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Avoiding the Red Tape in Retirement

Dear Joel,

I’ve had the pleasure of reading most, if not all of your books, and find them insightful, witty, and funny…. and unfortunately sad when I consider the current state of our country and the continuous erosion of our rights.  I do appreciate your efforts to bring sanity to what is at times an insane world. My questions for you today are based on my plans of retiring in the not too distant future and purchasing a piece of land I can do some farming on.  Due to the fact that two of my grandkids live in Maryland, I am looking at retiring there.  My questions are what is your perspective on the possibility of following your farming techniques in Maryland?  How hostile is Maryland towards farming and direct sales to the customer?  How difficult is it to process live stock you raise on the farm?  Do you have interns that need a little help getting started that would be willing to work with an old dude who has some money saved but limited experience in farming? Thank you for any insight you can offer.



I would not stay away from any place based on regulatory environments.  Maryland is certainly not particularly good, but the advantages of being close to grandchildren far outweighs governmental inconvenience.  I always tell people to go where you want to go.  Whatever drew you there will be more powerful than the bureaucrats.  Remember that bureaucrats have weak spots.  I’ve suggested many ways to get around regulations and you need to be aggressive and creative at circumventing the ones that are a problem.

Our most recent issue on the farm has been intern housing.  We don’t want a permitted building because that will need a water-based sewer system, and we want to use composting toilets without the cost of water-based septic fields.  Further, we want to build it the way we want to, not the way somebody else tells us to.  We found 5 exemptions to the building requirements in our county:

1.  If the building is  on water  (we could build something in or on a pond)

2.  If the building is on a chassis (like an RV or camper)

3.  If the building is in a tree–treehouse

4.  If the building is an agricultural accessory building–barn, shed, or shop

5.  A hunting camp up to 900 square feet.

Guess what we’re building?  A Polyface hunting camp for interns, who are HUNTING FOR THE TRUTH.  The code doesn’t say what you have to hunt.  My book EVERYTHING I WANT TO DO IS ILLEGAL is full of creative ways around regulations.  While I go on tirades about how terrible are, I’m thinking real hard about how to circumvent them until our country comes to its senses and realizes how terrible these regulations are.

One of the big attractions of Maryland is that it has plenty of people, everywhere, to make marketing simple.  Anyone who has been to our farm knows that we do not live in a populated area.  I’ve daydreamed many times about being in a more urban environment.  But the more rural has its advantages too, like fewer people complaining about what you’re doing or looking over your shoulder.  So this side of eternity, there is no paradise.  Just go where you want to go and it’ll be fine.

As to a Polyface intern coming as your partner (in crime–ha!), we receive a request like this about every day. Tons and tons and tons.  I wish I could help you, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to find your young partner.  There are lots of avenues, from ACRES USA magazine to your state sustainable agriculture organization to this website.  You won’t find them at the extension office or hanging around government buildings or occupying Wall Street.  You’ll find them already busy doing something.  Go for it.


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