Zoning Gives Me Sass

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Sammit and I may or may not be looking at a farm nearby and I’ve spent a significant amount of time reading the thrilling zoning conditions of the land.  I came across this beauty:

Traditional family farms are no longer economically viable in the urban environment created by population growth in Oakland County and the Township. Farming, for the purpose of wholesale distribution, cannot survive in the Township because of the direct and indirect additional costs of farming in an urban area. Land and labor costs far exceed those of competing farms in more rural areas. Farm equipment and material suppliers are no longer located within the Township or the area. Farming for direct retail sale of produce is also non-economic. The produce departments of large supermarkets and grocery stores are able to supply fruit and vegetables at our near the cost of a farm market and often supply such goods at below cost as a means of encouraging store traffic. Direct retail sale of farm produce is limited to a few weeks a year and is extremely dependent upon weather conditions for success. Notwithstanding these concerns and difficulties, the Township wishes to encourage the use of land for farm purposes. Farming and farm land provide valuable open space within the Township for the enjoyment of all residents while still utilizing the land productively. Farms help maintain the connection to the Township’s rural past. The direct sale of produce from Township farms helps promote a sense of self-sufficiency and community often missing in an urban environment. Promotion and preservation of farms and farm land is of great benefit to the Township and its residents.

My thoughts:

  • The 10 acres of horse pasture that we’re looking at buying which backs to a wooded state recreation area does not feel like the urban environment the zoning describes.
  • The comparison of land and labor costs between rural and urban areas as well as their economic viability should not be a generalized zoning statement and is dependent on many factors.
  • “Equipment and suppliers are no longer located in the township?” But they are located just outside of the township and at the very furthest in Ann Arbor and Detroit (*cough* urban areas) which is still fewer miles than many of those wildly successful rural farmers have to drive.
  • “Farming for direct retail sale of produce is also non-economic.” Well “non-economic” seems a bit harsh but I’ll make sure to send that right over to all the CSA managers and overnight it to the Michigan Farmer’s Markets, which have over tripled in number from 90 to 280 in the last decade.  They need to know that their success,  increasing demand, and keeping Michigan money in Michigan by buying directly and locally is not working for them.
  • “Large supermarkets and grocery stores are able to supply fruit and vegetables at [or] near the cost of a farm market” is not true in my experience – I can get fresher produce from the Eastern Market for FAR less than I can get it in most grocery stores. And barring spoiled food, I have never experienced a grocery store selling produce below cost.
  • After 2/3 of the paragraph indicating how unwise it is to even think about farming, the remaining 1/3 is slightly redeeming and very confusing given the former statements.
  • I became excited when I finished the paragraph and realized that the township might support a small sustainable farm until they listed one of the requirements as needing a minimum of 30 contiguous acres, of which we would only have 10.

3 responses »

  1. Those are some truly awkwardly worded zoning requirements. If they think a farm consists of at least 30 acres, then wouldn’t they turn the other way at a 10 acre “garden”? Or would you run into trouble if you started to sell your produce?

    • I think we can pull off a “market garden.” My biggest concern was goats and being able to sell cheese or eggs. But the current owners sell herbs and eggs so, I’m going to ask how they did it. If they allow horses, which everyone around that area including the current owners has them, then little goats shouldn’t be a problem. I told Sammit we can tell them that the Dexter Cow is a dog – I’m pretty sure they can’t do genetic testing without a warrant. Also if the farm has been selling eggs, I may be able to fall back on the Michigan Right to Farm Law.

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