Farm & neighbor collide in East Austin, Texas.

Another day, another conflict among an urban farm, a neighbor, and various levels of government.

Dorsey Barger runs HausBar Farms, a 2-acre farm in Austin, Texas: home to “two donkeys, a goat, three pet birds, hundreds of chickens, dozens of rabbits, some geese, a few ducks, two humans, tons of sustainably grown vegetables, lots of fresh air and sunshine.”

In November 2012, Barger’s neighbor complained to the city of Austin about a foul odor coming from HausBar Farms’ chicken part composter. HausBar had processed more chickens than usual that day, so the composter was overloaded.

City inspectors investigated the complaint and found several code violations:

  1. The animal enclosures on the farm were less than 50 feet from the neighbors’ property lines.
  2. The farm did not hold a city food permit to process slaughtered chickens.
  3. The farm lacked a state permit to discharge materials into storm drains.

Barger groused on Facebook that the farm is licensed by the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Department of State Health Services, but this case helps illustrate the three separate yet overlapping layers of law that apply to urban farms: federal, state and local. Two of the regulations that HausBar violated were at the municipal (county and city) level, and one was at the state level.

Urban farmers need to be careful to know their obligations to all three levels of government: federal (to the United States), state, and municipal/local (county and city or town).

If you are a Maryland urban farmer and you’d like to know more about the statutes and regulations that apply to you, contact us at Community Law Center!

Posted on by Becky Witt

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