In 1994, the then Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food and Markets issued the land use planning guide "Sustaining Agriculture: A Handbook for Local Action". Prepared by Deb Brighton and Jim Northup of Ad Hoc Associates, the guide was a valuable resource for citizen and professional planners interested in maintaining the vitality of Vermont's agricultural land. However, the guide was a "limited edition" and was soon out of print.
Much has changed since the guide was released. Local planners and town officials are grappling with new issues that were not addressed in the original guide, such as urban farming, new farm businesses (agripreneurism), and commercial composting. Additionally, a renewed enthusiasm for locally produced food has createed a new generation of agricultural advocates who are interested in learning how to promote and support agriculture at the town and regional level.
It was with these changes in mind, and a recognition of the value the original guide had for planners and town officials, that the Farm to Plate Network's Agricultural Land Use Planning Task Force decided to update the original guide. The updated Sustaining Agriculture guide provides guidance and resources on new issues like food system planning, agripreneurism, and composting, while giving detailed guidance on historically important issues covered in the original like farmland conservation, farmland and taxes, and land use regulations. These topics are covered in 5 short easily digestible modules that can be read as a series or quickly referenced individually. Also, by housing the guide on the internet and keeping it in electronic form, the guides can be periodically updated to stay current with new developments without incurring expensive reprinting costs. While we encourage people to print their own hard copies, we do not have printed copies available.
The release of the planning modules also comes at a fortuitous time as state agencies and agriculture stakeholders examine the notion of rural enterprises. The Rural Enterprise Stakeholder Group, led by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, is in the process of exploring how on-farm activities that are neither classified as "farming" nor "accepted agricultural practices" can be regulated in a way that does not stifle on-farm business innovation but acknowledges potential public concerns around these activities (e.g, increased traffic to on-farm events). Those interested in this topic will find the modules on local regulatory context and state regulations particularly insightful, as they provide planning tools, resources, and examples for how planners and town officials can accomodate and promote agricultural enterprises that fall outside of the farming and AAP definitions.
The 5 modules are:
Module 1: Agriculture and Food System Planning
Module 2: Agricultural Land Conservation
- Sections I & II: Overview, and Partners in Conservation
- Section III & IV: Conservation Tools and Techniques, and Resources
Module 3:Farmland and Property Taxes
Module 4:Local Regulatory Context
- Section I: Overview
- Sections II, III, IV, & V: Zoning Regulations: Typical Provisions, Zoning Regulations: Dimensional Requirements, Regulation of On-Farm Composting Facilities, and Summary of Zoning Practice
- Sections VI & VII: Subdivision Regulations, and Resources
Module 5: State Regulations