenty acres or more in combined size, and has been operating as a farm for at least 7 years before it can be granted the lower farm tax rate.

    If small scale sustainable agriculture is to be successful, and if we wish to increase regional food security, we have to encourage rural families on larger parcels of land just outside major metro areas to farm. We can do this by providing the financial incentive by significantly lowering their property tax and making it easier on them financially. We pay approximately $1200 per year for the rural (Rural Homestead (RH)) zoned 5 acres that has the home, and an additional $550 per year for the adjacent 5 acres that has no home (yet). Right now that is equivalent to 4 mortgage payments per year, provides us a fraction of the government services that our urban neighbors are used to, and requires us to stay employed instead of putting that time into making the land productive.

    Personally, I am hoping my local jurisdictions soon become unable to enforce zoning laws due to budget deficits that have no where to go but up. They are so understaffed at this point that I think we are nearing this scenario. This means that we will most likely have to become the protectors (enforcers) of how our land is used.

    I have 10 years experience in land development/civil engineering.

  20. Fahimerss says:

    I remember this!!!

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