Agriculture

The Agriculture Pillar pays tribute to the County’s rural identity and agrarian economic lifestyle. It recognizes these attributes by supporting the County’s ongoing farming activities, while setting the stage for future agricultural economies. Stearns County’s commitment to this Pillar is further embodied in the following statement and goals.

Pillar Statement

Stearns County’s agricultural heritage is the root of our prosperity and identity. Through product diversity, innovation, and sustainable practices, we will enhance and promote the advancement of our agricultural economy.

Agricultural Framework

The Agriculture Pillar’s framework begins by identifying prime soils for farming, which is portrayed in the figure below. Prime farmland soils are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “soils that are best suited for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops.”

The Stearns County Soil Survey (1980) also states that “Prime farmland soils produce the highest yields with minimal inputs of energy and economic resources, and farming these soils results in the least damage to the environment.”

Most of these areas have been identified as “Agricultural” areas in the Future Land Use Plan Map. This designation targets property for long-term agricultural use. Preferred uses within this land use designation include agricultural uses and farmsteads related to the operations of the agricultural use at a maximum residential density.

The Agriculture Pillar serves as a framework to ensure future generations have the available land suitable for agriculture uses. To achieve this objective, the Agriculture Pillar identifies the County's primary land use as “agricultural“. Agricultural uses include animal operations, crop production and any specialized agricultural enterprise, in combination with limited agriculture related businesses, recreational, institutional, and open space uses. The remaining Pillars can be looked to for additional guidance on other types of land uses.



Goals
  1. Support agriculture as a desirable land use for the long term and facilitate diversification of the County’s agricultural economy.
  2. Utilize sustainable practices to protect prime farmland and water quality for future generations.
  3. Retain areas with highly valued agricultural land or economically viable animal agriculture operations.
  4. Strive for and support higher farm profitability and family farm stability.
  5. Encourage cities to collaborate with the County on the review of animal agriculture issues in close proximity to boundaries or within orderly annexation areas.

Rural Residential: The Comprehensive Plan recognizes not all of these areas are well suited for agriculture activities given their soil types or natural features. Therefore, the property owner should also be given the flexibility to develop their land as long as it meets certain criteria that balances residential uses with adjacent land uses. Clustering development is encouraged to preserve existing natural resources (e.g., wetlands, prairie, woodlands, habitat corridors, and scenic views) or large areas for agricultural uses. Lot sizes may vary; however, properties are required to maintain enough buildable land to accommodate the construction of permitted structures, including primary and secondary septic systems or community systems.
Rural Business: It is important to recognize the type of rural businesses (e.g., woodworking shops and home based businesses) that may occur in the agricultural areas. These can be small, privately-owned businesses run primarily by residents of the property. The Comprehensive Plan continues to support businesses in the Agricultural areas that do not create negative impacts on the public health, safety, and general welfare of adjacent property owners.
Stearns County’s agricultural heritage is the root of our prosperity and identity. Through product diversity, innovation, and sustainable practices, we will enhance and promote the advancement of our agricultural economy.

Focus Areas

Next Steps

The Comprehensive Plan can be implemented in a number of ways. On a daily basis, the document is used by County staff to review applications. The County Board, as well as other advisory commissions use the Plan when making decisions. It is used by residents and developers to understand the County’s intentions for the use of land, infrastructure needs, and planned park and open space improvements.


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