Why are farmhouses set back from the road?

I know not all of them are but quite a few are. Was there a special reason for this? It seems like there is some purpose to it but the long laneway would be a pain to maintain especially in the winter.

What maintenance? If it snowed, you just got out the sleigh.

I suppose it’s partly for reasons of privacy. If you’re building a house on a city lot, there’s no choice but to be close to the road, since the house takes up most of the available space. If you’ve got a big chunk of land to build on, you’re probably going to utilize that space to provide some distance from nosy neighbors and traffic noise. Safety might be a concern too. If you’re seperated from the public way by a long drive, it’s easier to prevent theft, always a problem in farm country where law enforcement is spread thin. And animal safety…most farm dogs are unrestrained, and livestock occasionally get out of their pasture/pen. Not good for them to have direct access to a busy road. Maintenance isn’t much of a problem as farmers generally have tractors and implements of their own, and often as not, an on-farm source of sand or gravel to surface the drive with.

SS - the original farm boy

Old-time farmhouses were usually surrounded by outbuildings which the farmer wanted to keep within as easy a walk as possible. There would probably be (a) a vegetable garden; (b) a chicken coop from which eggs would be gathered every day; © an icehouse from which ice would be taken every day; (d) a dairy barn in which cows would be milked every day; and (e) other livestock barns requiring frequent access for feeding, care of sick animals, and assistance with birthing. Not to mention an outhouse.

The crop fields, which the farmer visits less frequently, would surround the house and the outbuildings.

Given these requirements you can see why the house wouldn’t be on the edge of the property, or abut a road–you want 360 degrees free for outbuildings, to keep things as close-by as possible.

We don’t have much of a problem with snow out here but …

You site the homestead on the most congenial position on the farm. Amongst a natural tree belt, somewhere there’s a good view, somewhere with good access to permanent water etc.

We lived nearly 2km off the road, most of our neighbours/family homestaeads were 1-10km off road. Being able to actually see the homestead from the road was much more unusual.

Were the farms and farm houses there first? Or did the roads come in later on? That would make a big difference. If the farms were there and the county or state was putting in paved roads (such as public work projects during the Depression) they government would use the least expensive land and let the farmer worry about the driveway to the house

A farmer might also prefer to have his buildings in a central location on his property rather than off on an edge.

People today would like to keep as much distance as possible from their neighbors, why would you think farmers of the past were much different.

This is mostly right, but the reason isn’t so much to minimize the walk as to be able to see all of the outbuildings and as much as the property as possible, so as to prevent vermin from attacking livestock, and to see any sign of fire. The main house is also usually situated on the highest point on the farm, for the same reasons. On modern farms, you want the house set back from the road because of the dust kicked up by traffic on a gravel road.

The length of the driveway just isn’t an issue. Working farms have all manner of truck trails leading through them, of which the drive from the main house to the road is just another (albeit perhaps slightly better maintained and graveled). Most working farms in the snowbelt will have one or more regular trucks equipped with a snowplow (which you’ll find sitting behind the garage in the non-winter months), and if the snow is really heavy they’ll pull out the tractor and scrape away with the dirt grader. If you live someplace like northern Minnesota or the U.P., you don’t bother clearing the driveway or shoveling the front walk; you open up the upstairs-outside door (looks really funny in the summer), pull the ‘sleds’ (snowmobiles) out of the barn, and ride to work on trails.


Well there aren’t any roads to speak of on my farm. I put my barn in the north east corner, because when you expand the farm it does so in the south and west and I didn’t want to have to keep moving the barn. At least that’s how it was done in Farmville, I don’t know about Farmtown or Happy Farm.



Some of you make it sound like most farm houses are set back a long way from the road. I don’t believe that’s true in general. I haven’t done a survey of all farm houses in the U.S., but around where I grew up (in rural northwest Ohio) at least 95% of farm houses were within 30 yards of the road.

Thats because what, all this dust reduces crop yields, or hampers visibility when mustering or poses a health risk to the livestock, or that you have to clean the windows on the house more often?

These modern US working farms must be even more mickey mouse than popularly thought. The wonders of the US Farm Bill.

Or maybe you don’t want a cloud of fucking dust hanging on your porch.

Two more reasons to ignore where the road is:

Before air conditioning, houses would be placed with an awareness of things like cross breezes and shade.

Before plumbing, houses would be placed near the family water supply, but not too near any creeks or rivers that were liable to burst their banks.

Just some personal data based on my family’s farms.

Grandparents 1: Set on local high ground. Also fairly close to the road. Had a largish front yard between house and road. Nicely grassed with trees along the road.

Grandparents 2: Set on local high ground. Which was around 200 yards from the road. There was a small field between the house and road. Trees were planted there but the next owners took them out and turned it into a hayfield.

Uncle 1: Set about 150 yards back near the top of the local high ground. The small field in front is unused. When it was a dairy farm, young cows were kept in it to keep it tidy. Now it has to be occasionally mowed. (It’s too small of an area to farm plus it’s too wet from runoff from the neighbor’s irrigation drainage.)

Uncle 2: Close to the road. Actually there are two home sites. The old and the new. Both close to but on opposite sides of the road. There is no significant local high ground, point-wise. But there is sort of a small ridge line across the property and both were near where the rise crossed the road.

Cousin: Close to the local high ground, about 150 yards from the road. A small field in front. He keeps a couple of steers in it. Otherwise too small for a crop.

So I would have to say that local high ground is important. Especially it seems that being on the “front” of the slope facing the road is quite common.

One of the negative consequences of being set back a modest amount is having an awkwardly sized field. With modern farming, such small fields are a a real pain and I don’t think someone laying out a farm today would go with such a small field in front like some of the above.

though the small fields are great if your kid is in 4H or another young aggy program, for raising project critters.

my posh jackass neighbor hated it when i used my sheep to mow the front yard but the kids on school busses and random passers-by got an apparent kick out of sheep in the yard =)

The road was there first. The farmhouses on each side of the road are set back an equal amount.

On my family’s old farm homestead the buildings were built near the original road which in turn followed an earlier meandering Indian trail. When the highway was built surveyors straightened it out. This left the house significantly more distant from the road. There is a gap in a row of tall pine trees where the road used to run. Judging by the location of the gap the original road was indeed very close to the house.

My great-grandmother was upset about this because she liked to sit on the porch and watch the neighbors.

What the serious fuck is your problem? Farmhouses tend to be set back from the road because the owners don’t want to inhale a cloud of dirt every time someone drives past with a hay wagon or cattle trailer. Most non-highway roads in farming areas are unpaved or crudely paved (tar-bound macadam) because of the expense of county governments constructing and maintaining long stretches of concrete asphalt for the benefit of a few dozen homesteads.


This may vary by region. In the part of north Georgia where I was raised, the farmhouses tended to be close to the road, with the farm spreading out behind.