Did you know Institutional members and Legal Professional members can download this resource as a PDF?

Getting Started

Understanding the zoning code that applies to the property where you’re farming is key to minimizing legal and financial risks. It is particularly critical if you plan to do anything besides traditional farming activities—such as hosting events, producing value-added products, providing housing to family or workers, or even building or remodeling infrastructure. Oftentimes, the zoning code will either prohibit or restrict such activities.

 If you are in the beginning stages of planning a farm business or adding non-farming activities to your farm business, there are other risk factors you will want to consider in addition to zoning. Going through the process of identifying those risk factors tied to a particular parcel of land is called due diligence. If you haven’t considered or conducted a due diligence process yet for the land you plan to utilize, start with our Basics of Due Diligence on an Agricultural Parcel. If you have done your due diligence, including researching your zoning code, perhaps you’ve run into some issues. Maybe your plans are out of step with what the zoning code requires, or there is a challenge you want to bring to the zoning board. If you’re in either boat, you can jump over to the Farmers’ Guide to Working With Regulators to help you prepare for those conversations.

 If your goal is to understand how the zoning code may impact your plans, then you are in the right place. Let’s get started!

Knowledge is Power

Once you know what your zoning code says, you can make strategic decisions about whether and how to move forward. However, zoning codes can be complex and filled with legal jargon, making them challenging to decipher. Sometimes, they are just plain silent about particular activities. Other times, they outright prohibit them. What next?

Broken down into two parts, this guide is designed to empower farmers and ranchers by providing a step-by-step approach to finding, reading, and understanding zoning codes. It will highlight what to look out for, break down the common language used in zoning codes, and offer suggestions for what to do if the zoning code is ambiguous or prohibits an activity you want to pursue. By the end of this guide, you’ll be better equipped to navigate your zoning code and make informed decisions about your farm operation.