Who can implement this: County and city officials, communities, governmental organizations, and agricultural producers
A particular concern raised by the spread of hobby farms (parcels of land that are zoned for agriculture but are primarily residential, referring specifically to those that are not agriculturally productive) is the proliferation of residential development in primarily agricultural areas. It takes only 20 five-acre residential lots to eliminate 100 acres of agricultural operations. This spread of very low-density residential development in agricultural areas can quickly consume large areas of productive farmland and increase urban-growth pressures. Moreover, many who purchase these five-acre lots may actually prefer to have a smaller lot with municipal services, but the current zoning practices that dictate the five-acre minimum lot size limit their options.
Establishing 40 acres as the minimum lot size for homebuilding on agricultural lands (unless specific requirements are met) will promote productive agricultural operations and make it more difficult to subdivide agricultural lands into nonproductive hobby farms that have no agricultural output or benefit. This would also preserve protections for agricultural producers across the county.
Farming operations are generally more effective and easier to protect and preserve when they take place on larger scales. Once land around smaller agricultural lots begins to be developed, it becomes easier for urban and suburban developments to expand, threatening to consume productive farmlands. Land currently belonging to hobby farms could be better used as part of larger, more productive farm. However, small farms are crucial to the agricultural industry, especially for beginning farmers looking to gain experience before moving to larger-scale farming efforts. The county needs to carefully evaluate the impacts of its agriculture zoning practices in order to better balance the needs of small-scale farmers with the needs of large-scale operations; for instance, agricultural land should be allowed to be subdivided into smaller farms but prevented from being turned into low-density residential subdivisions.
- City councils and the Utah County Commission should enact ordinances ensuring that houses built on agricultural land have a minimum lot size of 40 acres to encourage and protect agricultural production. Houses built on smaller lots should meet specific requirements that discourage low density development and the creation of nonproductive hobby farms.
- City councils and the Utah County Commission should explore ways to incentivize the consolidation of small-scale hobby farms into larger farms or otherwise ensure that they are being used for agriculture production.
- State and county organizations should encourage farmers to apply to have their lands designated as Agriculture Protection Area to protect their farms and allow for small-scale farming operations to continue.
- Cities and communities should develop new and expand existing systems and programs that help beginning farmers on small farms move to larger farms when they become more experienced.
- Nonprofit organizations should educate non-agricultural landowners on the problems associated with buying five-acre lots of agricultural land, particularly when they do not use the land for any kind of farming or ranching.
- City and county planners should modify zoning codes to help ensure that smaller farm lots are used primarily for farming. This step is especially important for niche and beginning farmers who may not need or are unable to purchase 40 acres of farmland initially.
1000 Friends of Oregon conducted an initiative called “The New Face of Farming” that focused on identifying and finding solutions to common farming challenges across Oregon. Many of those issues are also applicable to Utah County. The initiative explored problems including lot sizing, zoning, and farm stewardship. The process brought together farmers, who began to make progress on solving some of the complicated problems facing farming in the United States.