Animal Husbandry, Agriculture and the Right to Farm

(May, 27th 2017) In 1966 the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was passed to ensure proper animal husbandry and safety standards for mammals used for commercial purposes. The United States Department of Agriculture oversees the AWA and inspects thousands of facilities across the US including accredited zoos, farms, sanctuaries, reserves, nature centers and other facilities that exhibit mammals.

Knowing that we would be regulated by the USDA and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, we looked for farmland to create our African Farm and Petting Zoo. Our 31 acre farm has been in agriculture production for decades. We are not located in a suburb neighborhood in the middle of a town, village or dense urban residential area. We are located in Harrison Township, Preble County. As described by the Preble County Comprehensive Land Use Plan on page 25, “agricultural areas are characterized by prime agriculture soil groupings or farm enterprises. Large, active farms often typify the predominant land use in these areas. Although every township within the County contains some areas of prime agriculture soils, the following townships contain the largest areas of such soils: Dixon, Gasper, Harrison, Jackson, Lanier, Monroe and Washington. In these productive, commercial agriculture areas, farm operators should be confident that their investments in farming facilities will be secure for a long-term period and free from land use conflicts which may threaten their investments. The land in these areas is not needed for urban use now, and will not be needed to support urbanization at any time in the foreseeable future.

The land we purchased requires farming diversity in order to be productive. We are afforded the right to raise many types of animals, produce, plants and offer tours for people to see that farming in production. That is called agritourism and is allowed per Ohio law.

When you visit Wild Hearts African Farm you will encounter many NO ZOO signs in Lewisburg, Ohio in the direct proximity to our farm. While these neighbors are certainly entitled to their freedom of speech, we are just as entitled to our right to farm. We understand that one or two individuals are passing out the signs. Please don’t believe every rumor your hear.

Clearly we have an issue that is addressed on page 29 of the Preble County Comprehensive Land Use Plan:
“The presence of new subdivisions adjacent to farms sometimes creates difficulties between farmers and residents. For example, new residents unaccustomed to normal farming practices such a manure and lime spreading and the noise and hours associated with farming, often complain and attempt to curb such operations. Farmers also experience vandalism, theft and destruction of crops. ”

We have experienced bullying from the residential neighbors. While they like to use the excuse that we are a “zoo” and that we don’t belong in their neighborhood, even by their own admissions they don’t want us to have barns, cows, goats, fences, horses, chickens, ducks, sheep and pigs on our farmland. Some neighbors told us directly that they do not want to look at animals they only want to look at corn and soybeans. They just don’t want change or to live next to an agriculturally diverse working farm.

If you live next to farmland in Ohio, you should be open to the diverse range of agriculture activities that can take place on the farm ranging from Apples to Zebras. Otherwise you may find yourself frustrated, angry and disappointed about your expectations living there. Buyer beware.

While we wish that everyone could have an open mind towards agriculture tourism, jobs, education programs, activities for our children and the elderly, student training opportunities, family recreation and wildlife conservation, some people will always say “Not in My Backyard”. We must however move forward and spend our energy caring for our animals and those who want an opportunity like this for the area.