Agriculture in unincorporated Durham County

Within unincorporated Durham County, agricultural uses are permitted in accordance with state statute. This article summarizes activities that are consistent with agriculture as defined by state law.

Within the City of Durham, agricultural activities, including the keeping of domesticated chickens, are regulated by Durham’s Unified Development Ordinance.

According to state law, the following two conditions must be satisfied in order to qualify as an agricultural use in unincorporated Durham County:

  1. The property must be a “farm;” and
  2. The activity must be for a “farming purpose.”

Establishing a property as a farm.

Pursuant to G.S. 153A-340, any one of the following items is sufficient to establish a property as a “farm.”

  1. A farm sales tax exemption certificate issued by the Department of Revenue.
  2. A copy of the property tax listing showing that the property is eligible for participation in the present use value program pursuant to G.S. 105-277.3.
  3. A copy of the farm owner's or operator's Schedule F from the owner's or operator's most recent federal income tax return.
  4. A forest management plan.

Establishing an activity as a farming purpose.

Pursuant to G.S. 153A-340, farm purposes include the production and activities relating or incidental to the production of crops, grains, fruits, vegetables, ornamental and flowering plants, dairy, livestock, poultry, and all other forms of agriculture, as defined in G.S. 106-581.1, and reproduced below.

  1. The cultivation of soil for production and harvesting of crops, including but not limited to fruits, vegetables, sod, flowers and ornamental plants.
  2. The planting and production of trees and timber.
  3. Dairying and the raising, management, care, and training of livestock, including horses, bees, poultry, and other animals for individual and public use, consumption, and marketing.
  4. Aquaculture as defined in G.S. 106-758.
  5. The operation, management, conservation, improvement, and maintenance of a farm and the structures and buildings on the farm, including building and structure repair, replacement, expansion, and construction incident to the farming operation.
  6. When performed on the farm, "agriculture", "agricultural", and "farming" also include the marketing and selling of agricultural products, agritourism, the storage and use of materials for agricultural purposes, packing, treating, processing, sorting, storage, and other activities performed to add value to crops, livestock, and agricultural items produced on a farm, and similar activities incident to the operation of a farm.
  7. A public or private grain warehouse or warehouse operation where grain is held 10 days or longer and includes, but is not limited to, all buildings, elevators, equipment, and warehouses consisting of one or more warehouse sections and considered a single delivery point with the capability to receive, load out, weigh, dry, and store grain.

Note 1: There is also a limited additional exemption for production of a modest amount of nonfarm products identified under the “Goodness Grows in North Carolina” program if it is done on a farm subject to a conservation easement. Note 2: The definition of agricultural established in G.S. 106-581.1 does not include the commercial slaughtering of animals for marketing. Note 3: In 2017 the General Assembly made two significant revisions to the definition of agriculture [S.L. 2017-108]. First, it clarified that a building or structure that is used for agritourism is a bona fide farm purpose if the building or structure is located on a property that (i) is owned by a person who holds a qualifying farmer sales tax exemption certificate from the Department of Revenue pursuant to G.S. 105-164.13E(a) or (ii) is enrolled in the present-use value program pursuant to G.S. 105-277.3.

Failure to maintain this status for a period of three years after the date the building or structure was originally classified as a bona fide farm purpose shall exclude the agritourism activity as a farming purpose. Agritourism means any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, ranching, historic, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions. This includes a building or structure used for public or private events, including, but not limited to, weddings, receptions, meetings, demonstrations of farm activities, meals, and other events that are taking place on the farm because of its farm or rural setting. The second revision clarified that existing or new residences are considered to be farming activities if occupied by the owner, lessee, or operator of the farm. Other accessory buildings shall be sheltering or supporting the farm use and operation

See other articles in Zoning, Planning