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Small Farm Operations

If your operation meets the minimum threshold of a farm, or Small Farm Operation (SFO), you are required to follow the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs). The (RAPs) are a set of practices and management strategies to which all farms must be managed to reduce the impact of agricultural activities to water quality.

Small Farm Operation (SFO) Definition:

Farms are defined as persons engaged in farming who meet one of the threshold criteria for applicability of the Required Agricultural Practices below;

  • has produced an annual gross income from the sale of agricultural products of $2,000.00 or more in an average year; or
  • is preparing, tilling, fertilizing, planting, protecting, irrigating, and harvesting crops for sale on a farm that is no less than 4.0 contiguous acres in size; or
  • is raising, feeding, or managing at least the following number of adult livestock on a farm that is no less than 4.0 contiguous acres in size:
    • four equines;
    • five cattle, cows, or American bison;
    • 15 swine;
    • 15 goats;
    • 15 sheep; OR
    • (See RAPs Section 3.1 for complete listing of animal number thresholds)
  • is raising, feeding, or managing other livestock types, combinations, and numbers, or managing crops or engaging in other agricultural practices on less than 4.0 contiguous acres in size that the Secretary has determined, after the opportunity for a hearing, to be causing adverse water quality impacts and in a municipality where no ordinances are in place to manage the activities causing the water quality impacts; or
  • is managed by a farmer filing with the Internal Revenue Service a 1040(F) income tax statement in at least one of the past two years; or
  • has a prospective business or farm management plan, approved by the Secretary, describing how the farm will meet the threshold requirements of this section.

Farm Definitions and Determinations

When asked, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) can determine if your operation meets the basic definition of a farm under the RAPs and will provide its opinion on whether the the activities on the parcel are farming/agricultural practices. This will determine whether your operation is regulated under the RAPs.  Note that Section 4413(d) of Title 24 (Municipal and County Government) of Vermont Statutes Annotated (V.S.A.) limits the application of municipal land use regulations on farm operations regulated under the RAP rules, including the construction of farm structures. If you are building a farm structure or applying for an accessory on-farm business, you may wish to apply for a farm determination from VAAFM.  For more information, click the following link.


Required Agricultural Practices

These standards are intended to improve the quality of all Vermont’s waters by reducing and eliminating erosion, sediment losses, and nutrient losses through improved farm management techniques, technical and compliance assistance, and where appropriate, enforcement. The RAPs establish nutrient, manure, and waste storage standards, make recommendations for soil health, and establish requirements for vegetated buffer zones and livestock exclusion from surface water. In addition, the RAPs establish nutrient management planning standards, and standards for soil conservation.

Small Farm Operations will:

  • Comply with the standards set forth in the Required Agricultural Practices
  • Manage on-farm nutrients including:

    • All sources of nutrients shall be accounted for when determining nutrient applicaiton rates.
    • Recommended rates may be adjusted based on manure or other waste analysis and/or nutrient testing procedures.
    • Recommended nutrient application rates shall be consistent with current UVM Nutrient Recommendations for Field Crops in Vermont and standard agricultural practices. 
    • All fields receiving mechanical application of manure, agricultural wastes, or fertilizer shall be soil sampled at least once in every five years using modified Morgan's extractant or other equivalent standards approved by the Secretary.
    • Records of soil analysis, manure or other agricultural waste application, and fertilizer applications shall be maintained on the farm for a period of five years and provided to the Secretary upon request. 
    • Records of manure or other agricultural waste application shall contain:
      • date of application,
      • field location,
      • application rate,
      • source of nutrients applied, and 
      • weather and field conditions at the time of application.
  • Recieve farm inspections or investigations on a complaint basis

Summary of the Required Agricultural Practices for Small Farm Operation


Additional Resources