When it comes to farmland, a lot of people think that it’s fair game – free for them to roam about with no consequences to worry about. However, as a farmer, you probably know that’s not the case – and you’re likely looking for tips on how to protect farmland from trespassers in the future. Here’s what you should know.
What You'll Learn Today
Can You Trespass on a Farm – is it Legal to Walk on Farmland?
There is a common misconception that farmland is more or less open to the public. While that might be true in some countries, like Germany (this nation has a limited right to roam under the Federal Nature Conservation Act that allows everyone access to open landscape, forests, and water bodies – though not cultivated land) it is not the case in the United States.
That’s not the case. Unfortunately, this misconception is not harmless as it can cause numerous problems for you.
Trespassers might enter your property unknowingly, perhaps veering onto your grounds from poorly marked hiking trails or roadways. They might not know they are on your land.
Other times, you might have issues with individuals trespassing to illegally hunt, to dump trash, or to view a farming operation up close (often for animal advocacy purposes).
Although it’s just as illegal to trespass on farmland as it is on any other types of property. It is important to differentiate between accidental and purposeful trespass. You might not view a delivery truck driver as a trespasser, nor would you necessarily hold a lost or inexperienced hunter at fault for errantly wandering onto your land.
There are several types of trespass you might be dealing with but the law differentiates trespassing in two categories – civil and criminal. Civil trespass includes sneaking onto someone’s property to spy on them or openly entering a property to demonstrate or protest. It could also be constructing a building or structure on the property. It can be continuing or recurring, too.
Criminal trespass occurs when the property is posted not to enter and an individual has been warned not to enter by the owner. In other words, if you ask someone to leave and they do not, that would be criminal trespass.
How to Protect Farmland From Trespass
There are several simple and straightforward tips you can follow to protect your farmland from trespass.
1. Post the Property
Whether you are worried about trespassers or not, posting your property is a wise choice.
It will allow you to notify an approaching person that entry is not permitted. Clearly and visibly display this notice with terms like “no unauthorized personnel” or “no trespassing.” That way, there’s no grey area about what is allowed and what is not.
Install these notices at the entrance to your farm and around the entire perimeter.
2. Install Physical Barriers
Whenever possible, install physical barriers to discourage people from driving or walking onto your farm.
Adding things like vegetative screens to block the view of lagoons, farm buildings, and fields is also a good idea. The less that people can see from the road, the better!
3. Install Alarms
While you might not feel the need to install motion detectors or alarms if you haven’t had a problem with trespassers before, these are a good idea if the trespassing becomes more problematic or is hostile in nature (such as if there are any thefts).
Install these on all of your buildings.
4. Get Guard Animals
If you have livestock, guard animals are key. Consider getting a dog or even something like a llama, guinea fowl, donkey, or alpaca. These animals can alert you to the presence of an intruder and in some cases, will chase them off, too.
5. Know Your Neighbors
Get to know your neighbors as this can reduce most incidences of trespassing. Not only can you trade access with them across your property but they can also help keep an eye out for potential intruders.
6. Put Out Trail Cameras
If you suspect that you have somebody trespassing on your land but aren’t sure who it might be or where, you might want to consider putting out trail cameras. This will help you keep track of who is coming and going.
There are a few caveats to this, of course. First, you’ll want to make sure your camera is well-hidden, otherwise, the trespasser might very well just run off with your expensive camera as well as all of your photo evidence.
It can also be tough to get a clear photo, particularly at night. In addition to the fact that you’ll be taking a photo of a moving subject, you also may have interference from trees and vegetation – not to mention the fact that trail cameras can be triggered by any movement, even non-human movement.
Concentrate your trail camera efforts on trails, access points, and other obvious spots like creek crossings. Particularly if somebody is driving a vehicle on your property, this will make it much easier to identify who it is. After all, a license plate is probably going to be easier to identify than a face.
How Do I Stop Trespassers on the Farm? Vigilance is Key
Whether there is damage being done to your livestock and crops or not, there’s a good chance you want to keep trespassers from wandering onto your farm. Not only is it frustrating to have to deal with people wondering where they are not welcome, but any injuries that they suffer on your property can ironically become your legal responsibility.
You might assume that calling the police to deal with trespassers is always the best course of action but that’s not always the case. In fact, police are often reluctant to get involved with trespassing situations because they view this as a civil issue rather than a criminal one.
Do not point a gun or weapon at trespassers as this can lead to further legal issues. Similarly, avoid provoking a fight, using profanity, or threatening legal action. Seeking confrontation is seldom the right choice, as trespassers often stumble onto your property unwittingly and may not have malicious intentions.
Of course, following these tips to protect farmland from trespassers is key – as is staying vigilant. Vigilance is your best line of defense when it comes to making sure that you and your farm stay safe from harm.