Farming Beyond the Edge

encroachment harry brook

By Harry Brook

Driving around the county, there is a disturbing amount of encroachment into the county road allowance. This can be the case where the ditch is being farmed to within a couple of feet of the actual road, or spray booms having over-sprayed the crop and killed out the grass in the ditch. It also includes the farming of undeveloped road allowances.

County road allowances are surveyed to be exactly 66 feet wide. In most cases, the roads themselves are 6 to 8 metres wide. That’s about 26 feet. That means there is about 20 feet on either side of the road that is county property.

Some producers cultivate and crop right up to within a foot or two of the road surface. This undermines the integrity of the road base and causes problems when we are having to work on the roads. It causes problems with drainage, mowing, weed control and issues with road maintenance and rebuilding. How would you react if your neighbour was farming your land without your permission? You might be a little more than upset. In this case, it interferes with the county’s responsibility of providing safe roads to the public.

On the weed side, there is nothing worse than seeing field sprayers extend their booms into the ditch. It has taken years to establish a good grass catch along the road. A thick, healthy stand of grass prevents weeds from getting established. Accidentally spraying out the grass leaves bare soil, an invitation for weeds to germinate and spread. This becomes a problem both in the ditch and in the field. It’s a case of inattention during spraying giving long-term issues for both the county and adjacent land owner.

Be aware that a road allowance, developed or undeveloped, is the property and responsibility of the county. To preserve the integrity of the road and drainage, a MINIMUM of 1 metre of undisturbed land is needed from the toe of the slope of the road. Any undeveloped road allowance being used for grazing or cropping must still be available for access purposes.

When encroaching on the road allowance, be mindful that there can be many unintended negative consequences. It’s not just you that is affected.

Harry Brook is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.