Communicating with Non-Farmer Neighbors

Farm-Neighbors-NJThis is New Jersey: the most densely populated and suburbanized state in the nation. When families leave cities to raise their children in suburban communities, they enjoy the nearby rural surroundings but are often unfamiliar with the day-to-day operations that are required to maintain the beautiful local farms. There are odors, noises and natural inhabitants (bugs!) that are associated with farming.

Despite the interdependence of farmer and non-farmer, in our state we have seen significant land use conflicts arise. Studies show that in conflicts between residents and farmers, the farmer typically loses. But in reality, everyone loses. The average dollar cost to farms involved in these conflicts is $25,000 annually per farm (Adelaja & Sullivan), and is often enough to drive a farm out of business. Gone are the pastoral scenery, the fresh local foods, and community cohesiveness.

It is the responsibility of both farmer and non-farmer to nurture a healthy relationship. Specifically, three things are important in achieving this goal:

  • Educational programs for the public about the public benefits of New Jersey’s Right-to-Farm Act
  • Conflict prevention education programs for farmers
  • Conflict resolution methods established to deal with conflicts when they occur

As a farmer, conflict prevention is a required sustainable practice. Making sure you communicate with your neighbors about what’s going-on on you farm, comes down to this:

  • Get to know your neighbors.
  • Listen and talk to people when they have concerns.
  • Use common sense when performing the daily activities required on the farm.
  • Be involved in the community.
  • Keep the farm looking nice so that the farm remains an asset in the eyes of the community.

Further Reading

Farmer-to-Farmer Advice for Avoiding Conflicts With Neighbors and Towns

This pamphlet features farmer-to-farmer advice, from the experiences of more than 50 farmers around the state, for avoiding for avoiding conflicts with neighbors and towns. Produced in cooperation with the State Agricultural Development Committee.

Legislation Supporting Farmers and Farmland

NJ State Agriculture Development Committee Right to Farm Conflict Resolution

Agricultural Viability at the Urban Fringe. Adesoji Adelaja, Kevin Sullivan, NJAES Publication No. D-02532-6-98, (1998)

The magnitude of the coefficient suggests that nuisance complaints ultimately reduce farm viability an average of approximately $25,000 annually per farm. Approximately 16% of the farmers surveyed experienced right-to-farm conflicts in the previous five years.Extrapolating that figure to the population of approximately 8,400 New Jersey farms gives an estimated 1,440 farms experiencing right-to-farm conflicts in the previous five years.

This translates to a total estimated cost of right-to-farm conflicts for New Jersey farmers of $33.6 million annually.

This staggering figure represents 12 percent of NJ’s 1996 net farm income. It suggests the importance of improving on the effectiveness of right-to-farm laws.

The finding regarding right-to-farm conflicts is remarkably important. New Jersey passed its statewide right to farm law in 1983. Since then, farmers have complained about the weakness of this law and related state programs. Indeed, in six Superior Court cases, the court affirmed that the 1983 law lacked the municipal preemption, which may have been initially intended (Adelaja et al. 1996). Adelaja et al. (1996) identified the weaknesses of the law and recommended seven strategies to improve the law and program. Based on the study, the state legislature introduced a revised right-to-farm law, which passed and was signed into law in July of 1998. The finding in this study lends credence to this new law.

Endogenizing the Planning Horizon in Urban Fringe Agriculture. Adesoji Adelaja, Kevin Sullivan, Yohannes G. Hailu, Land Use Policy 28 (2011) 66-75

Farming climate and farmer characteristics:

The coefficient [of Right-to-Farm conflicts] is particularly relevant at the urban fringe, an environment epitomized by New Jersey where recent problems resulted in government attempts to strengthen the Right-to-Farm law. The coefficient is statistically significant (at the 10% level) and negative.

Apparently, farmers who have experienced conflicts with their neighbors have shorter planning horizons by an average of about 4 years. Although Right-to-Farm laws are designed to protect farmers from nuisance complaints, such complaints are still prominent. In New Jersey, it appears that these complaints decrease optimism or the perception of the ability and/or desire of farmers to stay in agriculture long-term. Farmers who have experienced nuisance complaints may envision a bleak future for farming as more and more development occurs around them.

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