When a “Farm” is Not a Farm: Zoning Regulations that Violate our Human Right to Grow Our Own Food

This past week, we were in a real estate contract to purchase a home on some acreage, with a barn. As my husband, “The Farmer,” who hasn’t officially been a farmer in seven years, walked the land with me, I saw his face light up. He was giddy. So was I. Ever since we sold our farm, farm land has been out of reach for us, financially. We have been on neighborhood lots, where we haven’t even been able to raise chickens. While our life has been easier, for sure, we have missed raising animals for food.

You may have noticed the word “were” in the first sentence, and might be wondering about that. We terminated our contract to purchase the property after speaking to the county. See, what looked like a farm wasn’t really a farm. We could have raised a few horses there, and up to eighteen hens, but no roosters (the same amount allowed on a quarter acre lot throughout the county). The hens could be for “eggs only,” so we wouldn’t be able to raise broilers in chicken tractors on the rolling hills of pasture. We couldn’t have cows eating the fields of grass, or even raise a Thanksgiving turkey, or, my favorite–ducks. We could have raised horses. But we are not horse people, and people don’t generally eat their horses. We wanted to raise animals for food. The property is zoned “Residential” and the goal for the entire area is to develop it into neighborhood lots, so no raising of food is allowed, besides a few laying hens. (I call 18 “a few” when I compare it to the 100 to 200 we had free-ranging on our farm in Oregon).

While it may have been a good financial investment to purchase land that will eventually be subdivided and built on, if you have read my blog at all, you know that living through such a transition would have broken my heart. I never want to see a farm divided up into neighborhood plots where people can’t raise their own food. I treasure America’s farmland and want to preserve it for the sake of our future grandchildren’s health.

In our county in Oregon, we could have raised small animals if we owned a half an acre or more. I know many people with “mini farms” in Oregon, and we didn’t ever think twice about zoning restrictions. There were neighborhood restrictions, in plush neighborhoods where everyone had manicured lawns and high fences. Of course, the neighbors with the green lawns didn’t want animals disrupting their neighborhood. The county didn’t keep people from raising food, though. We live in Virginia, now, and these zoning laws are foreign to us. We had no idea that we would have to ask permission to raise food if we were purchasing a home on acreage, with a barn. We thought, for sure, it was big enough, and it wasn’t in a neighborhood, so it was a farm.

Can we talk about, for just a moment, how incredibly stupid these zoning laws are that do not allow people to produce their own FOOD?! Who, in their right minds, thought it was a good idea to make it so that masses of people, in their perfectly designed neighborhoods, would be dependent on the “system” for food?

I can’t prove a sinister plan brewing, except that it lines up with the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals” or Agenda 2030 and the Great Global Reset: they want the government to own our food, and to move everyone–every human body–to the city. The UN predicts that in just nine years, 2/3 of the world’s population will live in cities. (They also have a goal of reducing the population, so imagine 2/3 of a smaller world population than current numbers, all living in cities). We don’t necessarily have to move to make this happen. All they have to do to is re-zone the country–it’s not farmland anymore, it’s residential, and it appears that nobody can do anything about it.

In fact, I called the county and asked “How can we get it rezoned?” I was told that this would take months and thousands of dollars in a public hearing. All of the neighbors would be able to speak at the hearing and share their complaints. We would have to prove that us raising farm animals–food–on the beautiful acreage with the barn–would be beneficial to our neighbors and not just to us. What?! Since when did people raising food become a nuisance to the neighborhood-dwellers? Since when did raising food have to be proven, in a public hearing, to be beneficial for the local environment and population?

You guys know I’ve dropped the ball on writing here, for a long time. Since we haven’t been farmers, it has been hard to know what to write about. I tried writing a book about our farming experience in 2020 and it made me cry. I had to stop writing. But these stupid zoning laws have me FIRED UP about agriculture again. I don’t know if we will be able to afford a home on land that is zoned agricultural, sadly. I pray we can–because I want to raise my own food and write about how to do it. Raising food is a lost art. We, as a country, are dependent people…dependent, disconnected people.

My dad told me recently that Bill Gates owns most of America’s farmland. It’s true. We have seen, over the past year, how the tech giants can control our economy (advocating lockdowns while their online stores thrive), the information we are able to get, our communication, our elections (calling one side “fact” and censoring another as “false”) and more.. Do we want the tech giants controlling our food—-our very livelihood?

If they take away our ability to fend for ourselves, to eat what we grow in our own backyards, no matter the size, they can control us. I hope that people understand this. Nice neighborhoods with perfectly manicured lawns won’t sustain us. We need food. We, as eaters, have to fight against these ridiculous zoning regulations. It is not okay for the government to deny our right to producing FOOD.

I don’t know where to start to fight this. I thought I would share our experience today, and raise the issue. I would love to hear from you–are there zoning laws, where you live, that prevent you from raising animals for food? If you are raising animals for meat, what size is your lot? What do you think we should do about this? How do we fight it?


  • Erin

    Great article and very well said! We should be fired up about this.

    How do we fight this? Sadly, I don’t know if we can. I don’t know a lot about zoning, but I think they require permission from the neighbors who live there when they put these draconian measures in order. (Feel free to correct me in this if I’m wrong) So that means those who lived there willingly signed away their rights to grow food. As a whole, we’re probably a nation who cares more about impressing the neighbors with our plushy grass than growing food.

    The Bill gates portion is extremely concerning and we should be alarmed that he is buying all the land. What frankenfoods will be produced in the next few years? It is also extremely concerning that he is pushing a vaccine for a disease I have a more than 99% chance of surviving. Who would have thought a software developer would be the authority on farming and my medical health. This is very concerning considering he can’t even keep his computer systems virus free.

    I have a 13 acre lot, with a wide range of animals. My garden is in my front yard (more food, less mowing – win for my family) Thankfully, I don’t have any zones controlling my food. However, the 55 acre lot near me was recently sold to developers and they’re putting in a housing development. So maybe in the next couple years I’ll be told about new zoning laws which would put an end to growing my own food. I sure hope not…

  • robyn tevah

    I am considering a lovely 40 acre farm in Pa, but not even allowed to have a dozen chickens there. There’s a variance for three horses, but I am also not a serious horse person. The area is still pretty rural with lots of cropland, all mono cropped. It’s beautiful land, but not being allowed to raise my own eggs??? For me too, it’s sad to think about not having ducks. How can I have a 1500 lb animal, but nothing smaller? The few houses are about a thousand feet away. Since it’s spotted lanternfly area, many fruits wouldn’t be worth investing in now. No animals leaves so few options.
    A good place to start is researching what your states “right to farm” laws are.

  • Leah Funk

    I love this article, it is sad and frustrating the deception of land right now. We have been look for land for what seems like forever! We have resolved to do what we can on our small 1/4 acre until the door opens with freedom of course. I think also Brenda we must never give up!

    I love your posts and so glad you came back here! I started with your blog because of Gaps and honestly am back on Gaps because well I’m under so much life pressures with a family of 9 and my tummy is always in trouble.

    Keep up
    The good work! Also I was interested in purchasing you meal plans.., would you consider offering them in a bundle?


    • brenda

      Leah, I am so glad you are here! I am glad that GAPS helps you, too! I may offer my meal plans as a bundle, great question! I am considering re-vamping that page. Let me think about that! 🙂

  • Jen P

    Hey Brenda,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts over the years. I wish I could meet you in person, I feel like we could relate a lot! I’m feeling down about this situation as well. So many areas near me do not even permit chickens, even if you have a couple acres! We can’t afford to manage to do much right now, in this season of life, but nevertheless wish we could have a large garden, more space for kids to roam and explore, and maybe a small flock so we at least don’t have to buy eggs. Maybe someday God will make that work out for us. In the meantime, if you go about an hour away, in most directions, there are a lot of small farmers, and I’m grateful for their work and the opportunity to support them.

    • brenda

      Jen, awww! Thank you for your sweet note! I hope you can end up on a bigger place with a big garden and some chickens soon. Thank you for supporting small farmers! They need it! Blessings to you!

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