When Martha Boneta hosted a birthday party for a friend’s 10-year-old daughter on her Virginia farm, she didn’t expect to have the county come knocking on her door.
But come knocking it did — threatening her with nearly $5,000 in fines.
Fauquier County officials say Boneta, owner of the 70-acre Liberty Farms in Paris, Va., didn’t have the proper permit to host the party, nor to sell produce on her own land. Zoning Administrator Kimberley Johnson sent her a cease-and-desist letter in April after the party, warning her with the financial consequences if she didn’t stop her activities within 30 days.
Boneta told Fox News she wasn’t doing anything wrong — that selling produce is just about as old as farming itself, and that curiously she seems to be the only one being targeted — possibly because of a neighbor’s complaint.
“It’s rather odd that I’m the only farmer in the county having these issues,” she told Fox. “It’s customary to do these things. It’s done on farms throughout Virginia to help farming and agriculture.”
Boneta did actually get a permit last year to sell fresh produce and crafts at her “retail farm store,” but after she received it, county regulations changed to require an additional permit to sell certain items — including handspun yarns and birdhouses — once covered under the one Boneta already had.
That’s why fellow local farmers took up pitchforks last week for a “pitchfork protest” outside the Board of Zoning Appeals where Boneta was having a hearing. They believe Fauquier County could be violating Virginia’s Right to Farm Act.
“The minute that we get to that level, every farmer here in this county is going to be in violation of this ruling of the county,” Pam Holloway of Go Farm U told Economic Freedom during the protest.
Boneta lost the Aug. 2 appeal but said she plans to try again. In the meantime, she’s closed up shop to prepare for the upcoming harvest and will be working with her fellow local farmers to come up with a plan of action. According to Hot Air, the Institute for Justice, which specializing in helping small businesses in similar situations, has taken up her cause as well.
“This affects every farmer. It affects our ability to earn a living to produce and sell on our own land,” Boneta told Fox.