Moving to the Country
From “Moving to the Country” by the Nebraska Farm Bureau
Country living in Northeast Nebraska can be a wonderful way of life, but only if your expectations for country living are in line with reality.
The peace and tranquility people often associate with the countryside draw many people to rural areas. Generally what they find is they have really only have traded the benefits and drawbacks of city living for those of country living. Here are several things you need to know about agriculture in Madison and Pierce counties when you decide to have a rural address.
Moving to the country means many of your neighbors will be farmers and ranchers. Here the work day generally starts early and ends late. Mush of the work farmers do involves the use of large farm equipment.
These activities are not only necessary, but essential to the areas farmers as they work to produce food and fiber for our nation and the world. Madison and Pierce County citizens have recognized the importance of these activities through “Right to Farm” laws that help protect established farm operations using normal management practices from nuisance suits.
Agriculture’s heavy reliance on farm equipment means daytime and even nighttime peace and quiet can sometimes be disturbed This is especially true during spring and fall when field work is at its peak.
Standard farming practices such as tillage, harvesting, and haying can generate dust and blowing crop debris, especially during dry and windy conditions. Dust associated with those activities can and will invade your home and vehicles.
Burning road ditches, waterways and other grassy areas is also standard practice. Farmers use burning to keep those areas free from weeds and to promote native plant growth. Burning can cause smoke you may find objectionable. Many area farmers also use crop production and protection products that aid in growing abundant and healthy crops. These products are applied by certified applicators who are trained to properly handle and apply them.
As a rural resident, it’s important to recognize property lines when farmers engage in these activities on adjoining lands. The University of Nebraska Extension Service is an excellent source to learn more about the farming practices of your neighbors.
Livestock production is the cornerstone of agriculture in Nebraska and particularly in Madison and Pierce Counties. Beef, dairy, chicken and swine operations are scattered across the landscape of both counties. Many of the crops grown in the area are feed directly to livestock, creating one of the most efficient food-producing chains in the country. Animals and their manure, however, can cause objectionable odors.
Farmers use Best Management Practices to limit odor from their operations and in the application of manure onto their fields. For many producers, manure serves as a valuable source of organic fertilizer for crops. Many times, farmers that do not own livestock will contract with farmers that do own livestock to apply manure to their fields.
Despite farmer’s best efforts, the elimination of minor odors is virtually impossible, making odor a very real part of country living. Many even call livestock odors “The Smell of Money.”
Before buying a rural home-site, be aware of livestock operations in the area and your distance from them. Madison and Pierce counties do have required setbacks of at least one-quarter mile from a livestock operation for anyone to build a non-farm home. New livestock operations also have required setbacks from existing homes. Even though you might be a quarter, a half, or a full mile from any livestock operation, keep in mind prevailing winds because odors can travel some distance.
The area’s rural residents are friendly and open, but like all landowners, they expect privacy and that private property rights will be respected.
When arriving in your new surroundings, you may be unaware of property boundaries. Make sure you know whose land you are on. Just because an area isn’t fenced, it isn’t necessarily open to the public. It is also important to realize fences separating properties can be misaligned with property lines, A survey of your land by a licensed surveyor is the best way to confirm the actual boundary of your property.
In addition, Nebraska law holds persons with adjoining lands responsible for making and maintaining a just proportion of a legal division fence between them. Even though you may not use or desire a fence, it is possible you could be responsible for up to one-half of the associated costs.
It is also your responsibility to make sure children and pets observe property lines, because unfamiliar property can be hazardous. Children also need to know farm animals are not pets and it is not safe to enter pens and pastures where livestock and other animals are kept.
Just like the urban landscape, things do change in the country. It is important to realize the land surrounding your property is unlikely to remain the same indefinitely and the view from your property may change.
Zoning is designed to protect the health, safety and welfare of all the citizens in the county by designating specific areas of the county for specific uses. Zoning districts will not only determine who your future neighbors will be, but may also affect future development on your own property.
Chances are if you desire to live on an acreage in Madison or Pierce counties your land and the surrounding land is zoned agricultural. This means you could have fields, pastures or even irrigation pivots come right to your property lines. Non-farm single family homes are a conditional use in an agricultural zone, which means you must appear before the Planning Commission and the County Board to build a home in an agricultural zone.
Utilities and Other Services
Necessities such as water, sewer, electric, telephone, internet connections and other services for your rural property may not be as readily available or not operate at the same standards as those in urban areas. Severe weather can knock out phone lines and rural power lines. Repairs to these services can take much longer in the country.
Sewer and water needs may also require special attention. Rural water and sewer service may be available in some areas with costs associated with hookup to rural lines. In most rural settings, however, an approved septic system or treatment process will be required to handle sewage needs. In addition, the drilling of water wells may be required. It is important to investigate the costs associated with these items when looking to buy or build in rural Nebraska.
Rural residents must also become accustomed to slower emergency response. Unlike urban living, law enforcement, fire assistance, and medical care can be located several miles away. Most emergency responses take longer in the country simply because of your location. Some emergency response services may be provided by volunteers.
A move to the country also means leaving behind the comforts of paved city streets. Most rural roads simply do not receive the same maintenance and attention as their urban counterparts.
Gravel, dirt and oil roads are the norm in Madison and Pierce counties, making dust and dings to vehicles part of the country experience. Loose gravel not only chips paint, but can also crack windshields. The summer heat is also notorious for softening blacktop roadways and can cause oil splatters on vehicles.
Rural roads are also affected to a greater degree by Nebraska’s unpredictable weather conditions. In extreme winters, rural roads can become impassable due to drifting snow. It can take several days for the county to provide normal access. Lesser storms can also cause delays and create travel hazards on county roads, and roadway flooding is common in the summer months when the area’s creeks and streams fill from substantial rains.
Those who move to the country generally enjoy decreased traffic flow on roadways, but they must also become accustomed to a different variety of road user. Farm equipment is commonplace and may slow travel in rural areas. Tractors, combines and trucks are large and slow-moving, but are vital to farm operations.
Tractors generally move at top speeds of 15 to 20 miles per hour, so be on the lookout. This is especially true is the spring during planting season and the fall during harvest. You may come up on them quickly from behind. Farmers recognize they are moving slowly and will let you pass as soon as it is safe for them to pull over. Be patient. It’s the country thing to do. The Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem displayed on the rear of farm equipment is also an important sign to know when driving rural roads. The SMV emblem has a red-orange fluorescent triangle at its center, surrounded by a highly reflective red border. Recognize it and know it is a warning to slow down.
Getting to know your neighbors and letting them get to know you is the fastest way to be accepted as a new arrival in the neighborhood. Just because you may not be able to see the closest home from any of your windows doesn’t mean you do not have any neighbors. It is best to meet the individuals living near your new home as soon as you decide to buy in the country.
Like any situation, building good relationships is key to avoiding potential conflicts in the future. Become a part of your rural community. Do not just keep a house in the country while spending your time and dollars elsewhere. Getting involved in local community, school, and organizational events and patronizing local businesses is a great way to make acquaintances and friends in your new surroundings.
Living in the country can be a wonderful way of life for you and your family. Upfront recognition of what to expect and planning properly before making the move can make the experience much more enjoyable.
This information was provided to you by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation and the Madison and Pierce County Planning Department