Starting a farm, I am clueless.


10 Years
Apr 29, 2009
Northeastern Michigan
I'm looking into this elsewhere as well but I thought maybe someone on this site might have some tips to share. My family has owned our property for over 100 years it was a farm until the 60s and then stagnant and livestock free until about 10 years ago now there are over 100 livestock animals on the property. But the property is now zoned residential/commercial there is a factory next door (they are failing and may sell it soon, my great grandfather sold them the property back in the 70's), a large health clinic across the street a church on the other side of us (land donated by my family years ago) and a public school a mile down the road we have 22 acres. I'd like to start a bonified farm but number one I don't know if this is even possible due to my location. I feel like it should be allowed since this was a farm owned by my ancestors before these other places were here. I don't know who to contact other then a lawyer to find out, I don't want to open a can of worms here and be forced to get rid of my animals. 2nd I would like to do things different and expand more Maybe even buy some different property if possible, but I currently don't have the funds. I'd like to look into loans, and grants but don't know where to begin. Do I need to be a large scale farm? just produce a product? or can you be just a small scale or self sufficient family farm? I live in Northeast Michigan. I'm looking for advice, or website links. Sorry that was so long.
Your local University Extension Office would be a great place to start to get information on farming in Michigan.

Look in the local phone book for University Extension services. Here, ours is listed in the County Government section of the phone book. Call and talk to someone, maybe make an appointment to meet with someone who works there. Those are the people who will know your area and what farming is all about.

For online information do a google search for "Michigan University Extension Office". They have alot of information available on farming and such. Here is the link to the Michigan State University Extension home page:

Good Luck!
Look into your town/city ordinances. You should be able to look on line and you can look to see what you are allowed to have and or do on your property. Check the zoning map then check the ordinances. Plus if you look on line no one will know.
Check and see if your property falls under the "grandfather rule". If the property has not been sold and just inherited, it may qualify. Of course laws are different for each state and locale. I would start with town ordinances and move toward county and then state laws.
Dependent upon the specific language for your zoning area, you may need to apply to the zoning commission for a variance. They will have a hearing and you and your neighbors (health clinic in this case) will be given the chance to make your case. I would say that the only big issue the clinic would be concerned with is any noxious odors. If you plan out your property use and have an odor mitigation plan, you would be well ahead of the curve.

Good luck!
My understanding of 'grandfathering' would mean that the property was a farm long before there was a clinic, thereby having priority. The sticky point would be the period when there was no livestock.

I'm not sure, that's just how I understand it. I once knew of a farm in the middle of an affluent near-downtown neighborhood of a major city. Horses, a cow, chickens, ducks, all against zoning. The family had it since the 1800s when such was commonplace in the area, but never sold. Schoolkids came to see real farm animals by arrangement, but if the family ever sold, the animals had to go.

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