Farmers exempt from noise complaints, county zoning

By: Bellonora McCallum - Legal Corner

Last week in the Legal Corner, we began a segment involving legal matters North Carolina farmers encounter when starting their business or after it has been established. This week, we will discuss in more detail farmers’ rights and eligibility requirements needed to take advantage of protections established specifically for farmers in North Carolina.

The farming industry in North Carolina is very profitable and beneficial to residential and non-residential consumers. North Carolina is a state that provides certain protections and rights for local farmers. One of those important rights includes the right-to-farm law, which protects farm and forestry activities from being considered a nuisance.

Essentially, farmers are protected from their neighbors complaining to the courts or local government about any noise or other by-products associated with the normal operation of a farming business. In order for a farmer to take advantage of the protection this law provides, his or her farm must have been in operation for at least a year prior to any complaints referencing nuisances or annoyances. Additionally, the farmer must not have been negligent in his or her activities or participating in improper operations.

It is important to understand how North Carolina classifies a farm to determine what regulations or laws farmers could potentially qualify for exemption. North Carolina law defines a farm as land used for the production or activities related to the production of crops, fruit, vegetables, flowering plants, dairy, livestock and poultry.

Additionally, greenhouse production is also considered farming. In North Carolina, farms that meet the definition of a farm are exempt from county zoning, with some exceptions.

Commonly, farms participating in agricultural activity, including forestry activities, are exempt or not subject to county regulations. However, city and towns have the right to create and enforce zoning codes on farming activity, and generally do not allow certain types of farming within the city limits.

It is very important for potential farmers to be aware of any local city or town regulations and local planning for agricultural and farming before setting up and establishing their business. Local planning includes any current or future planning for future growth and regulations that could be implemented that may affect farming or forestry operations.

Also, it is equally important for current farmers to stay informed on not only current regulations, but any potential changes in regulations or zoning codes. It is advantageous when farmers are able to take the time to meet with local city and town officials and try to take part in the local planning process.

Please remember that this information is only meant to inform our readers. This article does not include all of the detailed information and regulations related to North Carolina farming. If you have any additional questions about your farmland, your farming business in general, how to set up your business or how to protect and preserve your farmland or business for your family, please consult an attorney. As always: Be informed. Be prepared.

Bellonora McCallum is an attorney at the McCallum Law Firm, PLLC, in Rockingham. Reach her at 910-730-4064 or visit

Bellonora McCallum

Legal Corner